Research in Japan 

By Dawn Wiseman

Chun-yi Su will travel to Japan in February to further his research. Magnifying glass

Chun-yi Su will travel to Japan in February to further his research.

The Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) is the Japanese equivalent of combining NSERC and SSHRC. It contributes to the advancement of natural and social sciences, as well as the humanities, and plays a pivotal role in the administration of Japan's scientific and academic research programs.

Each year, JSPS offers a number of fellowships to international researchers. The fellowships allow scientists at Japanese universities and research institutions to invite researchers from other countries to Japan for both short and long-term visits.

In 2008, four JSPS Fellowships were awarded to Canadian researchers, two of which went to professors from Concordia.

Subhash Rakheja (Mechanical and Industrial Engineering) and graduate student S. Manda-puram spent seven weeks at the Japan National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety (JNIOSH). Chun-Yi Su, also from MIE will visit Okayama University for eight weeks in the late winter / early spring of 2009.
Both professors were eager to go to Japan to further existing relationships and access equipment that is unique to their host institutions.

Rakheja said the JNIOSH lab is perhaps the best-equipped laboratory in the world for studying the impact that vehicle vibrations have on operators’ bodies.
Whereas most testing equipment (chairs that mimic the vibration of the vehicle under study) allows researchers to look at one axis of motion (usually up-down or side-to-side), the JNIOSH equipment “comprises a unique six-axis vibration simulator.

“This was very beneficial to Mr. Mandapuram, who undertook all of the experiments for his PhD dissertation work at JNIOSH during our stay,” said Rakheja. “The experiments represent the very first study documenting the biodynamic forces and upper body motions under combinations of vertical, fore-aft and side-to-side vibratory motions.” In other words, it looked at what forces really impact a body when it is sitting in a vehicle.

While the trip was productive, it wasn’t without its challenges. Rakheja admitted that “it was quite difficult to run the laboratory equipment with operations manuals that were only available in Japanese.”

They did complete the study of whole-body vibration, but had to postpone work on hand-arm responses to multi-axes vibration, although Rakheja hopes to find some time to return in the near future to focus on that work.

Su’s trip will extend a collaborative relationship with Akira Inoue (Okayama University) which began several years ago.

“We first met at a Society of Instrument and Control Engineers (SICE) conference at which he was the General Chair.”

Inoue was intrigued by Su’s theoretical work on control techniques for robotic systems which have to function under dynamic conditions. He first invited Su to his labs in Japan to give a lecture. Since that time there has been a relatively steady exchange between the two institutions that will culminate next year with Su’s fellowship.

Beginning in February, he will be in Japan using equipment in Inoue’s lab to verify his theoretical results. The work is key to Su‘s research on behalf of the Canadian Space Agency.

As he explained, the Canadarm on the shuttle and its updated cousin on the International Space Station function in gravity-free environments. Astronauts train for missions with replicas that are subject to gravity. He has been tasked with developing a means that will compensate for the Earth’s gravity on the training apparatus.

While in Japan, he will also act as the Program co-Chair to Inoue’s General Chair at the IEEE International Conference on Networking, Sensing and Controls.
“Such collaborations are extremely essential in areas that involve interdisciplinary challenges,” said Rakheja. “They lead to promising research directions for both researchers and students and give us a very special opportunity to demonstrate and promote the quality research we do at Concordia.”


Concordia University