Zafer Hawash is a third year PhD student who studies solar cells at OIST. He grew up in Jordan until 1995, and then moved to Palestine, where he first grew curious about electronics. “I’ve always been messing around with things,” Zafer says. After completing a bachelor’s degree in physics and electronics, he moved to East Jerusalem to research thin films in a nanotechnology and materials science lab.
When Zafer began looking at PhD programs, he felt limited by the traditional approach. “For most PhDs, you get accepted to one professor and one lab, and that’s it,” Zafer explained. “Here you can rotate and figure out what you like.” Zafer completed four rotations before settling into energy and materials science research.
He admits that moving to Japan was a little intimidating; when he told his mother that he was moving to Okinawa she worried that she could barely see it on a map. Yet most importantly for Zafer, OIST offered an invitation to a region that boasts a rich history in the field of electronics. “Technology research in Japan is really advanced, but at the same time there’s a language barrier,” said Zafer. “OIST breaks down that language barrier.”