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August 14, 2013

From High School to the Nishina Center

Saaketh Krosuri and Nikhil Raman

For the past two weeks, the RIKEN Wako Campus has been hosting two students who aren't like the other students at RIKEN.

Saaketh Krosuri and Nikhil Raman arrived at the RIKEN Wako campus on a hot and humid day at the end of July. After a long and tiring trip from central Tokyo, where their host family for the next two weeks resides, they made it just on time for the start of the Nishina school - the reason why they are at RIKEN.

The Nishina school is a two-week summer program for undergraduate and graduate students, that is held every year by Dr. Takashi Kishida of the Nishina Center for Accelerator-Based Science. But Saaketh and Nikhil aren't like the other students attending the school this year: they have travelled over 10,000 km to be here, and they haven't finished high school yet!

The two students are from the Phillips Exeter Academy, a high school in the United States that has special connections with the Nishina Center. Thanks to a particularly industrious alumnus of the Academy, the Nishina School made two places available to Academy students this year, and Saaketh and Nikhil had what it took to make it through the stringent selection process.

Saaketh and Nikhil say that they were at first a bit apprehensive of coming, as high school students, to a facility that carries out leading-edge experimental physics. "But although the lectures, covering topics such as black body radiation, the photoelectric effect, and the discovery of element 113, are difficult because we lack the basic physics background of graduate students who most commonly visit," they say, "we are enjoying what we are getting out of it."

The second week of the course has now started and Saaketh and Nikhil will get a chance to do some on-hands work exploring the world of superheavy elements. When asked what they find most impressive about RIKEN, they answer without hesitation "the enormous superconducting ring cyclotron, which weighs just about the same as the Eiffel Tower!" and that they got to visit.

You can read Saaketh and Nikhil's compelling accounts of their experience in Japan and at RIKEN, including what they've learnt about physics and life in Japan, in their blog http://pearikeninternship.wordpress.com/.