Recent Student Experiences
- Ryan Ottinger, Symbolic Systems
- Melinda Wang (Product Design/Computer Science)
- Justin Cajanding (Comparative Literature and Japanese)
- Ben Isaacs (Computer Science)
- Betty Nguyen (Biology)
- Amber Wollam (Computer Science)
- Rose Adams (International Relations)
- Zoe Merewether (East Asian Studies)
- Jonas Kemp (Human Biology)
- Nathaniel Agharese (Mechanical Engineering)
- Alastair Herron (Chemistry)
- Isaiah Bush (Computer Science)
- Jimmy Daly (Psychology, East Asian Studies)
- Marcus Jackson (Computer Science)
- Mary Chambers (Human Biology)
- Jenna Wang (Product Design)
- Gustavo Garcia (Bioengineering)
Appirits Inc. is an online game publisher and developer as well as a provider of other web services based in Tokyo. As a game lover, Ryan loved learning both front end and back end side of making online games from his mentor as well as other members of the online game team.
Ryan gained exposure to multiple technologies and game creation services, helped improve some features of the company’s game, and even made a game of his own!
During my internship with AQ, I assisted on client projects while working on an individually chosen design project. My client work included conducting an expert review and assisting on synthesis and reporting of user interviews for a pharmaceutical company. With the guidance of my mentor and team members I also researched ethical design, resulting in a game designed to prompt players to think about the current ethics of design in technology (specifically in the startup world). I also learned from the other projects that the team was working on, which were presented and discussed during weekly design critiques.
The best part of my internship was being able to connect with the company members. As AQ is a small company, I was able to grab lunch and chat with all the members, even if I did not work directly with them. Everyone was warm and inviting and I was able to connect with them outside of work by going to concerts or to karaoke. In the office everyone was extremely skilled, bringing specialized knowledge in specific UX practices for the Japanese market, best practices for productive user interviews, branding, and web development. Whenever I had a question, the AQ team members went above and beyond in building on my knowledge. Overall, I improved in my breadth of design knowledge as well as my confidence in my UX skills.
Baroque Japan Limited is a Japan based fashion retail company primarily focused on womenswear - with dozens of brands ranging from casual fashion, accessories, to high-fashion and luxury apparel spanning hundreds of stores across several continents:
I love street fashion and even have my own brand based in Los Angeles. By interning at the Overseas Business Department and also having the chance to meet with various department heads of Baroque, I had a great opportunity to learn about logistical groundwork for running a fashion company successfully. Each day I learned incredibly valuable new skills or had the opportunity to improve practices I’ve already done for my own brand by seeing how similar tasks occur in a larger company. Baroque introduced me to a side of fashion I would have never been able to see before - the complexities and everyday challenges of each step of producing as a fashion company at such a large scale, and that it was this experience that gave me the confidence to continue in fashion and confront the hardships in my own brand head-on.
At Bertrand & Co., I worked on building shipandco.com, a platform which helps Japanese ecommerce companies print shipping labels for their orders, especially international labels. This involved a lot of coding, but also working closely with the employees at Bento&Co to come up with a solution that would work well for them.
The most rewarding part of my experience was being able to take programming skills that I learned over here in the US and apply them to a problem that no one had tackled quite right in Japan. I loved getting to see the Bento&Co employees use my code in their everyday tasks.
Cocoroom is a non-profit organization based in Osaka that runs art and social activities with an emphasis on social inclusion through expression. It holds a free medical clinic and night watches for the people in the local community of Kamagasaki, a neighborhood with a strong history of activism for workers' and homeless people's rights. Cocoroom also runs a guesthouse and a cafe to create a space for the people in the local community and travelers to meet each other:
I helped with daily maintenance of the cafe, guesthouse, and garden space in the mornings. In the afternoon, I prepared for art events by creating fliers and translating, setting up venues, and participating in workshops. I was able to organize two projects: a monthly film festival where we screened films and discussed social issues with the community and a photo-video documentary series where I interviewed local members of the community about important places, objects, and people in the face of a rapidly gentrifying area.
A highlight of my internship experience was being able to form deep and meaningful relationships with members of the community. I still keep contact with my coworkers and have plans to meet them again. I learned a lot about creative confidence and the social impact of the arts through my colleagues.
daisy inc. is a creative team that develops 3DCG content and applications that challenge the limits of human-technology relationships. Since its foundation in 2004, daisy has expanded its work from 3DCG to include physical prototypes and interactive art as well, focusing primarily in the entertainment field.
As a CS major interested in art and technology, Amber enjoyed coding every day to help with the implementation of one of the company’s fun and exciting digital art projects!
The Hiroshima Prefectural Government (HPG)'s International Affairs Division and Peace Promotion Project Team works to encourage foreigners to live and work in the prefecture, expand Hiroshima Prefecture's ties overseas, and to broadcast the Hiroshima message of peace to a global audience. In addition to hosting and educating the thousands of tourists that visit Hiroshima City every year, the HPG also collaborates with the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) to use Hiroshima's unique history to help rebuild other post-conflict societies around the world.
As an International Relations major with a focus on East Asia and International Security, I learned the important roles that local governments can play on a global scale. During my day-to-day work, I brushed up my Japanese skills doing translation work and helped with logistics for the various events hosted by the prefecture. Whether it was making friends with the future leaders of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region or helping Hiroshima officials communicate with European Union satellite-mapping programs after prefecture-wide flooding disaster, working in the HPG taught me what it means to be part of a globalizing world. My time working on peace promotion projects - most notably at the Hiroshima Round Table, which hosts experts from around the world to discuss paths towards nuclear disarmament - has had a profound influence on my future. Meeting with atomic bomb survivors, living next door to the peace park, and hearing from the experts has convinced me of both the necessity to abolish nuclear weapons and of the role individuals can play in realizing a nuclear-free world. I am immensely grateful to my coworkers and hope that I can work alongside them again down the line.
As an East Asian Studies major and Economics minor, Zoe interned at IIMA to immerse herself in economics research over the summer before she completed her minor in her senior year:
My main responsibility was designing and carrying out my own research project. I chose to study Chinese tourists who come to Japan in an economic and political context. I spent much of my time researching this trend online using English, Chinese, and Japanese sources. My coworkers often helped me by sending me articles that they had read in the news. I also was able to do some field research by visiting popular tourist spots.
I absolutely loved the professional and hard working environment of my workplace. Every day, I was motivated to push myself and learn new things. My coworkers put a lot of effort into making me feel welcome, and some of the conversations I had with them were the highlights of my experience.
As a Human Biology major with a concentration in global health, Jonas interned at the Institute for Global Health in Tokyo. JIGH is an independent, non-profit organization committed to promoting Japan’s role in global health and shaping healthcare policy and practice. JIGH investigates and researches global issues related to health and medicine and makes research- and evidence-based recommendations on health policy to the Japanese government and municipalities.
One of the major tasks that Jonas worked on during his internship was to conduct research and write a report on Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) in global health. Jonas worked to assess the global health governance landscape in order to identify major challenges that require new thinking and reform in the governance structure. More specifically, he analyzed recent trends of PPPs in global health and how the private sector and PPPs of Japan and the G7 can respond to changing needs and priorities in global health and health security. The research served as the foundation for part of a large report by a high-level working group comprised of scholars, government officials, and practitioners from diverse sectors in Japan to formulate policy proposals to guide G7 Summit talks on global health and health security.
Apart from his major task (above), Jonas also provided support for the rollout of mediPhone, a new telephone medical interpreting service developed by JIGH for foreign language speakers in Japan. He mainly assisted with translation into English of the mediPhone website and brochures as well as interviewing candidate translators to evaluate their linguistic skills:
Working at JIGH opened my eyes to the diversity of issues and approaches at play in the field. My own research project, for example, illuminated many political, organizational, and governance problems that have become particularly salient in the wake of the ebola crisis. At the same time, JIGH’s new service mediPhone demonstrated important role for start-ups and mobile technology in the health arena. Seeing the research and business aspects of the organization operating side-by-side gave me a new perspective on what working in global health can look like. I also had the opportunity to attend some very cool conferences on topics like malaria and the Sustainable Development Goals, and had several opportunities to make new professional contacts. My coworkers, both professionals and other student interns, were all wonderful and welcoming!
As a Mechanical Engineering student, Nathaniel interned at one of the R&D centers of Komatsu Ltd., a Japanese multinational corporation that manufactures and sells construction and mining equipment, utilities, forestry machines and industrial machinery:
I performed novel research on the torque loss experienced by the oil pump used in one of Komatsu’s most popular excavators. During this task, I assisted in disassembling the oil pump, replacing the inner parts, reassembling the oil pump, and running tests under various conditions. I also worked with the engineers to design the tests and testing methods used during this research. On the side, I assisted with the assembling and testing of the motor that works with the oil pump. I visited the Tokyo Institute of Technology to learn about research being done there by Komatsu and researchers at the university. I visited a manufacturing plant in another prefecture, I aided in translation during a couple of meetings that Komatsu had with English collaborators, and I presented my research for the summer to the entire department.
I got to learn a lot of Japanese, experience Japan work culture, learn about the workings of a large engineering company, learn about collaborations between large companies and university research, experience life as a young adult in Japan, and become more outgoing and independent.
The most rewarding part of my experience was two-fold; learning that I am capable of making significant contributions to my field and learning how to live independently as a young adult in a new environment.
Prof. Yoshiaki Nakao’s Lab, Department of Materials Chemistry
Graduate School of Engineering, Kyoto University
Japan is a world leader in catalysis research and is home to many exceptional chemists. I participated in the Stanford Program in Kyoto internship because I wanted to gain experience in a very different research environment and explore less well-understood areas of chemistry.
My project at Prof. Nakao’s lab involved developing a catalytic system for the activation of relatively inert chemical bonds. I used high-throughput screening techniques such as gas chromatography to test many different reaction conditions and catalysts to find optimal conditions for the reaction to take place. We had a group meeting twice a week where we would either discuss recent papers from scientific journals or one member would present their research progress. In addition, I had the opportunity to attend several scientific conferences in Japan and interact with famous chemists from Japan and across the world.
Working on my project in Prof. Nakao’s lab gave me lots of experience working on the sort of chemistry that I want to investigate in graduate school. I enjoyed working with Prof. Nakao and interacting with other lab members and made many friends both at Kyoto University and at the conferences I attended around Japan. I also got to experience life at a very different pace, and greatly improved my Japanese both for discussing chemistry and for social occasions! Hopefully I’ll return to Japan in the future!
LINE is most popular for its smartphone application that allows users to make free calls and messaging with other users.
Isaiah learned a new programming language and helped develop a new software for the company’s Clova smart speaker. Isaiah said, “Interning at LINE helped me get a better understanding of the tech industry from an international viewpoint!”
Nifco is a leading manufacturer and supplier of plastic fasteners for industrial purposes. As a Psychology major interested in human relationship and development Jimmy interned at Nifco’s human resources department:
My summer project was to research the human resources standards of major Silicon Valley companies, compare them with practices at Nifco and propose a change in management culture. I collected information about Silicon Valley from many sources, including personal interviews and a wealth of online material, and sifted through the data to assemble a coherent picture. Interviews were also instrumental in learning about Nifco. My coworkers introduced me to the workings of the company as a whole in order to provide me with a thorough understanding of it.
The most rewarding experience I had at Nifco was my final presentation to the company management at the end of the internship. I was floored when my colleagues in Human Resources came together to help me polish my presentation and delivery. It was the culmination of my summer project and even though there was no guarantee that the proposal would be well-received, it had a favorable impact on the directors of the company. That was a huge relief for me. Thanks to my internship, I acquired in-depth knowledge of human resources and extensive interviewing practice, which are skills I can apply to work in psychology.
teamLab is an art collective, interdisciplinary group of ultratechnologists whose collaborative practice seeks to navigate the confluence of art, science, technology, design and the natural world. Various specialists such as artists, programmers, engineers, CG animators, mathematicians and architects form teamLab. teamLab aims to explore a new relationship between humans and nature, and between oneself and the world through art:
During my internship, I was part of teamLab’s Recommendation Team which is in charge of the recommendation systems for the websites that teamLab has built for clients. My main responsibility was to help improve their recommendation system by analyzing data from these websites. In addition to being asked to investigate particular parts of the data, I also was allowed to come up with my own ideas for analysis. This data was stored in a relational database, so I wrote primarily structured query language (SQL) code to access and organize the data in various ways in order to try to find ways to improve the recommendation system.
My internship with teamLab was everything I could ask for and more. In addition to getting valuable experience within a Japanese workplace, I was able to learn many things during my internship. Going into the internship, I did not have any experience with SQL, but at the start of my internship, my supervisor helped me learn everything that I needed to know including how to access and manipulate the data stored within their Amazon Redshift database. Perhaps, the most rewarding part of the internship was the challenge of looking for patterns in the data. Having given me access to the data from the website that I was working with, teamLab gave me a lot of freedom to analyze the data. This allowed me to push myself to my limit to find new, interesting, useful findings to improve their recommendation systems.
As a Human Biology major with a focus on Global Food and Agricultural Policy, Mary interned at a small organic vegetable farm in Ohara, an ancient farming village north of Kyoto:
In the mornings, I generally harvested vegetables – cucumbers, okra, onions, carrots, and so on, with the Watanabes, who own the farm. In the afternoons, we packaged the vegetables for delivery to local restaurants and grocery stores. On alternating weekday mornings, we delivered the vegetables, and I rode along to help carry the heavy boxes of produce. On Saturday mornings, I worked with the Watanabes at their stall in the local farmers’ market, making change and helping customers with their packages. I also wrote and distributed a survey in Japanese to customers at some of the places where our produce was sold.
The most rewarding part of my internship was the chance to meet and work with the Watanabes. They were incredibly kind, patient, and warm. I felt that I was able to connect with them and become friends, despite the large difference in our languages, cultures, and experiences. Mr. and Mrs. Watanabe were always willing to answer my questions, and we spent many happy hours packing vegetables while we chatted and listened to the radio. Of course, my ability to chat was pretty limited – but this was greatly improved through the course of my internship. By the end of the summer, cashiers started asking how long I had lived Japan, instead of what country I was visiting from.
Last but not least, my internship contributed significantly to my academic progress at Stanford. The experience of actually working on a farm has given me a much better understanding of the kind of issues faced by small farmers than even the best class can offer. And spending several hours a week delivering vegetables, I had the chance to ask a lot of questions about marketing and economic decisions, as well as observing business transactions. I really feel a lot more prepared to pursue a career in helping small farmers now that I’ve been immersed in that experience.
The DLX - Design Lab is a design lab within The University of Tokyo’s Institute of Industrial Science. Its goal is to use design to turn science into deployable innovations. Though there are many interesting and innovative teams within the design lab, I mostly worked on the OMNI project, an initiative to better understand our oceans through designing and developing a low cost, mass deployable, open source ocean monitoring system. With OMNI I worked on two projects, from research to prototype, focusing on sustainability and accessibility. My first project was to redesign the OMNI float using only paper in order to reduce the amount of plastic in the device, and the second was to create a working mini OMNI kit that could be used either in workshops or as take-home DIY kits so that more people could enjoy the OMNI experience.
Outside of my main projects, I was also able to go to Misaki Bay, where the current OMNI prototypes were floating, to learn and participate in the maintenance and retrieval of the OMNI devices. We also visited a Daruma maker in Takasaki in order to learn more about paper mâché techniques that could possibly be applied to the Paper OMNI project, and visited the The University of Tokyo Kashiwa campus to meet with AORI, the project partners for OMNI. And finally, in-between my projects, I helped a coworker create an exhibition piece showing off the color changing chemical technology in her project, VIBE.
My ten weeks with the DLX - Design Lab were some of the best and most informative weeks of my life. As someone who just entered the product design field, I am happy that I was not only able to get so many projects under my belt, but also learn so much by working around professionals in the field. On top of being wonderful people, everyone in the Design Lab had amazingly unique perspectives, and getting to know everyone in the lab and seeing how they approached different projects and ideas was just as valuable as getting hands-on experience. I am extremely grateful for this opportunity and hope that we will meet again in the future!
As a Bioengineering major student interested in tissue engineering, Gustavo interned at Prof. Yukiko Matsunaga’s Lab at the Institute of Industrial Science, The University of Tokyo:
My project involved testing the potential of cellulose-based bundled gel scaffold for neuron regeneration. Using a model for neuron cells, I showed the growth and alignment of neurites along the directionality of the bundled gel.
The internship program gave me the opportunity to gain experience in the field which I wish to pursue in the future. I was given substantial autonomy over my work that allowed me to thrive and develop my skills as a researcher.