At Tokyo Tech, 4th-year undergraduate students join the laboratory of their academic advisor and conduct research in preparation of their bachelor's degree thesis. Laboratory affiliation is also a requirement for master's students and doctoral students. Graduate programs consist of an equal amount of research work and coursework. That is, students will devote a great deal of time to engaging in experiments, debates, reading group sessions, and seminars with their academic advisors and fellow laboratory members.
This style of education, although not very common abroad, is welcomed by international students as it provides the opportunity to focus deeply on research while meeting new colleagues. Though research topics may appear similar from one laboratory to the next, each academic advisor has a unique approach to instruction. Some offer thorough guidance, while others allow members a freer hand. There are as many laboratory cultures as there are laboratories.
From the students' perspective, selecting the right laboratory – not only in terms of research topic but also style of instruction and culture – is crucial to making the most of campus life. International students enrolling in a graduate program, who are required to select in advance the laboratory they wish to join, should not only consider their research topic and academic advisor's track record, but also get a feel for the atmosphere of the laboratory based on information gathered from the website. After selecting the right academic advisor, the student should get in touch with him or her directly by email.
Find your major and laboratory
Laboratories are made up of 5 to 20 members. The greatest advantage of studying in a laboratory is the closeness with your academic supervisor (professor or associate professor). Daily interaction and discussions in a small group offer a close-up view of the perspectives of world-class researchers and the details of cutting-edge research.
From assistant professors and research associates to graduate and undergraduate students, people in various positions gather at their laboratory to work with their academic advisor. These members, who all experience a rewarding and stimulating interaction with each other, share a common goal: research. The friendly rivalries that form when laboratory colleagues both help and compete with one another often becomes the main support structure during life on campus.
At the height of their research work, members frequently spend days on end in the laboratory and it essentially becomes their second home. Many laboratories organize events like dinners and trips to foster friendships between members. The laboratory is a place not only for research, but also for building strong connections with the people around you.
Many laboratories provide one desk per student, enabling members to truly focus on their research. Those who work hard enough may even have the opportunity, as students, to present their work at conferences, participate in research society activities, and publish their papers in journals in and outside Japan. The laboratory is where you take your first steps as a researcher.