Research and Life in Japan by a JSPS Fellow (6)
Hailing from the Czech Republic, Dr. Pavel Baroch started his JSPS postdoctoral fellowship at Nagoya University's Eco Topia Science Institute in October 2004. Dr. Baroch's host, Prof. Osamu Takai, met him when he went to the Czech Republic to deliver a lecture under a collaboration with Prof. Jindrich Musil, who was at the time Dr. Baroch's faculty advisor. Dr. Baroch's colleagues at the Institute say, "He is a cheerful, talkative person, easy for everyone in the lab to communicate and work together with."
We understand your PhD work was focused on the study and application of various plasma sources operated in a vacuum and used for surface modification. You changed your focus to the study and development of systems for waste water treatment under the JSPS fellowship, didn't you?
Yes. We are attempting to use an electrical plasma discharge in a liquid medium for this purpose. This approach appears to be very promising, especially due to its high efficiency in degrading various kinds of water pollutants and, moreover, its ecological friendliness, as no chemicals are added. The technology can, therefore, be applied to water used for medical purposes and to the quick, cheap and safe processing of medical waste fluids.
In my PhD course, I was interested in bio-processes as well as plasma. Connecting the two fields is what makes my present research so attractive. Nevertheless, many of the problems we're working on now are very new to me, so from time to time can be a really hard nut to crack.
Why did you choose Japan to pursue your research?
There were actually two main reasons. One was the expectation I had that Japan would allow me to conduct my research in an environment with a high level of experimental possibilities. The other was my desire to encounter a completely new culture in which people's thinking, ideas and work style differ from my own, allowing me to exchange experiences with them.
What do you think about the state of research and the research environment in Japan?
In my opinion, Japan has a high level of research, driven by really enthusiastic people. Also, the technical equipment in laboratories is excellent. I appreciate the very fast delivery system for standard components required in research activities. In the case of non-standard components, however, it is harder in Japan than in my country to find technicians who can quickly manufacture them.
What merits do you derive from conducting your research in Japan?
For me, there are a lot of pluses. One, for example, is the opportunity it gives me to conduct my research in a country that boasts many of the top leaders in my field. Another is the chance it allows me to see different approaches to solving related problems. And yet another is the possibility being here affords me to establish working relations and contacts with Japanese researchers.
What do you usually do outside of your research?
Since I decided to study Japanese, I have been attending language classes. In addition, I like to play football and ping-pong, go bicycle riding, listen to music, and play my guitar. I travel in my free time to see new places, visit other JSPS fellows working in different areas, and learn something new from Japanese culture. Moreover, I've made several visits to the AICHI-EXPO. On 24 June, there was a Czech day at the EXPO, and I was lucky enough to meet the Czech delegation at it.
How do you feel about Japanese life, culture and customs?
I think Japan is a country of great contrasts. On one hand, there are very hurried people fully occupied with their jobs, while on the other, there are wonderful gardens and temples where people might spend hours just doing "nothing." In any case, life here seems to move faster than what I am used to. Concerning Japanese culture and customs, I must say I have gotten to like almost everything I have experienced so far. The only exception was sitting for a long time with my legs crossed during the tea ceremony. (smile)
What advice would you give someone about to begin a JSPS fellowship?
If you are the person who doesn't mind the challenges of a new culture and life style and have ideas you want to test, then I'd say go for it. Just one word of advice regarding the Japanese language. Even if you know some Japanese, I recommend attending language classes, as for me doing so has been a great way to make new friends.
Interview by JSPS Fellows Plaza
|JSPS Quarterly No.13 2005|