Finding a Home Away From Home: Dr. Famiano’s Evergreen Memories in Japan
Dr. Michael A. Famiano, a professor of physics at Western Michigan University, studies stellar nucleosynthesis. His primary research interest is stellar plasma, the extremely hot and dense interiors of stars.
Dr. Famiano successfully collaborated with Prof. Toshitaka Kajino from National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) to organize and coordinate some parts of their research, whereby the former got an opportunity to study this rapidly evolving field as a visiting Fulbright scholar at NAOJ. Dr. Famiano says, “I have been working in Japan periodically since attending graduate school many years ago, and I have worked at National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) with Toshitaka Kajino, a very well-known physicist and also a good friend of mine.”
Dr. Famiano’s journey began at NAOJ, a prestigious research institute that has produced some of the best astronomers worldwide. He considers the help provided by the competent scientists and graduate students of University of Tokyo invaluable and acknowledges the powerful computing facilities offered by the university’s affiliates, all of which helped him develop several new theories, techniques, and computing programs relevant to his research. Further, he pointed out how much his face-to-face discussions with colleagues from various other specialties helped him further his research and realize significant achievements.
Dr. Famiano, who is a travel enthusiast, has visited many places in Japan from Hokkaido to Kyoto; he considers these trips memorable since they enabled him to visit different parts of Japan while traveling in his favorite vehicle, the Shinkansen. He describes his trips as follows: “I was able to see Hokkaido in January. So, there was a lot of snow. And then, I was in Tohoku University in Sendai during the cherry blossom season. I visited a park there. There’re so many scenic destinations in this country”
Moreover, these unforgettable memories increased his affinity to Japan. He says, “I think my goal in life is to retire to Japan. I don’t know whether this will be possible or not. But it is my goal. Japan has left quite an impression on me. Further, I always love the country more upon leaving it. I never want to leave. It’s always really nice.”
Apart from visiting these places, Dr. Famiano attended some social events organized by the Japanese government, particularly the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT). In such events, he got numerous opportunities to mingle with many other Fulbright scholars and fellows from different academic fields. Subsequently, when the group of Fulbright alumni conducted a TEDx talk in Tokyo, Dr. Famiano spent an afternoon watching the talk. He recalls, “For me, it was a great opportunity to meet people who are experts in different fields, who know all sorts of fascinating things. I’m a scientist, and I don’t know much about music, sports, or other things. So, I’d like to meet experts in all these other fields, as well. They’re from all over the world.”
His experiences made him realize the importance of being brave and introducing oneself to others regardless of their research fields. Furthermore, he believes that one should learn Japanese to better fit in with the nation’s culture. His final message concluded as follows: “I think the important thing is to try to learn even a little bit of the language even if you can only say ‘Hello, my name is …,’ or something similar. It’s very helpful because, at least, you are trying. To me, it’s a polite way of fitting in while you are there, and that’s part of the purpose of Fulbright, as well. In this manner, you can learn the Japanese culture, Japanese language, characteristics of the people, and nation’s history.”