Kalamazoo College students Ayaka Abe ’16 and Takumi Matsuzawa ’16 participated in the week long Summer Challenge last August. The program is open to college juniors who have an interest in researching fundamental science at the prestigious High Energy Institute in Japan (KEK).
The College supported the students by funding their transportation, room, experiments and lectures. More importantly, the College equipped them with the right mindset. “The K education always encourages me to get involved in problem solving and an attitude that makes a difference,” said Matsuzawa.
Because Matsuzawa knew several people who participated in the program, he recommended it to Abe when he was applying. He studies Physics and Chemistry major and investigated crystal structures of bismuth under high pressure. “I shot a laser on a metal sample, and a part of the sample melts, evaporates, and becomes plasma,” he said.
Abe studies Biology with an environmental and neuroscience concentration. She studied methods to clean up contaminated water using environmentally friendly materials, such as fish bone and shells. “We were able to listen to the lectures of Japanese top-level scientists, including Makoto Kobayashi, a Nobel-Prize winning physicist.”
She felt ambivalent about jumping into the research. Prior to this experience, I didn’t know anything about physics. But since High Energy Institute is a physics based organization, I had a lot of chances to touch physics.”
Abe plans to use what she learned at the KEK when she assists her professor in the course Evolution and Genetics and Applied Statistics. Matsuzawa said his summer research experience will feed into tackling new problems in his scientific career. He will keep his research with Dr. Jan Tobochnik in the Physics Department.
They both will share their experience abroad back in the classrooms.