NanoJapan IREU \\ Frequently Asked Questions 
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Frequently Asked Questions

How competitive is the NanoJapan Program?

The NanoJapan program is highly competitive and selects undergraduates from universities across the US to participate in this international research experience. All eligible students with a strong interest in the field of physics-related nanotechnology research and desire to study in Japan are encouraged to apply. Women, underrepresented groups, and students from schools with limited research opportunities are particularly encouraged to apply. Community college students who plan to matriculate to a four-year university and major in physics or engineering are also strongly encouraged to apply.  In 2014, we received 149 applications for the 12 positions available; an 8% selection rate.

I am a student at a community college. Am I eligible to apply?

Yes! Community college students, especially students planning on transferring to a four-year university, are encouraged to apply for the NanoJapan program. If you plan on transferring to a four-year school or have already been accepted into a four-year school via an articulation agreement be sure to make note of this in your essays.

I am technically a junior by credits but this is only my second year in college. Am I still eligible to apply?

The NanoJapan program bases your status on the number of years you have been enrolled as a degree-seeking undergraduate student. If this is your first or second year in college you are eligible to apply (provided you meet all other stated eligibility criteria), regardless of whether you are technically a junior by credits. Students with freshman or sophomore credit status at their university, regardless of how many years they have been taking classes, are also eligible to apply.

I am in my third year or above of undergraduate study (junior or senior status). Can I apply? What about graduate students?

No, the NanoJapan Program is only open to freshman and sophomore students. Juniors and above are encouraged to review the Other Related Programs page for information on other programs they may be eligible to apply to. Graduate students are encouraged to investigate the National Science Foundation: East Asia Pacific Summer Institute Program

I am a high school student. Can I apply for NanoJapan?

No. High school students and graduating high-school seniors are not eligible to apply for the NanoJapan IREU program. To be eligible to apply you must be a currently-enrolled, degree seeking student at a U.S. university or college in your first or second year of study. High school students are not eligible to apply.

Are the dates of the NanoJapan Program firm? My school doesn't get out until June. Can I still participate?

The dates of the NanoJapan program are firm and selected students must participate in all aspects of the program including the pre-departure orientation, language and culture program in Tokyo, research internship, and re-entry program at Rice University. If your academic schedule does not allow you to participate in NanoJapan we would encourage you to review the Other Related Programs page of our website. 

My spring semester doesn't end until mid-May and there is an overlap between the start of the NanoJapan Program and my final exams. What can I do?

If there is only a slight overlap between the start of the program and the end of your term you can speak with your professors and academic advisor/s to see if it would be possible for you to take your final exams early. If this is not possible ask if your exams can be taken while you are abroad if a NanoJapan administrator proctors the exam. The NanoJapan Program has done this for a number of students in the past and is happy to assist with proctoring exams for participants during the three-week orientation program in Tokyo. You will be solely responsible for any applicable costs such as testing room rental and/or international express mail fees to send your completed exams back to your university. 

Do you require any prerequisite coursework?

No, since the NanoJapan program has been developed specifically for freshman and sophomore students no prerequisite coursework is required. It is beneficial to have already taken some physics coursework prior to departure for Japan. If your transcript does not accurately reflect all physics, math, or engineering coursework you have taken, for example if it only lists the total AP credit you received not the actual classes you took, be sure to make a note of this in your essays or resume. 

If you have a strong interest in Japanese culture and language we would also encourage you to consider enrolling in related classes offered by your university in Japanese Language, Asian Studies, History, Economics, or Political Science. While prior language or culture study is not required any courses taken prior to departure will provide a solid foundation that you can then build upon during your summer abroad in Japan.

How are students assigned to their NanoJapan research project and lab?

If you are selected as a participant for the NanoJapan program, our U.S. and Japanese research directors will work closely with you and our potential hosts in Japan to match you with an appropriate research project and host laboratory. These placements are made based on your academic background, any previous research experience you may have, and your future academic and research interests in the field of nanotechnology. Research host and project matching will take place in April after participants have been selected.

We strongly encourage all potential applicants to review NanoJapan Student Profiles and NanoJapan Student Research Posters pages to learn more about the type of research conducted by our students abroad. When reviewing this information be sure to ask yourself if these are the types of research projects that are of interest to you as they will be similar, though not identical to, the opportunities available this summer.

Will I be working with other NanoJapan students during the research internship or matched with a Japanese graduate student or mentor?

While there may be 1 or 2 other NanoJapan undergraduate students working in the same university or city, in most cases you will be the only NanoJapan undergraduate assigned to that specific research laboratory. You will be matched with an English-speaking Japanese graduate or post-doctoral mentor who will assist you in the start-up and initial implementation of your project. By the end of the summer it is anticipated that you will be working on this research project independently with the close supervision and oversight of your mentor and your Japanese research host professor. When the summer concludes you will be expected to present a topical research project poster on your summer project at the Rice Quantum Institute Summer Research Colloquium. 

Can I contact past NanoJapan participants?

Yes! We would be happy to put you in contact with NanoJapan alumni. Simply email and we will ask our alumni to contact you via email. You may also want to review the NanoJapan Undergraduates page of our website to learn more about the experiences of NanoJapan alumni.

We also encourage interested students to post questions on ourFacebook Fan page. Most NanoJapan alumni are members of this page and if you post a question here you will likely get a speedy response from one of our past students.

Do U.S. citizens need a passport or visa to enter Japan?

In order to legally enter Japan all travelers must have a passport that is valid for at least six months after the date of entry. In the case of NanoJapan students this means you must have a passport valid through November 30. 

Students who do not have a U.S. passport or whose passports will expire prior to November 30 should review the U.S. Department of State Passport website for information on the application and renewal process. 

US citizens do not require a visa to enter Japan for a stay of up to 90 days through a visa exemption agreement. 

What is a U.S. Permanent Resident?

A person who has permanent residence status in the United States has the right to live and work in the US without restriction. This right may last for a lifetime, or it can be ended in some circumstances by an uninterrupted absence from the United States of more than a year or two. Permanent residents are said to have immigrant status in the US, in contrast to foreign nationals who are here temporarily in nonimmigrant status, such as F-1 students, J-1 scholars or H-1 temporary workers. In popular parlance, a permanent resident is said to have a "green card," an outdated reference to the permanent residence identification card, which used to be green but is now a pale red, white and blue. Permanent residents are also often said to have "PR." 

If you currently have a "green card"/permanent residency card you are a U.S. permanent resident and are eligible to apply for the NanoJapan program.

I am a U.S. Permanent Resident. Do I need a visa to enter Japan?

Permanent Residents may need a visa to enter Japan if your country of citizenship does not also have a visa exemption agreement with Japan. To check to see if your country of citizenship has a visa exemption agreement in place click here. If you are accepted into the NanoJapan program and do need a visa to enter Japan we will provide you with documentation confirming your acceptance into this program and assist you in working with your research host advisor to obtain any necessary guarantor information. You will be fully responsible for submission of your visa application and all required documentation to the nearest Japanese embassy or consulate and payment of any visa application or processing fees.  

Are non-U.S. citizens or international students eligible to participate in nanoJapan?

No. Per sponsor regulations this program is only open to U.S. citizens and permanent residents. 

What is an unofficial transcript? How do I obtain this and how should I submit it?

An unofficial transcript is one that has been issued directly to you, the student. This may be issued to you electronically via your campus online system or may be issued to you as a hard copy document. Contact your registrar to determine how you obtain a copy of your unofficial transcript. 

Once you have obtained your unofficial transcript you will need to conver this into a PDF document to upload in the online application form. If you have an electronic copy of your transcript simply select the 'Print to PDF' option, using a campus lab or library computer that has the full version of Acrobat installed, or using a free online PDF converter (search Google).

Why don't you require an official transcript?

Universities typically charge a fee for each official transcript a student requests and it can sometimes take up to two weeks to be sent. However, most students typically have access to an unofficial transcript or grade record for free through university online systems. To prevent application processing and review delays and to ensure that applying to the NanoJapan program does not present an undue financial hardship we only require unofficial transcripts at the time of initial application. 

If you are selected as a NanoJapan Program participant, you will be required to submit a copy of your official transcript to the NanoJapan program.

I am a first-semester freshman and my transcript does not list any grades yet. Will this be a problem?

We recommend applicants wait to submit their application until January when, in most cases, your fall term grades will have posted to your unofficial transcript. This way the transcript will accurately reflect the classes you have already completed and the classes you are currently enrolled in for the sring term. 

What format should my resume be in?

NanoJapan applicants should submit a one-page resume in reverse chronological order. If you have not prepared a resume before you should schedule a meeting with an advisor at your university career center or attend one of their resume writing workshops. Your career center can provide recommendations, sample templates, and feedback on your resume to ensure it best reflects your academic, research, and professional experiences and achievements. If you have previously done academic research at either the high-school or university level be sure this is reflected in your resume.

Do you have any tips on writing my NanoJapan essays?

The following tips have been adapted from criteria for the NSEP scholarship. It would be wise to use this as a checklist for writing your NanoJpapan essays and preparing for the interview if selected as a program finalist.

Did you do your Homework?: Are you knowledgeable about the NanoJapan program? Can you explain to someone else what the program covers, where it is located, what you will do while abroad, and the type of research available through this program? Have you reviewed the Student Profiles page of our website to learn more about the experiences of past NanoJapan participants? Have you reviewed their research project overviews and the PDFs of their research project posters to gain a better sense of the type of research offered through thisprogram? Have you reviewed the NanoJapan Potential Research Hosts page of our website?

Remember, NanoJapan does not cover all aspects of the broad field of nanotechnology. Rather, this program focuses on research into the THz dynamics of nanostructures. If this is not your area of interest NanoJapan is not the right program for you. Your essays should convey your particular interest in the type of nanotechnology research offered through NanoJapan.

Educational Qualifications as a Demonstration of Potential for Success in the NanoJapan Program: While there are no pre-requisite courses required for NanoJapan it is a good idea to highlight your relevant academic background and coursework that could provide a foundation upon which you can build while you are abroad in Japan. Have you taken or are you currently enrolled in engineering or physics-related courses that relate to the the type of research available through NanoJapan? Have you taken any Japanese language, Asian studies, or social sciences/humanities/business courses that relate to your interest in NanoJapan? You should also highlight any special circumstances regarding your grades, enrollment status/history, or curriculum choices that you want the review committee to be aware of. For example, do you plan to enroll in a five-year B.A./B.S. program or a B.S./Master's program? Is there a nanotechnology or nanoengineering specialization within your major that you plan to declare? It is also helpful to include a section for relevant or related coursework on your resume.

Past Research or Professional Experiences as a Demonstration for Success in the NanoJapan Program: 
If you have previous research experience, even if this is not directly related to the type of research offered through NanoJapan, be sure that you highlight this in your essays. What did this experience teach you about working in a research lab or professional environment? What relevant skills did you obtain through this experience that could be beneficial to your participation in NanoJapan? Think not just in terms of research or academic skills but also inter-personal, communication, leadership, time-management and team-work skills.

Interest in Japan and Japanese Language Study: Describe, through specific examples, your interest in Japan. Have you made use of opportunities for prior language training? Have you demonstrated a serious commitment to learning about the culture of Japan through relevant coursework, student organizations, community or cultural events, or personal relationships to Japan? If this will be your first experience in Japan clearly explain why you wish to spend your summer in Japan and what you hope this experience will provide for you. Broad generalizations about the culture may be a good starting point but be sure to bring these back to your personal interest in Japan. For example, you may have initially become interested in Japan through anime as a young child but today you should be able to define your interest in Japan in more specific terms given what you know about the country and how spending a summer in Japan will benefit you in the long-term.

Motivation, Maturity, and Personal Commitment to International Education and Research as a means to Fulfilling Academic and Career goals: Do you have strong motivation for undertaking this international research and education program? Have you thought about how NanoJapan fits into your academic and career plans? What are your long and short term goals for integrating your NanoJapan experience into your academic and career goals?

Maturity: Do you demonstrate sufficient maturity, flexibility, and common sense to cope with the challenges of living and studying in an unfamiliar environment? Think about previous experiences and activities that prove that you are capable of handling a summer program abroad that combines intensive language study, cultural programming, and an intensive research experience where you may be the only NanoJapan student placed at that university and/or research lab.

Sharing Your Experiences: Does your proposal include a feasible plan for applying knowledge gained abroad after returning to the USA through your Follow-on Project? Reviewers will be interested in not only how this experience will benefit you, but also in how your experience will benefit the community at large and provide encouragement to the next generation of undergraduate or graduate engineers and scientists.

Do you have any general essay writing tips? What do you look for in a NanoJapan essay?

Your essay should be well thought-out, concise, and speak directly to the questions asked or topic given. Essays should be drafted specifically for the NanoJapan program as it is apparent to reviewers when you are re-using the same generic essay or statement of purpose you have submitted to other programs.

Spelling or grammar errors will detract from what you are saying and will indicate to reviewers that you hastily prepared your essays and did not take the time to thoroughly proofread them prior to submission. Have a trusted advisor read your essays prior to submission to provide feedback on grammar, spelling, and content. Your university Study Abroad Office, Office of Undergraduate Research, Writing Center, or Career Services Center may also be able to provide you with helpful feedback on your essays. 

Finally, essays should be written in your own personal voice. If you read your essay aloud to a friend or advisor it should flow well and sound as if it is coming from you. You should avoid using flowery or exceptionally technical language that is not appropriate or truly necessary to convey your meaning. It is often very apparent which students are speaking directly from the heart and which students are just trying to impress the reviewers or just want to do a program abroad; not necessarily NanoJapan.

Do I have to stay within the recommended length limits?

Yes, you should stay within the recommended limits. Reviewers may disregard any portions of your essay that exceed the stated limits.

What is a Follow-on Project?

All participants in the NanoJapan IREU or Graduate IRE programs will be required to carry out a follow-on project at their home university or in their local/home community that encourages other students to pursue STEM study and research and/or international research and study opportunities at the undergraduate or graduate level. Students are strongly encouraged to develop projects to be implemented in local middle schools or high schools, encouraging young students to pursue higher education in STEM fields. Projects must be completed during the academic year immediately following your research experience in Japan. See the NanoJapan Overview page for more details and project ideas. Projects may be single or multi-part and can build upon organizations, campus outreach, or other programs that you are already involved in.

For some examples of waht alumni have done in the past, see the Follow-on Project sections of the following student profiles.

Who should I ask to submit Nanojapan recommendation letters in support of my application?

All NanoJapan applicants must submit two letters of recommendation along with their online application, resume, and unofficial university transcript for their application to be considered complete. The first letter must be from a professor, research advisor, academic advisor, or other mentor at your current college or university. If you have previously done academic research one of your recommendation letters must be from your research advisor or research mentor. This letter should speak to your interest in academic research, and particularly the field of nanotechnology, the type of research you conducted, and provide a frank assessment of your research progress and performance.

Your second letter of recommendation should be from a professor, teacher, advisor, counselor, or other mentor who knows you well. This could be an individual at your current university, high school, employer, or from another organization that you belong to.

Recommendation letters should not be submitted by family or friends.

Should I wait to contact my recommenders until after I have submitted my online application?

No! Please contact your recommenders BEFORE you submit your online application to make sure they are willing to write a recommendation letter on your behalf and ensure that you have their correct email address. 

Schedule a time to meet with them in person or speak with them on the phone about the NanoJapan program and your specific interests in Japan and nanotechnology research so they have a clear understanding of the program and your reasons for applying. Provide them with an updated copy of your resume and a copy of your NanoJapan application essays as these will provide helpful background information for them as they prepare your recommendation letter. 

Recommendation letter writers will be asked to address the following in their letters to the best of their ability.

- How you know the applicant
- The applicant's demonstrated interest in nanotechnology research
- The applicant's demonstrated interest in Japan
- The applicant's maturity and suitability for an international research internship program in Japan

Recommendation letters that are not received by the February 1 deadline will cause your application to be considered incomplete and it will not be forwarded to the selection committee for review.

How will the people I list in my application be notified about submitting recommendation letters?

Upon submission of your online application they will each receive email notification of your application. This means you must ensure that the email address you list for each of these individuals is a valid, working address. Check this BEFORE you submit your online application. 

This email will contain specific instructions on questions that recommenders should address in their letters and submission instructions. All lettters of recommendation must be received by February 1 for your application to be considered complete.


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