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An interest in glass spans cultures, schools

Students at the Winter School took a field trip to Kyoto’s Kinkakuji Temple.

Fifteen students from U.S. universities traveled last month to Kyoto, Japan, to join 15 of their Japanese peers at the first U.S.-Japan Winter School on New Functionalities in Glass.

For two weeks, the students immersed themselves in the study of glass and of Japan.

They attended lectures by the world’s leading glass researchers, visited Japanese manufacturing facilities and presented their research projects. They sampled Japanese cuisine and took field trips to Japanese landmarks and cultural attractions.

The students even shared hotel rooms in order to optimize their opportunities for networking.

“I was very impressed by the Japanese students’ hospitality and friendship,” said Donghui Zhao, a graduate student from China who is studying materials science and engineering at Lehigh. “They were so helpful that the American students didn't even have to read the sightseeing maps or try to figure out what to eat in the restaurants.

“Sharing hotel rooms turned out to be really a great idea, because it gave us more chances to communicate and understand each other’s research and laboratory facilities. We also had a lot of spare time for activities. We visited temples, hiked Daimonji Mountain, tried out Japanese foods and sake, and played musical instruments.

“It was a fabulous academic and cultural trip.”

The Winter School was a collaboration between the International Materials Institute (IMI) for New Functionality in Glass at Lehigh, the International Center for Integrated Research and Advanced Education in Materials Science (ICIRAEMS) and the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS), Global Centers of Excellence at Kyoto University.

The IMI receives financial support from the U.S. National Science Foundation, which also helped fund the school.

They “met as strangers but left as … friends”

The school was co-organized by Profs. Kiyotaka Miura and Katsuhisa Tanaka of Kyoto University, Prof. Carlo Pantano of Penn State University, and Himanshu Jain, professor of materials science and engineering and director of the IMI at Lehigh.

Donghui Zhao



“We believe the school helped address the pressing need of providing the next generation of scientists and engineers with training in a global setting,” said Jain.

“The Japanese and American students met as strangers but left as professional colleagues and personal friends. They are the future leaders who will find solutions to tomorrow’s challenges in energy, healthcare, safety and telecommunications.”

Jain, in an address to the students, cited a U.S. National Academy of Engineering study that lists automobiles, airplanes, radios and TVs, the Internet, laser and fiber optics, and nuclear technologies among the 20th-century inventions that use glass.

“For this trend to continue in the future,” he said, “a new generation of researchers is needed who will develop new functions for glass by drawing upon other disciplines.”

Kazuyuki Hirao, the Winter School’s executive director and a professor in the department of material chemistry at Kyoto University, welcomed the students and told them that they were the first from their respective nations to join together to study glass.

In urging the students to form “random” networks with each other, Hirao made a tongue-in-cheek reference to glass’s molecular structure, which is more similar to the random structure of liquids than to the more ordered structures of most solids, which are crystalline. The random assortment of molecules gives glass its special characteristics.

Zhao, who is advised by Jain, gave a presentation titled “From Chalcogenide to Oxychalcogenide Glasses.” Chalcogenide glasses, which are made from one or more of the Group VI elements in the Periodic Table, are valued for their applications in optics and photonics.

The students at the Winter School included undergraduate and graduate students as well as postdoctoral researchers. The classes they attended were taught by experts in glass science and technology from Brazil, France, Japan and the U.S. Those classes covered 12 topics, including laser patterning, the use of glass surfaces and coatings in biotechnology, the application of glass to fuel cells and the novel functionalities of chalcogenide glasses.

In their field trips, the students visited the Nippon Electric Glass and Murata Manufacturing companies, as well as the glass research laboratories on Kyoto University’s three campuses.

--Kurt Pfitzer

Posted on Thursday, February 14, 2008

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