Physics student Alejandra enjoys research internship at the University of Tokyo

SPS Stage 3 Physics undergraduate, Alejandra Traspas-Muina, successfully secured a place on one of the most competitive internships in the world.

The UTRIP program (the University of Tokyo Research Internship Program), is an intensive summer internship designed for undergraduate students to receive intensive guidance on conducting research. Successful applicants have the exciting opportunity to work with renowned members from the Physics, Astronomy, Chemistry, Earth and Planetary Science and Biological Sciences departments at the University of Tokyo, while also being able to enjoy an excursion outside of Tokyo and a short course on the Japanese language and culture. Alejandra was 1 of just 22 students selected out of an incredible 618 applicants from around the world, who took part in a 6 week internship working on atmospheric chemistry.

Alejandra shares her experience on the UTRIP program in Tokyo:

“This internship has been an amazing opportunity to get involved in the research world and get a flavour of what it takes to be a researcher.

“I was in Japan for 6 weeks at the University of Tokyo. My research project was ‘Numerical simulations of astrochemistry in star forming regions and protoplanetary disks’ with Professor Yuri Aikawa. It was very challenging as I have been away from chemistry studies since high-school. But once I refreshed my memory, I enjoyed it so much.

“Apart from being at University, I had the opportunity of visiting different parts of Japan; I went to Mount Fuji, visited Tokyo and many of its districts, experienced all Japanese food traditions, took part in a tea ceremony wearing yukata (summer kimono) and enjoyed different summer festivals. I met incredible people that will be part of my life forever. I was also able to take part on an intensive Japanese language course, and learn a lot about their culture, which is very fascinating.

“I highly recommend students interested in the research area to apply to this internship and experience what it’s like, how it makes you grow as a scientist and as a person.”

“I heard about this internship in my first year at the University of Kent, but because it was just for students in their second, third or fourth year, I decided to wait and apply at the correct time.

“When I did apply, I knew it was a very competitive internship, so I knew it was going to be hard to get it. With help from Dr. Dobre, Senior Lecturer in Applied Optics at the School of Physical Sciences, I finished my application and submitted it by the end of January. They replied confirming my place at the end of March. The students selected are awarded with a stipend of £400, paid flights and accommodation. So basically, you don’t need to bring a large quantity of money with you, unless you are planning to travel all around Japan.

“The outcomes of this summer Internship have been very fructiferous. I made contact with different employees from NASA, worked with one of the very few people in the world recreating stellar dust with a machinery more than 40 years old (handmade), made friends with Japanese students and also students from all over the world, studying at Cambridge, Berkeley, Brown, Edinburgh and China. After this experience my motivations to do a masters and PhD are even bigger than before.”

Alejandra will be joining ChemSoc for a special talk sharing her experience on the UTRIP program. Stay tuned for further updates.