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MIT-Japan program doubles in size

By Michael Schlamp

With approximately 40 students participating in the MIT-Japan Science and Technology Program this year, student interest has more than doubled since 1988-89. Student enthusiasm has been "extraordinary," says Patricia Gercik, the program's assistant director.

The MIT-Japan Program was founded in 1981 by Professor of Political Science Richard J. Samuels PhD '80 in an attempt to promote closer ties between scientists, engineers, and industrial managers in the United States and Japan. Both student and faculty interest has steadily increased since then, and today the program is the most comprehensive center for applied Japanese studies in the nation.

The three-pronged program achieves its goals through education, research, and public awareness, Gercik said.

The educational goal is achieved largely through an extensive internship program. MIT students are placed in Japanese university research labs or businesses for one year where they work and conduct research with their Japanese associates. At present, most of the interns are graduate students with at least two years of Japanese language training. Students in any department can take part in the program, though intensive summer technical workshops preparing electrical engineering and computer science students have been set up.

"These [interns] are the first of a generation of students willing to travel to Japan, live like the Japanese, and work like the Japanese. The program is developing an extraordinary group of people," Gercik said.

Japan-related research at MIT is another quickly growing aspect of the program. Several members of the faculty have established deep networks with Japanese organizations, providing several opportunities for collaboration in research, according to Gercik.

Recent areas of research have included the Japanese aircraft industry, management of research and development in the Japanese computer industry, and East-West trade relations. Additionally, in 1986 the program began a five-year interdisciplinary program to investigate some of Japan's sophisticated technology processes.

In order to maximize public awareness, the program sponsors several workshops, symposia and other events each year. Many times, interested outside organizations sponsor these events. Past sponsors include the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, and the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment.