Jeffrey Mizell spent the 2013 summer at the KEKB accelerator in KEK, Tsukuba, Japan

Posted on July 2, 2015 by Arts and Sciences
Arts and Sciences

USA student Jeffrey Mizell is a double-major in Physics and Electrical Engineering, and through the guidance of Dr. Romulus Godang, Associate Professor of Physics, Mizell spent much of this past summer in Japan, working with his mentor, Dr. Takanori Hara, on a Physics project at Belle II experiment.

Mizell was elected to join three students from Southeastern Louisiana University in conducting research at the other location in Japan as part of a National Science Foundation-funded research led by Professor of Physics Sanichiro Yoshida. The Belle II experiment is located at the KEKB accelerator in KEK, Tsukuba, Japan. The Belle II collaboration consists of approximately 500 physicists from 95 institutions in 22 countries in all over the world. The University of South Alabama is one of the institutions that joined Belle II experiment.

Before traveling overseas, Mizell was intensively trained by Godang to understand how to conduct high energy physics research. Mizell was provided the necessary concepts on elementary particle physics, research knowledge on computer programming as well as a computer account at KEK database system. Godang and Hara are working closely with Mizell on the Belle II physics project. They are working on an important project for searching a new physics process on the B meson decays.

Mizell says the best thing about his research abroad experience was “meeting [his] mentors and his fellow colleagues” whom he found to be “always willing to go out of their way to explain something to [him] or to show [him] around.” As a result of his research experience in Japan, Mizell decided to attend graduate school and pursue a Ph.D. in high energy physics or a related topic.

When not working with his mentor and research team members, Mizell enjoyed traveling to Tokyo and surrounding areas, and he particularly liked going to Electric Town, a robotics electronics store.

He also very much enjoyed the food in Japan, but even more he loved the physics research, which enabled him access to the Belle detector, which is now being refit for the Belle II experiment. According to Mizell, “Tsukuba is truly a science city; it is home to many international collaborations, [and] has one of the largest universities in Japan.”

Intellectually, Mizell says he particularly enjoys the challenges that physics presents to him and his fellow students. The discipline of physics is, in Mizell’s words, “an ever changing and ever expanding field” that daily teaches one that understanding is always partial as there is always “more than we know, or expect,” to what we examine in physics.

In addition to the challenges of doing research in Japan, Mizell knew he would be challenged speaking Japanese, and, moreover, he could not read the Japanese script. He was pleased to discover, however, most of the Japanese he encountered speak English, so anxieties he arrived with about dealing with a language barrier were soon dissipated. While being able to communicate with the people he met and worked with in Japan was not typically a problem, transportation was.

According to Mizell, “The hardest part turned out to be the public transportation, the routes were in all Kanji, which I cannot read, and I had never ridden any form of public transportation before. The area was all new to me, and traveling around the city finally became comfortable after about 5 weeks of using it.” Because traffic was a significant problem, the members of the research team typically worked from 10 a.m., to 7 p.m. rather than from 8 a.m., to 5 p.m. As Mizell notes, “The Japanese people had a lot stronger work ethic than most of the people I meet daily in the USA.”

Mizell highly recommends a research abroad experience for Arts & Sciences majors. Indeed, he appreciates his opportunity in Japan “to learn so much more about the high energy physics”; plus, he says “learning different ways to view things and how other cultures tackle difficult problems is a great thing.” He recommends that his fellow students learn as much as they can about the language of the country to which they will travel for research or study abroad. He also offers one other recommendation: “bring your own pillow.”

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