At Tokyo Tech, 4th-year undergraduate students join the laboratory of their academic advisor and conduct research toward preparing 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 your 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. Once you have selected the right academic advisor for you, get in touch with him or her directly by email.