Quarterly TOP gj

Series: Research and Life in Japan by a JSPS Fellow (4)


Dr. Thi Thi Nge is conducting research in Japan as a JSPS postdoctoral fellow. She hails from Myanmar where she graduated from the University of Yangon. After receiving her master's degree and gaining experience as a research associate in Thailand, in 1999 she was awarded a doctoral fellowship from the Japanese government. In 2002, she received her PhD in biomaterials science from The University of Tokyo.

From April 2004, Dr. Nge began her research under the JSPS fellowship at the Research Institute for Sustainable Humanosphere, Kyoto University, where she is currently engaged in work titled "Towards novel utilization of biopolymers (chitin and bacterial cellulose) for the development of biomaterials." She is particularly concentrating on the fabrication of bioactive apatite-biopolymer composites, novel biomaterials for potential osteological applications.

Dr. Nge's host researcher, Assoc. Prof. Junji Sugiyama, knew her PhD supervisor at The University of Tokyo. Of Dr. Nge, Prof. Sugiyama said, "She devotes every spare moment to her studies. She gives her best, not only in her research, but in everything she does. She is both liked and trusted by all her peers in the laboratory."

Why did you choose Japan to pursue your research?

Japan is one of world's leading countries in my field, currently conducting biomaterials research of an excellent quality. Before coming to Japan, I studied for my master's degree in the field of bioprocess technology at Asian Institute of Technology (AIT) in Thailand. The program's research activities were mainly focused on various aspects of chitin/chitosan research. My work in the master's program kindled a spirit in me to expend my pursuit of knowledge in the field of biomaterials to Japan. Though my experience had been limited to my specific field, I was nevertheless impressed by Japan's scientific contributions in international publications and the industrial applications that are produced from several facets of innovative research.

Members of host lab.
Members of host lab. From bottom left: Prof. Sugiyama, Dr. Nge, Prof. Itoh

What research have you conducted under the JSPS fellowship so far?

Dr. Thi Thi Nge
 Dr. Thi Thi Nge

So far I have prepared chitin/nanoapatite composites by incorporating calcium and phosphorous precursors with microcrystalline chitin suspensions. My primary goal is to gain a better understanding of the materials' structural morphology and formation process at the nanometer scale. I am currently undertaking an investigation on apatite deposition onto an ultrafine bacterial cellulose microfibrils network in simulated body fluid using a biomimetic approach. Promising results have been obtained so far, and further investigations and characterizations on the topic are underway.

What merits do you derive from conducting your research in Japan?

As for the state of research and research environment in Japan, one can conduct research at a laboratory that is both well-equipped and well-funded. All researchers, themselves, have to do is to add their value, skill and motivation. If the lab-set and mind-set are in place, achieving striking scientific results is possible. Japan's ever-accelerating research environment is both eye-opening and mind-expanding; I am made to realize constantly "how little I know about science."

Studying and conducting research in Japan may prove to be a boon as well as a challenge for others like me who come here from a developing country. I always maintain a never-give-up, positive attitude whenever I encounter difficulties or discouragements. I owe this affirmative attitude in great part to my PhD supervisor, Assoc. Prof. Akio Takemura. Without his enthusiastic encouragement and good mentoring, I would not be at this place in my research career.

What do you usually do when you are not working on your research?

I enjoy the weekends, starting with meditation. Being a Buddhist, I find meditation to be not only a good way to purify one's mind but also a good exercise for relaxing a tired body and mind. I sometimes visit temples and shrines or travel with my friends.

Do you have any advice about living and doing research in Japan for others who are considering coming to Japan as a researcher?

Maintaining a close relationship with your host researcher will ensure that your planned research proceeds smoothly. It would be worthwhile if you acquire a certain knowledge of the language and culture before coming. Since communication in Japanese is necessary in daily life, one should possess some level of language skill to be able to interact with his/her colleagues. By creating good communication, you will all the more enjoy and be satisfied with your research life in Japan.