How to choose your Major, Lab, and Professor


Hi, this is Novi sharing for HSAA. Living in Hiroshima as student for few years, I often get asked by people who are searching for university to study in Japan, about which university to choose, or which Professor to contact.For me personally, this topic has a deep meaning, since I experienced changing my major in extreme way I can say. My study here and back in my country is totally different world. I made it to finish my master study and now in PhD program.


It was very challenging and actually I am still struggling until now but I keep going. So, here I try to make list of what I think you better check before you decide your major, specifically your laboratory. I am now an engineering student and I try to make this general but maybe this will suit more those in Nature Science or Engineering field. Anyway, hope this helps!



1. Rank of universities is something that you can refer to choose your university, but it’s not everything! There are many other aspect and I think for graduate school students, your major and your professor is what will influence your study the most. 


2. Most of universities in Japan, as far as I know, have research-based degree, I never heard course-based degree. You better check this if you want to have more classes than research to obtain your degree. 


3. Master course is usually 2 years where 1 year for classes and 1 year for research. My experience, even when you still have classes, you will already start your research too. For doctor course, usually 3-4 years. I heard this is actually shorter compare to Europe or USA, but it depends on each student’s situation. 


4. What is your previous major? If you like it so much, you better stay in the same major yet new major may be more exciting for you. 


5. What type of research that you would like to do? After deciding your major, then check the lab, find the professor, and the most important, read the professor’s paper! If you are not familiar with the content, try to study deeper then check if you are interested. 


6. Check also the background of the professors. They might working in a major A, while their education background is B. It’s a career for them, so they may work in different major than what they study in the past. This, may influence how they do their research. Example, a physic-background professor may work in Bio-technology-lab, and their research will be more Bio-Physic like making bionic hand while you may search for more about organ itself or cell, or tissue.


7. For doctor course student whom publication is very important for your graduation, it’s true that if your professor published many papers in his research field, means he is very active and most likely you will be situated to publish yours too. Check the frequency and the lasts 5 years achievement. Yea, not only them who select you, but you also have right to select your teacher who will determine your success in study. Of course, publication is not the only factor, once you contact them, you can sense how friendly and wise the professor is. However, it’s hard to judge people from distance, you know that well, but maybe it will help. 


8. Many laboratories have website. You can check their facility and on-going research there. Also their participation in conference and seminar in and outside Japan. 


9. Try to contact students in the lab that you have interest. In the world with social media, there are many ways to find them. Ask how is the life in their lab, how they manage the research, and if you don’t like rigid-office-hour-schedule like me, you may ask them this too. 


10. Location also can be one of your important consideration. Some people prefer to be in big cities, some may prefer to live peacefully in smaller town. Since I am ambassador of Hiroshima, of course I recommend Hiroshima ! 


There are too many that I want to share, this is what I can write for now. I may write more about this topic in future, let’s see how inspired I am. After all, life is full of mystery, so check everything with your best, yet always be prepared for surprises too!