January 9, 2018
Undergraduate student at Cornell University majoring in Human Biology, Health and Society and studying deep brain imaging in Chris Xu’s lab in the Cornell School of Applied & Engineering Physics. Participated in the 2017 RIKEN BSI Summer Program.
I entered college only with a vague idea that I want to study the brain, but I never knew it would end up doing neuroscience research or meeting scientists from all around the world.
Through a meeting with a visiting student from Tokyo, I learned about the RIKEN Brain Science Institute and that it was one of the leading research organizations doing innovative and multidisciplinary brain research. I was motivated to learn more about neuroscience and I applied for BSI Summer Program Internship Course.
Right after I was accepted, the program coordinators sent me information on transportation, housing, culture, weather, and other helpful stuff to prepare for my stay in Tokyo. They informed me of all the trip details, and I was very excited and ready to start my internship at RIKEN BSI.
Day 1 orientation: The interns get together and introduce themselves
Upon my arrival to the RIKEN campus, I was invited to a welcome BBQ party where I got to meet all my lab members. Everyone was very welcoming and excited to have me join the lab. The program officially started the next day with an orientation and a campus tour, and I got to meet the other interns in the program. It was interesting and inspiring to learn how everyone had uniquely different educational and cultural paths yet found a common interest in the brain.
Over the first few days, I reviewed the plans and specifications for my internship project with my lab mentor. I was going to use electrophysiology to look at hippocampal cells that store contextual memory. Although there were some research techniques and methods I wasn’t familiar with, the lab members trained me very well and I was eventually able to make those skills my own. Everything I learned at RIKEN continues to benefit my research career post-internship and allows me to explore the brain with better understanding and greater enthusiasm.
There were opportunities to learn and do even more outside the lab. RIKEN invited renowned neuroscience researchers from all over the world to lecture and created opportunities for scientists to share new ideas. The scientific discussions and student poster sessions during the one-week Summer Program Lecture Course encouraged me in being an active participant of the neuroscience community. Attending the annual Japan Neuroscience Society meeting and seeing hundreds of scientists presenting their work gave me the hope and excitement of conducting collaborative neuroscience research in the future. RIKEN offered me the best of both worlds: the facilities to develop research skills and the learning resources to expand my role in the scientific community.
Visiting the Imperial Palace during the Summer Program’s Tokyo tour
While the lectures, lab experience, and people themselves already made the BSI Summer Program special and rewarding, the working and living experiences in Japan made it even more valuable. From meeting different sensei (professors) to socializing with co-workers and other students, I learned what it is like to be a scientist working in Japan. Japan is definitely a great place to pursue science, and I would be glad to visit again in the future. Additionally, the Japanese foods and culture I experienced as I toured around Tokyo also made my summer program experience unforgettable.
The Summer Program at RIKEN BSI is undoubtedly an exceptional opportunity for students who are eager to learn more about the brain and gain hands-on experience in neuroscience research. The people you meet and the experiences you get from the program not only expand the depth and breadth of your knowledge but also prepare you to participate in and influence the international neuroscience community.
The class of 2017 RIKEN BSI Summer Program
The application for the RIKEN Brain Science summer lecture and internship courses opens in December and ends in February.