JSPS Quarterly
No.41 2012 Autumn Topics

Research and Life in Japan by a JSPS Fellow (24)

Dr. Qiao-Hui Fan
Dr. Qiao-Hui Fan

Ph.D. (Radiochemistry), Lanzhou University,
China, 2011
M.Sc. (Inorganic Chemistry), Lanzhou University,
China, 2008
B.Sc. (Chemistry), West Anhui University,
China, 2005

Hailing from China, Dr. Qiao-Hui Fan has been conducting research with his host researcher, Dr. Yoshio Takahashi, in the Department of Earth and Planetary Systems Science at Hiroshima University under a JSPS postdoctoral fellowship since November 2011. After obtaining his masters and PhD degrees at Lanzhou University, he chose Japan as a destination to start his research career abroad.

What are you currently researching under the JSPS fellowship?

I have a wide range of research interests and am working on three different research topics, two having to do with the mineral ferrihydrite found in several types of environment at the Earths surface: One is the trace-metal ion distribution between ferrihydrite and manganese oxide and the other sulfur isotopic fractionation on ferrihydrite. I am also investigating the mobility of radiocesium in natural soil. As a specific example, I am working to confirm adion (absorbed ion) speciation on a charged ferromanganese crust and sediment surface using X-ray absorption fine structure spectroscopy. It is very important for us to gain an understanding of the interaction mechanism between metal ions and marine sediments or crust.

How did you become interested in your research field?

In China, students choose their major before entering the university. To be honest, I was not really into in my research field of chemistry at that point. But, I did think that chemistry was interesting because it allows us to create new materials through such processes as mixing different substances or heating/cooling them. As I learned more about chemistry, I became increasingly interested in it and enjoyed working in the field.

How did you get to know your Japanese host researcher?

Dr. Takahashi is a very well known scientist in the fields of geochemistry and environmental science. I got to know about him from reading his papers when I was a masters student in China. He has done a great many valuable studies on the interaction between humic acid and ions, which is of importance in explaining the influence of natural organic matter on ion transport in environmental media. Being interested in such aspects of his work, I wrote to Dr. Takahashi and asked about the possibility of him becoming my host researcher. My first meeting with him was at an international conference, Pacifichem 2010, held in Hawaii. Though I was a little nervous to be meeting such a famous scientist, that first encounter was valuable not only to get a feel for his personality but also to discuss a research plan for my stay in Japan as a JSPS fellow.

Why did you choose Japan to pursue your research?

Needless to say, Japan has many prominent scientists, advanced apparatuses, and an optimum research atmosphere. Looking at the latest scientific achievements, its plain to see that Japanese researchers are making heavy contributions to science. That is why so many researchers from all over the world desire to come and advance their work here in Japan. In China, not only masters and doctoral students but also undergraduates want to come to Japan to study and do research in pursuit of their dreams. In my case, I had also received an offer for a 2-year postdoc position from a French university with terms similar to the JSPS fellowship. However, I chose to come to Japan without any hesitations because I thought the JSPS fellowship program was well adapted to overseas researchers, besides being highly appraised in China. Since my wife and I came to Japan, we have really enjoyed the Japanese study environment and lifestyle, which confirms that my decision was right.

What is your impression of your host institution?

My institution, the Earth and Planetary Systems Science, is located in Higashihiroshima City. It offers an interdisciplinary curriculum including geology, geography, chemistry and environment. Each of its laboratories owns a lot of advanced equipment and is efficiently run by very motivated and dedicated staffs and students, who usually work late into the evening. All the members of our laboratory are friendly to me and supportive in both my work and life in Japan.

Generally speaking, what is your impression of Japans research environment?

Japanese universities are excellent and have nourished many outstanding scientists. The researchers diligent and strict attitude has touched my heart deeply. No matter whether student or staff, they work very hard from early to late most every day. I think this reflects the true spirit of science.

What are your research achievements under the JSPS fellowship so far?

Recently, I have been focusing on the speciation of radiocesium in Fukushima soil and sediments. Luckily, I have successfully completed all my experiments relative to cesium speciation. Now, I am going to write and submit a research paper for publication in an international journal. Then, I will try my best to advance my other research activities during my tenure.

What do you do outside your research work?

I usually go sightseeing to different places in Japan with my wife. We have already been to Tokyo and Osaka, seeing some historic sites of interest, enjoying a variety of Japanese traditional foods, and making some friends from other countries. In this way, Ive been able to learn about Japanese culture and customs, which helps me to enjoy good communication with my colleagues.

What do you think of life in Japan-its culture and customs?

For me, Japan is a pleasant place to live. Many of its customs are similar to Chinas, such as writing in kanji (Chinese characters). This is probably the reason why we Chinese can get used to the Japanese lifestyle so quickly. Simultaneously, I have found the Japanese to be very kind and warmhearted when it comes to helping you if you encounter problems. Additionally, Japan has been better at maintaining its tradition and history compared to China, where vintage buildings are destroyed to advance economic development.

Before coming to Japan, what kind of image did you have of the country? Has your perception changed after coming here?

Before I came here, I got some information about the Japanese culture and lifestyle from my friends who have lived in Japan for some years. As I expected, Japan is a very clean and beautiful country. I had thought Japan would be filled with modern architecture as it is a highly developed country; however, I was surprised to find how its traditional customs, culture and buildings are so meticulously preserved. In addition, I was impressed with the way that the old and new are made to coexist in harmony.

What do you plan to do after your fellowship ends?

I have not decided where I will go yet. I might go back to Lanzhou University where I received my masters and PhD degrees. However, I am hoping to stay in Japan until my wife, who is currently a doctoral student in medicine at Hiroshima University, completes her course.

Please give some advice for young researchers who may be thinking about doing research in Japan.

Japan is a really good place to study because there are so many excellent scientists and advanced technologies here, which is very important for advancing scientific research. Dont be afraid that you cant do this or that well in Japan. For example, I am not deeply steeped in Japanese culture and customs, nor do I speak Japanese that well. But, I am trying to learn Japanese culture step by step by communicating with the local people. When I first arrived, I had some challenges to hurdle but soon began to enjoy my life in Japan. All it takes is a little will to pave your way, and Im sure you will not only get used to but also come to love your life in Japan.

Making a short visit to Dr. Takahashis laboratory and talking with him and Dr. Fan, the word mutual trust popped to mind. We were vividly reminded of the advantage that creating a good relationship with ones host and lab colleagues offers an overseas researcher when conducting research in Japan. It was obvious to us that Dr. Fan will enjoy a productive time during his tenure and great success in his research initiatives.

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JSPS Quarterly No.41 2012