JSPS Quarterly
No.19 2007 Spring Topics

Research and Life in Japan by a JSPS Fellow (12)

Dr. Jose Alexis Palmero Rodriguez
Ph.D. (Earth and Planetary Science), The University of Tokyo, Japan, 2004
M.Sc. (Earth and Planetary Science), The University of Tokyo, Japan, 2001
B.Sc. (Geology), University of London, UK, 1996

Hailing from Spain, Dr. Jose Alexis Palmero Rodriguez has been doing research under a JSPS postdoctoral fellowship at the Mizusawa VERA Observatory, National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, National Institutes of Natural Sciences since April 2006. He first came to Japan in 1999 to matriculate a master's course in the Graduate School of Science at The University of Tokyo. While a graduate student there, he was selected to receive a scholarship from the Japanese government. Then in 2004, he was awarded a JSPS "Research Fellowship for Young Scientists," testifying to the excellent potential he demonstrated as a doctoral researcher. His current host Prof. Sho Sasaki had been Dr. Palmero Rodriguez's faculty advisor at The University of Tokyo, and continues to work closely with him on research related to the geology and topography of Mars.

Digital elevation model of Mars’ 6 km-deep Ganges Chasma, thought to have been formed by a ground collapse from which emerging groundwater may have ponded to form lakes or even a sea.

On what are you conducting your research under the JSPS fellowship?

Mars is the only planet in the solar system that shows evidence for having had hydrologic activity analogous to that of the Earth. It is because of this and the planet's potential to harbor life and even to sustain human settlement, that Mars has drawn great interest from the scientific community in recent years.
I am currently working on several projects related to the geologic history of groundwater systems on Mars and their release at the surface. Some of the results include the finding of extensive caverns eroded by groundwater flow along the tectonic structures that surround buried impact craters, and the finding of sedimentary deposits over the north pole of Mars that appear to be eroding the surface into giant canyons.

That sounds extremely interesting. How did you become involved in your research field?

I did extensive traveling to remote places on Earth during my early twenties. It was then when I became interested in the study of planetary landscapes.

Why did you choose Japan to pursue your research? What initially led you here?

I like to put myself in an environment where I can discover new things and experience cultural diversity. During my college days, I spent a year as an exchange student at Nanjing University in China. I felt no anxiety at all when I began living in Japan. Japan has been making some important headway in missions that involve planetary geology. It is my purpose to become increasingly involved in these initiatives and to serve as a bridge for other scientists working in the EU and the USA.
I originally became interested in working in Japan through Sasaki-sensei back when he was working at The University of Tokyo.

What are the merits to conducting your research in Japan?

Through my research in Japan, I have had the chance to work with numerous scientists, both Japanese and from other countries like America and Russia, and to learn a new language and a very unique culture. In Japan, the state of research in planetary science is advancing at a rapid pace.

Do you have any plans for what you will do after your fellowship?

I have an offer from the Planetary Science Institute, Tucson, Arizona. So after my fellowship ends I will take it up. After that, I'm not sure: I may go back to Europe or even come back to Japan.

What is your impression of Iwate or the Mizusawa area around your research institute?

Compared to Tokyo, Iwate is a very cold place, but the people are warm, the food is delicious, and water is pure. I live near a forest. I like to go on hikes and go into the forest to observe nature. I thrive on local cuisine-especially reimen, chilled and spicy Morioka noodles. As my residence is close to the Observatory, commuting is no problem. All in all, I really enjoy life here in Mizusawa, Iwate Prefecture.

What advice would you give someone about to begin a JSPS fellowship in Japan?

Make an effort to integrate and to make Japanese friends. Learn about Japanese culture, hang out with the Japanese. In addition, go to Kyoto as soon as you have a chance. Personally, I like the Fushimi district of Kyoto with its wooded hills and myriads of fox shrines, so I've traveled to Kyoto often. You may find that you will also want to visit that city regularly.

Interview by JSPS Fellows Plaza

To Past and Present JSPS Fellows:

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JSPS Quarterly No.19 2007