Category Archives: Yue Chin

Amelia and Yue Chin are now alumni + Andi is PhD + Kim and Kylie are graduating

Already 3 students graduated from the GPES master’s and 2 are on the edge of graduation.

Amelia, Yue Chin and Andi all obtained their master’s degree in september 2015, respectively writing about flows of radioactive contaminants in Japanese rivers, corals’ nutrients intake, and transcription factors involved in chloroplast differentiation. Andi however extended for a PhD program.

Only last month, both Kim (PhD) and Kylie (master) submitted their thesis, and both greatly performed during their oral defence.

Kim first resumed and interlinked the contents of his three published articles, namely “Comparative analysis of environmental impact assessment (EIA) procedures of Japan and New Zealand”, “Large scale renewable energy project barriers: EIA streamlining efforts in Japan and the EU”, and finally “the determinants of wind energy shares in the United States: Drivers and Barriers”. Kim’s work provided us an in-depth understanding of legal, political and administrative burdens that might hamper renewable energy adoption in various countries, as well as how to overcome these obstacles.

Finally, Kylie elaborated an analysis of biodiversity range shifts, based on an exhaustive data set detailing the species registered at all hydraulic dams around Japan in the past 20 years. She concluded that the shifting patterns are highly variable depending on each taxon, and that the hypothesis of northwards migration due to climate change may not quite be warranted.

Congratulations guys! We thank all of you for your great contributions to GPES and hope you all the best for your professional careers!kylie-thesis

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Odaiba Trip November 2014 – Karaoke, Food and Kim’s Birthday

Hello everyone,

At the beginning of November 2014, the GPES members went to together on an exciting trip to discover the mysteries of one Tokyo’s most renowned entertainment districts. Odaiba is an artificial island that is divided between the Koto, Shinagawa and Minato wards.

We stopped at Tokyo Teleport station to visit many of the most famous sights in Odaiba such as a huge Gundam robot figure, a small replication of the Statue of Liberty, whose original can be found in New York City. We visited the Fuji Television headquarters, which was filled with memorabilia for Japanese TV drama aficionados.

Then we went on to the main event, an extensive of one of Japanese favourite pastimes, Karaoke, which is  a form of entertainment that originated in Japan in the 1960’s and since has found success in many countries all over the world. It is basically a form of musical rendition of famous songs, in which the original voices and singing are muted and amateur singers then attempt to recreate the original singing parts as true to the original as possible.

As the we met on a national holiday, the place was already entirely occupied upon our arrival so we had to wait for approximately one hour. In the meantime, we explored another of Japan’s many peculiar attractions: UFO catchers. Although these are not limited to Japan anymore, the variations and sophistication of the machines in Japan is certainly unique, there was even a Haagen-Dazs ice cream (!!!) catcher. We tried our luck and some of us actually succeeded in catching one of these sought after stuffed creatures.

Soon thereafter we got the sign that our personal Karaoke booth was ready, so set a song playlist among a wide array of Japanese and English-language songs and just sang our hearts out.

After that, we went to Andi’s home to enjoy some the DELICIOUS Indonesian food that he did prepare. The taste was awesome and the whole dish underlined once again Andi’s star chef-like cooking skills:)

And to top off this great day, my fellow GPES friends surprised Kim with some very creative gifts (a Ted-dy bear and a lush wig to let Kim dwell in past and better times..;-);  and  an original cake in the form of a cup of Ramen noodles.

All in all it was an amazing day with great times shared among good friends. I hope you will enjoy the pictures, have a look.

Best regards,

The GPES Student Group

(Pictures ©2014 Lewis & Amelia)

GPES Soup Curry Meeting (October 2014)

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Hello everyone,

At the start of last October, the GPES Student Group members all gathered to go and enjoy some delicious “Soup Curry” in the Shimokitazawa in the western part of Tokyo (in the Setagaya-ward to be more precise). Soup curry is a dish that reputedly originates from Sapporo, Hokkaido, although that fact is hard to verify.

A restaurant called “Magic Spice” had built up quite a reputation for itself over time and we wanted to find out what all the talk was about. We went on a weekday, but to our surprise the place a packed and I doubt that we would’ve be able to get a seats for a 6-people party without prior reservation.

Please have a look: http://www.magicspice.net/

The decor and atmosphere are definitely unique and intriguing to say the least. This place seems to be literally “out of this world”. This theme does not halt at the menu either which surprises the irritated guest with strange spice combinations and denominations that only remotely relate to the actual ingredients contained in those spice mixes.

Anyway, thanks to the inspiring atmosphere and the fun conversations between the GPES students, this turned out to be truly great evening that was crowned with the birthday celebrations for Yue Chin and Amelia.

Best regards,

The GPES Student Group

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(Pictures ©2014 GPES Student Group)

Toilet Exposition at the Miraikan Museum in Odaiba, Tokyo (August 2014)

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Hello everyone,

Two GPES students (Yue Chin and Kim) recently joined a group of international students from Todai to visit the Miraikan a.k.a The National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, located in Odaiba, an artificial island with the Koto-ward of Tokyo.

Please check out their website for further information: http://www.miraikan.jst.go.jp/en/

The main purpose of our visit was the ominous “Toilet Exposition”, which is supposed to be an informative and fun way to educate people on toilets and the roles the latter play in the lives of people in industrialized countries such as Japan. Since people nowadays, at least in the more developed parts of our world, seem to take toilets and human waste disposal for granted, this exposition wants to teach people that toilets are more than just a piece of equipment to rid ourselves of our excrements. They are a device to keep our living environments clean and sanitary and thus prevent the spreading of diseases. Given these obvious advantages, people should have more respect for toilets as well as for the purpose they serve in our societies.

The exposition was structured in a way that people could experience first hand what it means to be a toilet or human waste. On their path through the exposition, visitors were guided by the toilets or pieces of human waste who highlighted their personal views and feelings on what feels to be a toilet or a piece of poo. That being said, the most fun parts were undoubtedly the “Toilet Slide”, in which people, dressed as poos, could slide through a large-sized toilet and walk their way through the sewers until they’ve reached the ocean, their final destination. At the end of the exposition, a singing “Toilet Choir” concluded the tour outlining one last time the virtues of toilets and how they benefit mankind.

This was a unique exposition and definitely something that makes Japan kind of unique in the way they present knowledge regarding delicate themes.

The exposition is usually held from July until October each year, but even outside these dates, the Miraikan is definitely a museum that one should visit while in Tokyo, and if only to see the giant LCD globe in the main hall.

Best regards,

The GPES Student Group

(Pictures ©2014 Kim)

Solar Farmers in Japan to Harvest Electricity with Crops

Solar Farmers in Japan to Harvest Electricity with Crops

Farmers in Japan are maximising use of farmland by harnessing solar energy not only for food but also electricity. Sounds like a pretty good idea but may have some negative effects on land use as certain crops like rice do not flourish in the shade. Thoughts?

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(Photo credits: Ryo Sugawara/Japan Organics Recycling Association (JORA))

130th Life Science GPES Seminar

Growth Anisotropy in Plants: Scaling Up from Single Cell to Stem.

Dr. Tobias I. Baskin

University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

“Endless forms, most beautiful” – Charles Darwin

During the 130th Life Science Seminar, Dr. Baskin opined that ‘beautiful’ could be replaced by ‘functional’ – the myriad structures found in the plant kingdom are all results of millennia of fine-tuning so as to meet various requirements in functionality. A leaf is flat in order to absorb as much light as it can. A tendril extends almost two-dimensionally (i.e. a line) to grasp at supports. His research objectives are to understand why plants grow not isotropically, but anisotropically and the mechanisms by which plant cells allow this growth. In this manner, he uses a combination of biology and engineering in order to come up with theories about how plant cells deal with stress and strain. It was extremely enlightening; especially so with the question and answer session at the end, where students shot queries at him about both his research and his choice of career path which were answered openly and eloquently by Dr. Baskin.

Understanding plant biomechanics is all well and good, but throughout the talk I wondered about what the purpose of his research was. The answer? There isn’t one. His research can be said to be ‘basic research’. Instead of research that has a purpose such as understanding the mechanism of carbon uptake by the ocean in order to mitigate climate change, Dr. Baskin does investigative research into plant growth for the pure love and curiosity of it. Pure research furthers human knowledge without specific applications in mind but may one day be used as a foundation for progress. Applied research is useful, but without pure research contributing to the pool of knowledge, many new innovations (e.g. the discovery of X-rays for medical use) would not have existed.

The second part of the talk was actually given by one of our very own, Kim Schumacher. He used this opportunity to introduce GPES to other Todai students, staff and the guest speaker, giving them an insight into the programme and our student-led initiatives (thanks Kim!!). It is astounding how many people on our campus are clueless about the existence of this new programme and we hope that more students will be inspired to join such a pioneering venture by us actual students promoting our own programme. This was also an interactive session as we asked for advice and opinions from Dr. Baskin on how we can better create a more multi-disciplinary programme.

All in all, a really fruitful session. Thanks to Hamada-sensei for organising the seminar and Dr. Baskin for a fascinating talk.

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From left to right: Xuan Truong, Kim, Dr. Baskin, Yue Chin, Amelia

(Pictures ©2014 GPES Student Group)

Paper To Plants by Kelli Anderson and Daniel Dunnam

Had to share this! A breathtakingly perfect stop-motion animation of a forest biome, every single leaf and branch and feather cut out of paper. Anderson and Dunnam created it to advertise TinyBop, an educational app for kids (or inquisitive adults). The forest edition is an interactive diorama that makes learning about biodiversity pretty addictive. Oh, the possibility of becoming Tarzan just by swiping and tapping a screen! Just like swinging through the forest on a vine! Okay, not quite…

After you’re done with that do check out her post (http://kellianderson.com/blog/2014/05/a-paper-forest/) and their making-of video (http://vimeo.com/93623567). The amount of work and paper cuts that must have gone into the end-product is insane. Phenomenal mix of science and art.

Todai May Festival (Gogatsusai)

The other GPES students are rather involved in Todai circles (サッカル sakkaru) but I guess one would see me as a typical graduate student: a commitment-phobe with regards to university clubs and societies. In my defense, this term has been particularly insane for me and I didn’t manage to make it down to those I was actually interested in. No matter! The Gogatsusai is a brilliant time to catch up on what you’ve been missing out on and experience what those clubs (部活動 bukatsu) and circles have to offer! While you do get chances to take part in booths, like Amelia who was Ms. Moneybags at the Malaysian Student Association booth, I elected to be a normal paying customer and just had a walk around.

Stepping through the famous Red Gate (赤門 Akamon) of Todai’s Hongo campus, you enter a world of intense sensory overload. Loads of students shouting, “Come get some takoyaki/yakisoba/kakigori” and trying all sorts of ways to lure you to their stall (including cross-dressing – not sure how successful this trick is). My star buy of the day was the Okonomiyaki Moffle – a waffle made of mochi with an okonomiyaki topping. Say what?!?!

Not only can you get food lovingly cooked by Todai students, you get to explore the hallowed Hongo halls and learn more about what they do. Apparently you can even participate in a dummy dissection in the medical building! There’re also an assortment of cafés that are differently themed to cater to every possible whim. The centre stage has an amazing location right in front of the iconic Yasuda Auditorium and hosts a huge variety of acts. One of them we stopped to gawk horrifiedly at was a girl group not unlike AKB48, apart from the fact that they were wearing strange gold Power Ranger-esque masks. Indeed, a school festival beyond compare.

The Gogatsusai’s autumn counterpart is called Komabasai and is held in the Komaba campus amidst incredibly beautiful ginkgo trees that are Todai’s symbol. If you missed this one, come along for the next one and maybe I’ll be manning a Moffle booth – you never know!

(Picture source: http://fukutake.iii.u-tokyo.ac.jp/english/facilities_nearby-akamon.html)

Japan Geoscience Union Meeting 2014, Pacifico Yokohama

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One thing I have been beyond grateful for in GPES is the freedom to select my laboratory and professor-in-charge. Research is everything here in Todai; as a Masters/PhD student, your lab will probably be where you spend most of your time at. Since arriving here and becoming a part of Dr. Yusuke Yokoyama’s lab, I’ve been given so many opportunities I didn’t expect to have as a Masters student. This year, we were privileged to attend the Japan Geoscience Union (JpGU) Meeting 2014 at Pacifico Yokohama. It was my First Ever Conference (though I did go for the Symposium on Polar Science at the National Institute of Polar Research last year) so apologies if I sound like a complete nooblet.

The conference showcased all aspects of geoscience, including planetary sciences, geomorphology, biogeosciences among other topics. Apart from the talks that focused on oceanic biogeochemistry, I was particularly interested in the NASA and JAXA ones. These made use of a Very Very Cool state-of-the-art hyperwall (basically a massive screen – check it out here) to detail the Even Cooler technology that goes into creating and operating the consortiums of currently orbiting satellites and the multitudes of impacts they have on earth science and human society in general. One fact I was pretty struck by was that the number of precipitation measuring instruments we have on Earth is only enough to cover 2 basketball fields. We take the accuracy of weather reports for granted but this wasn’t the case till a few years back – one actually had to look out the window to decide whether to put on wellies or flip-flops!  People think space exploration has no real impact on earthly life but it really does. It’s not all astronauts vaulting through space stations singing Bowie songs…though that definitely isn’t what space exploration is about either.

Back to the conference: it’s structured like a music festival. Multiple talks proceed concurrently throughout the days in different rooms, you have to pick and choose which ones to go to. As JpGU is at its very heart a Japanese conference, most of the talks were given in Japanese; they did however have quite a few sessions in English to cater to an international audience. There are also poster presentations so that you get a quick overview of a wider variety of research without having to attend the relevant talk. Relevant organisations such as the Kochi Core Centre, Springer and even Todai had booths where you could chat with the personnel and learn more about their research and what they do, buy geoscience-related texts or even cookies that look like geological formations (I have to admit I bought the tea-flavoured cross-bedding one! Yum!). I also had a peek at a core sampled from a site that showed the geological deformation due to the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake. Scary but really interesting from a scientific point of view.

On the whole, I thought it was extremely well-done and subverted the image I had of conferences being pretty stuffy and boring. It gave me an opportunity for exposure to other forms of geoscience completely outside of my research area and also to be in the company of such esteemed members of the international Earth Sciences community, many of which had a hand in the IPCC 5th Assessment Report or even the Mars Curiosity Rover. Looking forward to JpGU 2015!