National Sun Yat-sen University
NSYSU MEME: Fulfilling the Dream of an Experience Abroad with Rewarding Overseas Internships
- Internship in Japanese Science Park: Improvement of Academic Knowledge and Participation in Educational Events
- Enhancement of Academic Knowledge: Learning from the Japanese Walking Encyclopedia of Microelectromechanical Research
- Besides Academic Knowledge: Creating Positive Attitudes and Developing Soft Skills
To help Taiwanese students broaden the horizons, the Ministry of Education (MOE) has launched a series of scholarship programs since 2007 to encourage university students to study abroad or do internships at overseas institutions. The programs have helped many students realize their dreams of going abroad. Since 2016, Associate Prof. Wei-Chih Lin from NSYSU’s Department of Mechanical and Electro-Mechanical Engineering (MEME) has been actively participating in the “Pilot Overseas Internship Program,” one of the MOE’s scholarship programs, and leading students abroad. So far, Associate Prof. Lin has participated in the program for three years, which provided opportunities for his students to visit top research institutions and participate in research projects.
Internship in Japanese Science Park: Improvement of Academic Knowledge and Participation in Educational Events
Located in Tsukuba, a city in the south of Ibaraki Prefecture, National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS) is one of Japan’s top research institutions. With advanced equipment and a large number of international researchers, NIMS provides its scientists, engineers and scholars with a great and international environment to carry out their research. Associate Prof. Lin conducted his postdoctoral research there in the Smart Biomaterials Group led by Director Dr. Takao Aoyagi. In 2016, after discussing with Associate Prof. Mitsuhiro Ebara, a member of the Smart Biomaterials Group, Associate Prof. Lin applied for the Pilot Overseas Internship Program and received the grant. He selected two students to participate in the research of biomedical wound healing dressing at NIMS. Associate Prof. Lin mentioned, “At NIMS, there are many experts in biomaterial, and the team members led by Associate Prof. Ebara also have years of research experiences in polymer nanofibers. Through the internship at NIMS, students not only can use the most advanced equipment but understand the latest research finding of nanofibers in Japan.”
While pursuing his master’s degree in Mechanical and Electro-Mechanical Engineering at NSYSU, Mr. Pei-Hsuan Hung attended this three-month internship program and received Associate Prof. Ebara’s instruction on the experiment to create a capping membrane for dental treatment with synthesized biocompatible polymer materials. As there were other interns from different countries, Pei-Hsuan would regularly share his research progress with fellow interns in English. Pei-Hsuan also actively participated in many academic activities, including polymer seminars in neighboring conference centers, science experiments in nearby schools, and Tsukuba Science Festival. He dressed up as a “smart polymer ranger” at the Festival to help elementary students learn fundamental scientific knowledge in the forms of drama and performances. During the internship, Pei-Hsuan became friends with local graduate students and interns from different countries ever since. Pei-Hsuan recalled that before he attended this program, he only focused on his studies and showed little interest in other activities. Now, he has gained valuable experiences in his life and his research studies thanks to this overseas opportunity. “If I had stayed in the same laboratory throughout my time in graduate school, I would have surely strengthened the knowledge and skills in my research field, but I might not have got the chance to learn deeper and wider in different fields,” said Pei-Hsuan. “Before this internship, I’d rather choose to finish my master’s thesis and graduate earlier than spending time abroad. But after this experience in Japan, I realized that I should definitely choose to spend some time abroad doing an internship, even if I have to postpone my graduation!” Pei-Hsuan added with a smile.
Another student Wan-Rou Huang also participated in this internship program. She recalled that it was a great opportunity to learn the procedures and steps in doing experiments. It was helpful for her later when she entered graduate school in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at National Taiwan University. “Now, when I’m working on an experiment, I know what to do first. I don’t have to spend time learning the procedures as a fresh graduate student does,” Wan-Rou added. During her internship in Japan, Wan-Rou focused on researching nanofiber mesh’s effectiveness as a treatment for melanoma. After returning to Taiwan and with Pei-Hsuan Hung’s assistance, Wan-Rou studied the experiment data and published the findings in an international journal ranked as Q1 in Polymer, which also demonstrates the research accomplishments through cooperation between Taiwan and Japan. Wan-Rou actively took part in many academic activities during her internship. And having to communicate with others in English helped her improve her English ability greatly. Her excellent English ability later became a key factor that helped her get admitted into National Taiwan University’s graduate school – when she impressed the professors at the admission interview in English. Wan-Rou wrote an article on what she had learned during the journey and submitted it to the article contest on promoting the experience abroad held by the Ministry of Education, and she received the Honorable Mention Award.
Enhancement of Academic Knowledge: Learning from the Japanese Walking Encyclopedia of Microelectromechanical Research
As the students’ progress was evidenced in many aspects, Associate Prof. Lin became more confident in promoting the overseas internship program. After the first two students completed their internship programs, another five students joined the program and conducted their internship in the Shizuoka Institute of Science and Technology (SIST), where they learned from Prof. Kotsuchibashi. With assistance from SIST and NSYSU’s Office of International Affairs, all five students gained rewarding learning experiences. In addition to the time in SIST, Associate Prof. Lin also led two students to visit the Nishizawa Memorial Research Center of Tohoku University, where Director Prof. Esashi provided a thorough guide to the equipment and technologies in microelectronic chip manufacture and left a deep impression on the two students. 2 Previously, the students only saw Prof. Esashi’s name on research papers; in Japan, they met him in person and were lucky to learn from him. With an outstanding performance during the internship, Xing-Yu Du, one of the students on the internship, was able to get recommendation letters from Prof. Esashi and received acceptance from five top graduate schools in the US after graduating from NSYSU. Xing-Yu finally decided to continue his graduate studies in the microelectromechanical system at the University of Pennsylvania – a top university ranked the eighth in the US.
Besides Academic Knowledge: Creating Positive Attitudes and Developing Soft Skills
Introduced by the international graduate students in his laboratory, Associate Prof. Wei-Chih Lin had the chance to know Prof. Muhammad Abu Bakar Sidik, the Head of the Department of Electrical Engineering in Sriwijaya University (UNSRI). 3 To strengthen the academic cooperation between Taiwan and Indonesia, Associate Prof. Lin arranged the third internship program and led three students to visit the Center for Environmental Research at UNSRI for a short period. Associate Prof. Lin expects that through the exchange of information with scholars in the Southeast Asian countries, he can demonstrate his research findings abroad, attract more international students to study in Taiwan, and further the academic exchange between countries.
Zhi-Wei Yu, a graduate student in the Department of Mechanical and Electro-Mechanical Engineering (MEME) at NSYSU, attended the internship program to help students make nanofibrous filtration membranes using the electrospinning technique. Zhi-Wei recalled that during the internship, besides experiments and researches, the most important thing he learned is to express his opinions or ideas bravely. In Indonesia, though he sometimes encountered language barriers with the local people there, he realized that if he finds any issue or question without bringing it up because of fear, nobody would know how to help him. “In the past, I was not good at expressing myself, but through the experience of this internship, I realized even if I might feel embarrassed, I have to let people know what I think.” Zhi-Wei mentioned the realization is a huge change to his life. During the time in Indonesia, he was also deeply impressed by the Muslim culture. “As most people there are Muslim, every day when the prayer time comes, adhan will be broadcasted throughout the region from the mosques, and at this time all people will drop everything they are doing for praying. It might be hard for a Taiwanese to imagine the scene.” Through the internship opportunity, Zhi-Wei got to integrate into the local community and observe a completely different culture, which is also a very rewarding experience.
Associate Prof. Wei-Chih Lin has observed the progress and changes the students made and found it rewarding to see students continue to improve their abilities and knowledge, including academic performance, international experience, English ability, and personality. Associate Prof. Lin believes that each of these improvements is beneficial to students’ career. Now, Associate Prof. Lin plans to recruit more international students to mingle with local students and looks forward to arranging overseas internship programs for more students after the COVID-19 pandemic.
1 Since the 1960s, the Japanese government has planned to develop the “Tsukuba Science City” and established many national research and academic institutions there, such as the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), High Energy Accelerator Research Organization (KEK), International Institute for Integrative Sleep Medicine (WPI-IIIS), and the University of Tsukuba. In this city where research attitude prevails, the city government invites academic and research institutions to jointly hold the Tsukuba Science Festival every autumn to promote basic scientific knowledge to students of all ages. Continued for over 10 years, and with the media coverage, the Festival has become a well-known and major science event in Tsukuba. Pei-Hsuan Hung and Wan-Rou Huang, two students from NSYSU, were dressed in costumes similar to “Power Rangers” and acted as “smart polymer rangers” to help NIMS introduce the basic knowledge and applications of smart biomedical polymers. The creative performance was reported in local news, and the event leader Prof. Ebara was awarded the Honorary Citizenship accordingly.
2 The Nishizawa Memorial Research Center at Tohoku University was established in memory of Dr. Junichi Nishizawa, known as the Father of Japanese Microelectronics and the previous President of Tohoku University. Well-equipped like a mini-factory of semiconductor, the Center opens to researchers in the industry or academia to use the equipment. The operating budget comes from the cooperation projects with companies and the patent royalties from Dr. Junichi Nishizawa’s inventions. Previously learning from Dr. Nishizawa, Prof. Masayoshi Esashi is now a global authority in the microelectromechanical system and considered the pioneer researcher in the field. Prof. Esashi is currently the Director of The Nishizawa Memorial Research Center.
3 Sriwijaya University (UNSRI) is located in Palembang, Indonesia. As one of the major state universities in the country, UNSRI is awarded the “Level A” accreditation by the National Accreditation Board of Higher Education in Indonesia, as it focuses on the education of science and engineering, values the cooperation between industry and academia, and provides great research environment.