Washington Township student first participant in Rowan's Japanese exchange program

Rowan University physics major Zachary Buck is about to say konnichiwa to a whole new school, country and way of life.
Rowan University physics major Zachary Buck is about to say konnichiwa to a whole new school, country and way of life.

The 22-year-old senior from Washington Township will be the first student to take part in Rowan’s newest exchange program, this one a collaboration with Hokkaido University in Sapporo, Japan.

Buck, son of Jeffery and Karan Buck, will spend the end of February through the middle of April at the university, where he will strictly focus on research. Upon Buck’s return to the Glassboro campus, Hokkaido student Shotaro Chiba will conduct research at Rowan in the Physics Department.

Dr. Tabbetha Dobbins, an assistant professor of physics and astronomy, created the exchange program in conjunction with a colleague in Japan, Dr. Shigehito Isobe. He is a materials science and engineering professor, with whom Buck will work. She selected Buck for the exchange for his outstanding scholastic achievements and the flexibility of his academic schedule.

In Japan, Buck will research hydrogen storage materials. Those are materials which release hydrogen gasses at high temperatures so that they may be used to power fuel cells, which are used in electric vehicles and other motorized equipment.
“I feel pretty grateful,” Buck said of his selection. “I’m very excited about it. I’m trying to go to grad school and I want to gather as much experience as I can.”

This will be the first trip to Japan for Buck, who lived in England from ages four to eight and traveled a little in throughout Europe during that time.

Buck has worked on various research projects at Rowan, including those related to energy, and he is experienced in using high-tech equipment that often is limited to grad students at other colleges and universities, such as a scanning electron microscope. Additionally he has been vice president of the Physics Club, a member of the Society of Physics Students and a rugby player at Rowan.

“I feel as though I have a stronger background in materials research then most undergrads,” Buck said.

At Hokkaido, Buck — whose father bought him Japanese language CDs for Christmas — will live in a residence for international students.  He’s looking forward to more than research, of course.

“Depending on when I get my time off, I definitely want to travel as much as I can around the country. Hopefully I will meet someone real quick who has the same interests as me and I’ll have a travel buddy. But I don’t mind going off on my own,” he said.

“I look forward to the research opportunity, and I really hope to get a good foundation so when I get back I can start grad school in the fall,” said Buck, who wants to pursue a Ph.D. in materials science, solid-state physics or astrophysics at the University of Arizona.

Dobbins hopes the exchange will become a yearly activity.

“It’s a great experience for the students,” Dobbins said. “Having an international experience will strengthen the students’ resume and understanding of their own research while imparting leadership ability and building confidence.”

She added, “It’s good for our students who may come here expecting a standard undergraduate experience to find the world opens up to them.”

(Rowan offers study abroad programs in more than 30 countries, including Germany, Ecuador and South Korea. Additionally, each year more than 80 students from close to two dozen foreign countries study at Rowan.)