Queen’s alum Brian O’Rourke was a 2003 scholar and the experience changed his life so much that he is still in Japan to this day working as a senior researcher at the National Institute for Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), one of Japan’s largest public research organisations. Here is his story.
While I had visited Tokyo several times during the course of my PhD, when I arrived with my fellow scholars in September 2003, I couldn’t have imagined how the next 20 months would shape the rest of my life and career. Apart from the incredible immersion in Japanese language and culture, during that eventful period I both met my future wife and began research collaborations with my present work colleagues.
I am now a senior researcher at the National Institute for Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), based in Tsukuba, Ibaraki prefecture. AIST is one of Japan’s largest public research organisations and is mostly funded through the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. AIST’s goal is the development of technology useful to Japanese industry and to support commercialisation of research. In my own research group, we use exotic particle beams like positrons (the antimatter particles of electrons) and neutrons to probe and characterise novel materials. Presenting our research at international and domestic meetings has given me plenty of opportunity for interaction with other researchers doing similar work both inside Japan and internationally.
My main passion outside work and family life is cycling, especially cycle touring around Japan. The roots of this hobby can also be traced back to the Daiwa Scholarship when I brought my bike to my homestay in Yamagata and decided to finish my stay by cycling back to Tokyo. Since then, I have taken every opportunity to go touring when I can and just last year, during a short trip to Kyushu, I completed a long-held ambition to cycle in each of Japan’s 47 prefectures.
The Daiwa Scholarship continues to influence my life after all these years and I am extremely grateful for all the opportunities afforded to me through my participation. This appreciation has been made more acute in these times of travel restrictions due to the global pandemic. I hope the barriers imposed by the virus will soon be overcome and the opportunities for cultural exchange will remain strong into the future.
Applications are now open for this unique funded programme of language study, work placement and homestay in Japan. Daiwa Scholarships offer young, talented UK citizens aged between 21 and 35 with strong leadership potential the opportunity to acquire Japanese language skills and to access expertise and knowledge relevant to your career goals. No previous experience of Japan is necessary.