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From UMass to Japan via polymer science

How an internship abroad presented new horizons for UMass alumnus

October 1, 2019

Daniel King began researching abroad after receiving his Polymer Science and Engineering PhD at UMass. In an article in Science Direct, King describes his experience at Hokkaido University’s Laboratory of Soft and Wet Matter in Japan studying double network hydrogels and also gives insightful life tips for graduate students interested in taking their research abroad. 


From Far from Home: Life as a Soft Matter Researcher Abroad 

Ten years ago, I never could have predicted I would be working as a professor in Japan. Leaving the United States was something I viewed with apprehension. Is it safe?, I wondered. But here I am! Working abroad has played a huge role in shaping the person I am today, both personally and professionally. 

In the third year of my PhD, I attended the Gordon Research Conference on Polymer Physics. I had the fortune to cross paths with Professor Jian Ping Gong, and I took this opportunity to discuss my interest in applying double network gels toward my own research. (A life hack for graduate students: if you are looking for an academic position, attend a GRC or similar small workshop. There is no better way to make connections.) [Gong] then contacted me to see if I was interested in a 3-month internship at Hokkaido University. In the summer of 2013, I made my first international trip to Sapporo, Japan. 

As I careened toward the end of my PhD, my experiences in Japan kept creeping into my mind. With luck, the Faculty of Advanced Life Science was opening a tenure-track Assistant Professor position shortly after my planned graduation time, so I returned to Sapporo to apply. I was successful and began working as an Assistant Professor in 2015. 

Especially to prospective graduates, I urge you to consider an “outside the box” academic career. I think you will be shocked at how the transformational influence it can have on your life.  


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