Project Report

The outcomes of my EAPSI fellowship to Japan have been extraordinary, and I am extremely glad I applied for and participated in this project. The experience was made all the more meaningful in that it followed the devastation of the March 2011 earthquake and associated disasters, which frightened off many foreign researchers. Perhaps the first conclusion I can state is that Japan is open for business, tourism, and research; and that I felt in no way inconvenienced or endangered by the effects of the disaster despite my proximity to the Fukushima reactor and would have greatly regretted canceling my trip over unfounded concerns. The research outcomes of the project are still being developed and have not yet been published, so I cannot provide much detail. Suffice it to say that, during my brief time with the National Institute of Agrobiological Sciences in Tsukuba, Japan, I and my host researcher uncovered some very surprising information about the digestive systems of the walking sticks. These thin, understudied insects are a lot more interesting than we thought, and their guts are able to break down compounds in their leafy diet that were previously considered unimportant in their nutrition. The enzymes we found and the genes encoding them have great significance in the evolutionary tree of the insects, but may also have an application in the biofuel industry. Thus, our findings can help make sustainable biofuel production a reality. I am still in contact with my Japanese hosts and we are in the process of further cementing our collaboration. Though I am no longer in Japan, the research is still ongoing and transport of materials and results across the ocean is still occurring, with more findings to follow. A key part of the EAPSI fellowship is obtaining cultural experiences. The research and work environment in Japan is certainly different than that of the United States. The entire Japanese way of life is unique and so unlike the systems and mentalities of Americans than immersing myself in it was an eye-opening experience. Of course, exploring the many sights, sounds, and tastes of Japan on the government’s payroll was a pleasure as well, and another good reason to apply for these foreign research fellowships. To further share my experiences with the broader public, beyond the usual scientific conferences and congresses, I intend to transcribe the extensive notes and documentation I took throughout the entire summer into a travelogue. My hope is to share my experiences and insights learned, as well as promote the fellowship and Japan itself, with the general public.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Office of International and Integrative Activities (IIA)
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Carter Kimsey
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Shelomi Matan
United States
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