Mayssa Gregoire Named Nakatani RIES Fellow
May 06, 2016
By David Henne
Nothing like a summer in Japan to help you decide what you want to do with your life.
For now, 19-year-old Mayssa Gregoire remains an undeclared freshman at SJC Brooklyn. But after recently accepting a place in a highly exclusive fellowship in Japan, she’s thinking she’ll have her mind made up on a major by the fall.
Gregoire – who at least knows she's interested in science, and is leaning toward chemistry as a major – will spend May, June and July as a Nakatani RIES fellow at Osaka University, taking on a 12-week, research internship in science and engineering.
Discussing how she discovered the opportunity, Gregoire makes the process sound elementary.
"I found about the program through an Internet search," she said. "I really wanted to go abroad this summer, but I also wanted to do science-related work. So, I searched for programs and opportunities where I could have both – and get close to a full ride financially."
After submitting an online application and several essays this February, Gregoire was selected as a fellowship finalist. Next came a Skype interview in early March, and then the April news that she had been chosen as only one of 14 accepted students.
The Nakatani RIES website indicates that the fellowship’s design combines the best aspects of a traditional study abroad experience with intensive high-technology research internships and is modeled off of the award-winning NanoJapan: International Research Experience for Undergraduates Program (2006 – 2015). That program has been nationally recognized as an innovative and effective model for international STEM programs.
Gregoire will head the week of May 9 to Japan, where she’ll begin her personal research project in Osaka University’s Kawata Lab. While traveling isn't new to Gregoire – she held off on college and spent the year after high school – this will be her first trip to Asia. And she’s thrilled at the opportunity to learn abroad.
"While I'm abroad, I focus better because everything is new and different and because I'm outside my bubble," Gregoire said. "After I come back, I tend to be more focused, because when I'm abroad I see more of the big picture and it gives me new energy to explore and find new activities I enjoy in my own city."
As part of the fellowship, Gregoire and the other 13 participants will take Japanese classes for a total of 45 hours, and attend seminars on Japanese culture and science/research/lab work environments.
"I am most excited to work on my research project and participate in cultural excursions," she said. “I chose Nakatani RIES because I wanted to be challenged by being outside my comfort zone culturally and having my first research experience. Over the summer, I look forward to changing my perspective and orienting my decisions.
“In the future, this will also enrich my classroom experiences and allow me to stay motivated, which is one of the main reasons I think the program is important for U.S science college students.”