Last week, I was fortunate enough to learn about science and research at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) during the graduate school’s Science Challenge Program!

There, I met the twenty one other undergraduates as well as master’s program students attending the program and together, we embarked on a weeklong journey of learning about OIST and graduate school life.

We were able to engage in hands-on laboratory activities, not only learning the quantum physics behind levitating superconducting materials but also using liquid nitrogen and magnets to actually see the magic happen.  From conducting experiments on brain plasticity to discussing graduate school life and diversity during informal sessions, we participated in a wide range of events.  Not only that, we also had the opportunity to interact with current OIST graduate students and faculty, talking about research and life in Okinawa.  I had the pleasure of talking to Dr. Jenke-Kodama, who does research on the biosynthesis of secondary metabolites, and Dr. Yazaki-Sugiyama, who studies the neuronal mechanisms behind the critical period.  I also had the chance to try some Okinawan soba and sea grapes for the very first time.  It was delicious!

At the end of the program, we all presented a five-minute short talk to answer the question of “Where Will Science Lead Me in the Future?”  Ranging from utilizing neutrinos for interstellar communication to using shells to solve sustainability issues, the presentations really opened my mind to new possibilities.

I was very impressed by the quality of the research being conducted at OIST, and by how truly interdisciplinary the program was.  Graduate students are required to do one out-of-field rotation – meaning that a neuroscientist might spend a few months learning about femtosecond spectroscopy, or vice versa – something that I’ve never seen at any other program.

Though the jetlag was a little difficult for the first day or two, I had an incredible time at OIST and am extremely thankful that I was given the opportunity to attend the institute’s 2015 Science Challenge program!

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