Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Summer Check-Ins: How Gemstone Students are Spending their Summers (Part II)

This article is a continuation in the Stone's article series featuring Gemstone students and their summer plans.  Today, we check in with Julia Downing and Carolyn Lane with updates on their summer experiences.

Julia Downing

Year: Junior, 2017 | Major: Materials Science and Engineering | Team: NATURE

I have been spending my summer in Japan as part of the NanoJapan International Research Experience for Undergraduates (IREU) sponsored by Rice University. I am living in Kyoto and working in the Solid State Spectroscopy Group of the Department of Physics at Kyoto University under the co-advisement of a Japanese and an American professor. My project investigates the nonlinear electromagnetic responses of single-wall carbon nanotube (SWCNT) films in the terahertz range using absorption spectroscopy. Essentially, we are drawing on recent theory and experimentation concerning graphene, the ‘parent’ material of SWCNT, to identify phenomena that would give rise to a new generation of optoelectronics. I am very excited about our findings, and I look forward to presenting my work at the Smalley-Curl Institute’s Summer Research Colloquium back at Rice when I have finished my work here in Japan.

I have also enjoyed working in my Japanese host lab, learning about Japanese language and culture, bonding with my lab-mates, and exploring Japan with my new friends. Although I work long hours during the week, I travel on the weekends and have had truly unforgettable experiences such as climbing Mt. Fuji, visiting countless temples and shrines, attending festivals and trying delicious new foods. As for what I’ve taken away, I have challenged my limits and learned so much more about physics than I ever thought possible while developing new technical skills. I have also gained valuable insights about what it means to be independent as a researcher, how to be part of an international research team, and how to be a global citizen. Although there have been ups and downs (the typhoons and earthquakes took some getting used to J) this summer has made me a wiser researcher and a stronger person. I feel immensely grateful to be here, and I will cherish the memories from this experience forever.

Carolyn Lane
Year: Junior, 2017 | Major: Math | Team: MTB

This summer I joined a program called Learning Enterprises and traveled to Hungary and Slovakia to teach English.  I started out my summer abroad with a week-long training in Budapest, an incredibly beautiful city that I’ve fallen in love with.  Hungary is a country known for its hospitality and everyone that I met this summer was incredibly kind and welcoming.  After training I traveled to a small village, Naglengyel, in Eastern Hungary where I stayed with an amazing host family for 3-weeks.  During my time in Naglengyel I taught English to children ages 6-15 at a local summer camp.  Every morning when I arrived at the camp some of my students (mainly the younger ones) would run up and give me giant hugs and sometimes they even gave me bracelets that they had made the day before.  My third week in Naglengyel I wasn’t teaching but instead the mayor in my village took me away for three days to visit Lake Balaton, one of the largest lakes in Eastern Europe, and the surrounding area. 

After Hungary I traveled to in an even smaller village, Polina, in Slovakia staying with another great host family.  This time I taught at a preschool in the mornings and had individual conversation lessons in the afternoons.  The younger kids didn’t understand as much but even with the language barrier I was able to connect with them and play with them.  Almost every day someone would take me to the best gelato stand in the nearby city which always had a line even on rainy days.  The entire summer was an amazing experience.  I think this program was a truly special way to travel because I was able to really experience the day-to-day life and culture of these countries while also teaching and making a difference for some of the people that I met.  I feel really lucky to have had opportunity; I met so many people, experienced new cultures, saw so many beautiful places and historical sites, and had a fantastic time teaching. 

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