Collaboration between MEPhI and Japanese universities will enrich the science of both countries.
National Research Nuclear University MEPhI is actively developing programs of exchange students with international universities. One of such successful cooperation is with Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech). It is held within the framework of the five-year "Russian-Japanese program of human resources development in the field of technology leaders in health care, medical industry, nuclear and energy industry", which started in 2017. Georgy Tikhomirov, curator of the program and Deputy Director Of the Institute of Nuclear Physics and Engineering (INPhE) MEPhI, spoke with the correspondent of the project "Social Navigator" INA "Russia today" about the purposes and activities of cooperation with Japanese partners.
- Georgy Valentinovich, how did the interaction between MEPhI and Tokyo Institute of Technology start?
— We cooperate with various Japanese universities, including Tokyo Institute of Technology. Tokyo Tech is one of the leading technical universities in Japan, and we are particularly pleased that over the last decades we have developed friendly relations. Our collaboration began in the 1990s and, after a short pause, was resumed in 2015, when we signed another memorandum about cooperation. After that, against the background of improving relations between Japan and Russia, we tried to formulate a joint project. Our partners succeeded to get funding from the government of Japan for internships of students and teachers – Japanese in Russia and Russian in Japan. The "Russian-Japanese program of human resources development in the field of technology-leaders in health care, medical industry, nuclear and energy industry" was created. Tokyo Institute of Technology has chosen Lomonosov Moscow State University (in the field of health and medical industry) and MEPhI (in the field of nuclear energy) as partners in this program.
- How is the student exchange?
- Our master's and Ph.D’s students in the Tokyo Tech lasting two weeks or three months. Respectively, students from Japan come to us. Selection of participants of the program is carried out based on competitiveness. The first exchange trips took place in 2017. We visited Japanese laboratories, met with professors and expressed our wishes with whom we would like to cooperate. For our side, in INPhE, we also provide our foreign colleagues with a choice. A few days ago, Japanese students came to us for the second time — four for a two-week internship and one for a three-month. They were distributed in four laboratories. Russian-Japanese forums are held within the framework of visits in the format of mini-conferences, where students and teachers from both countries exchange presentations about their laboratories and scientific work.
- In your opinion, what is the meaning of such an exchange?
- Our Japanese partners expect that, the cooperation program will help them to attract the attention of their students to health, medical, nuclear and energy industries and other promising areas for Japan. Such an exchange of students is consistent with our work on the program of improving the competitiveness of Russian universities "5-100" and is pursue the framework of the improvment of international activity of MEPhI. Such type of projects are also very useful for the modernization of the master's and postgraduate courses of our university. In general, academic mobility is very important to form the future of the researcher. It gives him an incentive to deeply study not only in his specialty and international developments in this area, but also foreign language, because working language of the program is English.
— What interests the Japanese in the first place? We can assume that this topic is related to Fukushima, nuclear power safety…
-Yes, of course, the topic of elimination of consequences at the Fukushima-1 nuclear power plant in Japan remains relevant, and we cooperate on this issue and beyond the student exchange program.
In the last year, our scientists participate in the Russian-Japanese seminar on Fukushima issues. We have seen that Japanese scientists and engineers have gone a long way to eliminate the consequences of the disaster. They did the best with the affected units and closed the destroyed reactors with caps. At the same time, the problem of monitoring and control of the radiological situation not fully resolved yet.
Another problem is to find a way to safely remove from reactor “corium” the mixture of nuclear fuel with concrete and metal parts, which was formed during the accident when the reactor core melts. Japanese scientists are discussing ways to solve these problems together with our researchers. At MEPhI there are strong developments in the field of detectors used for monitoring, and we could offer our developments to our foreign colleagues.
In addition, Japanese researchers are interested in the perspective development of nuclear technology. For practice at our institute, they chose areas such as radiation materials science, X-ray analysis of materials, radio-detectors, precision modeling of innovative nuclear facilities and the development of simulators for nuclear power plants.
-What is the effect of the recent internships of INPhE students in Japan from your point of view?
- Our students have gained a great experience. They expanded their purview and got an incentive to; learn English language and engage in professional development. For example, our Ph.D student Anton Smirnov, who is now actively participating in the reception of the Japanese delegation, last year Anton spend two-week internship in Japan. There he proved himself well, and our partners agreed to nominate him for the next three-month trip. Anton as an example shows to other colleagues that everything is possible. This year we received about ten applications from students to participate in the program, and those who did not selected, next time they will try to present their candidates better, this is useful for their development. I think we are at the beginning of a very interesting path.
- Are Japanese teaching methods different from Russian?
- This year the Japanese came to us for the second time. In the first time we started with lectures, but the Japanese corrected us: "No, no, we are not interested. We need individual work in the laboratory". When our students went to Japan, the local approach of internships also seemed unusual for them: Japanese threw our students in the laboratory like puppies into the water, and said: "Do this". At the same time, there is a benefit in this independence. The experience of an unfamiliar educational process enriches both sides, we have something to learn from each other.
— What difficulties have to overcome during the process of working together?
- When a foreign student comes to us, as a rule, we do not know his preparation level. From one side, we are fear to frighten him with difficult tasks, and on the other side, excessively simplifying tasks, we are fear to drop our reputation. But with this good and full-time internships you can direct adjust the work in the process of training under the real level of student. The feedback, which we receive from the program curators from Japan shows that, we are doing everything correctly.
- How do you intend to develop cooperation with the Tokyo Institute of Technology?
- Of course, the purpose of our joint program is not only traveling. We want to formulate common projects and submit joint applications for grants of the Russian Science Foundation with the participation of students. Ideally, this will allow students to participate in joint scientific work that can enrich Russia and Japan from point of view of technology development.