EESA’s new Ingenuity Internship program helps the next generation entering the geologic nuclear waste disposal workforce gain experience with research projects ranging from simulating contaminant migration in rocks to conducting clay experiments to study water movement in the subsurface.
After 2022 Ingenuity Intern Toshiyuki Bandai studied soil physics in his Bachelor’s and Master’s programs at the University of Tokyo in Japan, he was eager to learn even more about soil and apply his knowledge to other areas in environmental science. As a current Ph.D. candidate at the University of California, Merced, he is continuing to study soil physics and has collaborated with EESA scientists to apply his background toward advancing effective underground nuclear waste storage.
What initially drew you to earth sciences specifically?
When I was a kid, I was exposed to many environmental issues in the news, like air and groundwater pollution. Also, I liked insects. This triggered my passion for environmental science.
Soil science is interesting to me, and it’s quite fundamental. Soil is everywhere. It relates to everything from climate change to civil engineering, and I think it’s a really fun subject.
Do you have any ideas for your future interests in science?
This is my first experience involving nuclear waste storage. It’s a very practical application of soil physics, and it’s interesting how my knowledge of soil physics can be used in many different fields. There are so many things going on in the experiments EESA scientists are conducting, and it’s pushed me to learn more in new fields.
I want to pursue a research career, but I don’t think I’ll leave soil science. Soil science is necessary for many important subjects, such as climate change and nuclear waste storage. If we analyze the problems closely, we end up with the necessity to answer fundamental questions that have existed in our fields for a long time. For example, how are data in laboratory and field experiments different? How do we describe environmental processes with mathematical equations? How do we solve those equations in a computationally efficient manner? These questions need fundamental knowledge in various fields, and there are so many things to learn.
Has anything surprised you during your time in the Bay Area?
My university is in Merced in the Central Valley, which is in the countryside, and I also used to live in Tokyo. Berkeley is quite different from these places. The campus is very beautiful, and it’s fun to live in a city like Berkeley during the summer. I think the weather is great – it rains a lot in Japan, but here it is very sunny, and I do a lot of camping and hiking with friends. We often go to Yosemite and have visited Redwoods National Park.