Jan. 22, 2024

NDSU partners with Japanese university for travel exchange


NDSU graduate students are learning to be global researchers and citizens through a collaborative exchange program with Kagoshima University, Japan. 

A partnership developed between former NDSU faculty and a Japanese polymer chemist visiting NDSU from Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan, graduated into a collaborative research effort and sparked the idea to jointly educate students from the United States and Japan about global cultural differences.

An understanding is in place to offer a joint doctoral program. Kagoshima University will send students to NDSU for three weeks during the summer. Additionally, a memorandum of where students from both universities can complete graduate coursework at NDSU and conduct research in Kagoshima. NDSU faculty also serve on graduate research committees for the students.  

“They want Americans to study there. They value cultural and scientific exchange,” said Mukund Sibi, NDSU distinguished professor of chemistry and biochemistry.

This program was so well received that Kagoshima applied for a teaching grant with the Japanese government to create an international collaboration that includes a rotating travel research conference, poster presentation and workshop. 

Twelve students from the NDSU chemistry and biochemistry department, and coatings and polymeric materials department represented NDSU at the conference in November 2023. NDSU faculty held a competition for students to earn a chance to participate. The entire experience is funded through college, department and faculty grants and a stipend from the Japanese government.

“They present their science to discover if they have common research interests,” Sibi said.

Students from both universities attend lectures, participate in lab tours and present scientific research posters.  They also attend cultural events.

“In addition to the academic component of the trip, we had an awesome opportunity to participate in the culture in Kagoshima, including visiting Mount Sakurajima, a local cultural festival and the peace gardens,” said Ariana McDarby, Ph.D. student in chemistry. “We appreciated the opportunity to participate in things that were special to the Japanese students.”

Sibi says American students are less adventurous than Japanese students and he is hoping to foster curiosity. “Some of these students have never been outside the U.S., so this is a real opportunity for them,” he said.

Current NDSU faculty participants are from departments of chemistry and biochemistry and coatings and polymeric materials.  Distinguished Professor Mukund Sibi, Gregory Cook, professor and department chair, Seth Rasmussen, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, and Dean Webster, professor of coatings and polymeric materials made scientific presentations during the symposium.

“We started this collaboration for students to teach them to become global citizens, encourage graduate student research, outreach, teaching, research and also the cultural exchange,” he said.

He said it’s important to understand cultural norms so that when students become international researchers, they know how to act appropriately.

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