Research and Life in Japan by a JSPS Fellow (15)
Hailing from Harbin, China, Dr. Guangping Han has been conducting research at the Graduate School of Agriculture, Shizuoka University under a JSPS postdoctoral fellowship since last October. She is very knowledgeable about Japan as she had lived in Kyoto for five years, where she received her doctoral degree from Kyoto University. She met her host researcher, Prof. Shigehiko Suzuki, at the Forest Products Society (FPS) Annual Meeting in Seattle in 2003 while she was doing postdoctoral research at Louisiana State University. They later met again and exchanged views in Yokohama at a meeting of the International Association of Wood Products Societies (IAWPS). Prof. Suzukiís lab, to which Dr. Han in affiliated, comprises about 15 members. Dr. Han says that Prof. Suzukiís bright and thoughtful nature influences the students and young researchers, giving the lab a convivial, considerate atmosphere.
What sort of research are you doing under the JSPS fellowship?
My research is on "thermoplastic composites reinforced with natural fibers and inorganic nano-particles." The major aim of this work is to find technologically feasible approaches for commingling fibers and waste plastics in producing construction materials. Under the JSPS fellowship, I have been focusing on bamboo/plastic composites. Abundantly available in many countries, bamboo is one of the fastest growing renewable plants and has excellent mechanical properties vis-á-vis its weight. Environmental problems caused by white pollution from incinerating waste plastics and from the depletion of forestry resources are of serious concern these days. I am working on practical solutions to such problems by developing technologies that use annually renewable or fast-growing natural fibers and recycled plastics to make new bio-composite materials.
How did you become interested in your research field?
In China, I grew up in a typical family in which both my parents worked. Therefore, I was raised by my grandparents who lived in the countryside about 200 kilometers from Harbin. I really loved that area with its rich natural environment. I especially liked the forest, and have fond memories of running about through the trees. My interest in doing forestry research stems from those early childhood days.
Why did you choose Japan as the place to pursue your research?
I always think of Japan as being my second home, having spent five years in Kyoto doing my PhD study. At that time, I came to Japan with my family, and we enjoyed our associations with all the Japanese people we met. I studied Japanese at the Uji Community Center in Kyoto. My instructor there would invite my family to join hers for dinner and other activities. She gave me an opportunity to experience the tea ceremony. Of course, tea is very popular in China, but we do not have a ceremony to appreciate it. So, I was very interested in a culture that embodies such a custom. I was very happy to be able to live surrounded by such wonderful people. By his example, my PhD supervisor at Kyoto University taught me the value of determined effort. Through these relationships, I developed a close affinity for Japan and its people. I am very happy that the JSPS fellowship has allowed me to come back to Japan to pursue my research with great Japanese colleagues.
What merits are there for you in conducting your research in Japan?
Japan's technology in the field of wood science is very advanced, providing an excellent research environment both in terms of literature resources and experimental apparatus, as well as excellent researchers and technologists. I appreciate very much my host professor's effort to provide me with an optimum research environment, and am thankful to the other professors and students for the support and kindness they always accord me. The people in the neighborhood are also very kind to me, making my stay in Shizuoka all the more enjoyable.
What plans do you have for after your fellowship?
I plan to go back to my home country, China, where I will continue to teach and do research as a professor at Northeast Forestry University. I will also continue to conduct collaborative work on natural fiber/plastic materials with my host Prof. Suzuki and Prof. Qinglin Wu of Louisiana State University.
What activities do you engage in outside of your research work?
I love traveling, cooking and shopping. Every winter and summer vacation, if I have time I try to take trips with my family to enjoy the pretty natural sights. My happiest thing is to cook a good meal and watch my family eat. I also love shopping with my daughter, which is the best way for me to take a rest from my research work.
What advice would you give to new JSPS fellows?
I would have two pieces of advice for them: Work hard and play hard during your one- or two-year stay in Japan. The JSPS fellowship provides foreign researchers with a really good research opportunity, so we have no excuse not to work hard. This is a great time to improve one's research skills and advance one's work. What I hope to hear from my host professor when my tenure ends is "You've done a good job." I wish the same for you. The other important thing is to play hard, by which I mean don't stay in the lab all the time. Go out and communicate with people; learn the Japanese language and culture. There are a lot of great things in Japan including its history, customs, and proprieties. Learning more about this country will help you to build enduring relationships with the Japanese.
Dr. Han completed her postdoctoral fellowship in October.