UNCP student gets a taste of Japan


Attending the 56th International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Fukuoka, Japan, UNC Pembroke student Megan Grimsley got a taste of Japan that she will never forget.

Megan GrimsleyShe also got a taste of Fugu, one of Japan’s most prized culinary delicacies.

“Fugu is poisonous blowfish that a chef must prepare very carefully, ” Grimsley said. “They served it every way imaginable, and it was very good.”

A junior chemistry and biology major, Grimsley survived Fugu and attended sessions presented by space programs from around the world. The conference also offered opportunities to explore Japanese culture, and Grimsley signed up for a variety of cultural experiences, including kimono dressing and tea ceremony.

“Students from the professional school dressed us and did our hair,” she said. “You can’t put on a Kimono without help. I really enjoyed it. I really enjoyed learning about Japanese culture, and it was an experience I’ll never forget.”

Grimsley fell head over heels during a tour of Robosquare, a showcase of robotics and technology.

“I fell in love with a robotic seal,” she said. “It has sensors and moved in response to your touch. I know what I want for Christmas, and it’s just $4,000.”

Grimsley and physics professor Dr. Tim Ritter co-authored a presentation on the 2006 edition of the “Weightless Lumbees.” The group has applied to NASA’s Reduced Gravity Student Flight Opportunities Program, where they would conduct experiments in zero gravity and do outreach into the region’s schools.

“Our presentation focused on how we will use this science platform to promote drop-out prevention in the region,” Grimsley said. “Our experiment is on enzyme reaction rates in zero gravity.”

It was Dr. Ritter’s third IAC presentation.

Megan Grimsley“Our presentation was entitled ‘Using NASA's Reduced Gravity Student Flight Opportunities Program as an Effective Outreach Platform for Native Americans,’ and it was presented in a session on outreach,” Dr. Ritter said. “The presentation was very well received and I had scientists from three different countries make inquires about our program after the session.”

Representatives from space programs in Japan, China, Russia, India and Canada attended the IAC 2005

A Laurinburg, N.C., native, Grimsley said the experience was “a lot of fun, and I learned a lot about space that I did not know.”

“Earth observation for weather prediction and the development of communications satellites seem to be important topics for space programs right now, but Mars exploration is in the future,” she said. “The most exciting session was on the space elevator, which I had never heard of before.”

The space elevator is a futuristic concept for inexpensive space travel that NASA unveiled publicly this fall. Grimsley, who hopes to attend medical school, got a several opportunities to view cutting-edge medicine.

“I am pre-med, so I was very interested in the session on medicine and space,” she said. “I also had the chance for a hands-on experience in robotic surgery.”

“We did so much, shrines, parks, restaurants, museums and so much more,” she said.

Dr. Ritter said “it was a very good learning experience for Megan and it opened her eyes to areas of medicine and science that she previously did not know existed.”

The IAC 2005 was held October 17-21 in Fukuoka, a port city on the southern-most island of Japan.

For questions about the conference, the Weightless Lumbees or chemistry and physics programs at UNCP, please call 910.521.6247 or email tim.ritter@uncp.edu.