Japanese | English
32nd Issue
Profile: A Person of Asia
―Dr. Arief Yudhanto, Postdoctoral Fellow at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST)―

The series "Profile: A Person of Asia" feature administrative officers, who work actively every day in Asia, and international students, who are expected to play active roles in Asian cities in the future. This issue introduces Dr. Arief Yudhanto who started his academic career in Saudi Arabia after completion of PhD study in TMU.

From Indonesia to Tokyo, then to Saudi Arabia

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With beacon tower of KAUST in the backdrop

I was born in Bondowoso, a small town in the eastern part of Java, Indonesia. Located in the vicinity of two mountains, temperature in Bondowoso is mild (17-28 ºC). I was brought up mostly in this town, where people from various origins (Javanese, Madurese, Arabs, Chinese and other ethnicities) live side by side.
In February 2014, after I worked as Research Assistant Professor at Tokyo Metropolitan University for almost one year, I moved to Saudi Arabia. Presently, I work as a Postdoctoral Fellow at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), a research university. Founded in 2009, KAUST aims at nurturing graduate students (masters and PhD) in the field of science and technology. The language used within campus is English. KAUST has one of the fastest growing research and citation records in the world right now. It’s been dubbed as “Arab MIT” (Massachusetts Institute of Technology).
In KAUST, I work for Prof. Gilles Lubineau, who is the principal investigator in Composite and Heterogeneous Materials Analysis and Simulation (COHMAS) laboratory. I am assigned to lead a team of researchers handling a project of thermoplastic composites. In COHMAS Laboratory, researchers and students come from various countries, such as France, USA, Mexico, Indonesia, China, India and Saudi Arabia.

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Fishing in red sea

KAUST is located in Thuwal, 80 km north of Jeddah, 2nd largest city in Saudi Arabia. We live in a housing complex provided by KAUST. The place is facing the Red Sea on the west side (one of the reason why I enjoyed fishing here). KAUST has different code of conduct as compared to other parts of Saudi Arabia, where men and women can mingle together when attending classes or doing research; women are not required to wear veil; and so on. It's quite westernized and very international (people representing more than 80 countries live harmoniously here). English is the main language within the compound, and basic facilities are available. However, the temperature in Saudi Arabia can be extreme (45 ºC during summer, but quite mild during winter, which is 17 ºC).

Research topic and results of research at TMU

My research at TMU was about the mechanical properties of stitched composites. Composite material, which consists of many layers of fiber-resin system, is strong yet very light. It is a suitable material for aircraft structure. Boeing 787 flown by JAL has 50 per cent weight of composites (carbon/epoxy, glass/epoxy, etc). However, the problem with composite material is that its layers are easily delaminated (peeled-off) when, for instance, you drop something solid and heavy on it. One technique to overcome this delamination issue is to stitch the layers together using a very strong yarn (for example, Kevlar, Vectran, etc). The new material developed by stitching technique is simply called 'stitched composite'. This material is not easily delaminated because the stitches can hold the layers together, and reduce the damage size after you apply impact loading.
However, the internal architecture of composite is usually 'disturbed' by the presence of stitches. Fibers become wavy, while many parts of stitched composites contain too much resin. I was studying the effect of stitching parameters (stitch density, stitch diameter – two important parameters in stitching process) on the tensile, compression, and fatigue behavior of stitched composites. Tensile, compression and fatigue are common loading undergone by aircraft structures. I was particularly interested to find out the mechanism of damage growth in stitched composites due to various mechanical loadings.
This study is very fundamental, yet very important, because by understanding the damage mechanism we can find ways to improve the design and performance of stitched composites in the future. The study may have some scientific as well as industrial impacts on how we should design the composite material with such three-dimensional reinforcement.
The research was performed at both Tokyo Metropolitan University and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). My advisor was Professor Naoyuki Watanabe (Department of Aerospace Engineering, TMU), and the co-advisors from JAXA Advanced Composites Technology Center were Dr. Yutaka Iwahori and Dr. Hikaru Hoshi. So far, based on the research, we have published 5 international journals and around 15 conference papers about stitched composites. My achievement would not be possible without their excellent supervision. They have trained me well that I gained much knowledge about composites. Vast amount of funding provided by Tokyo Metropolitan Government also enables me to fully focus on my research.

Life in Tokyo

Yes, I have some difficulties, but it’s primarily due to my lack of understanding of Japanese language. Fortunately, professors, staff or students have helped me to settle in in Tokyo. Second problem was the customs, habits and rules (the spoken or unspoken ones). But, as years went by, I could more or less grasp these internal parts of Japanese society, which are characterized by harmony, inner-outer sphere, conformity, hierarchy and tradition.

Impressions and memories of TMU

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Fabricating composite materials
in COHMAS laboratory

I like doing research, and learning new things. At TMU, I was given the opportunity to study composite materials using state-of-the-art facility, and conduct a frontier research. This was very rewarding experience. I was given an interesting research topic, good supervisors and friends. I am really grateful to Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG) that makes such a good academic program so I could complete my PhD in Japan. My field, aerospace engineering, particularly advanced composite materials, requires advanced facilities and sufficient funding. TMG provided the funding well. I could use the state-of-the-art facilities, and learnt a great deal of things about research. The joint-research between TMU and JAXA was also beneficial for me. I was able to perform some experiments in JAXA, and interact with ‘composite’ researchers there.
The unique thing in Japan is that people like to celebrate something. I really enjoy the party held by the laboratory, team or group whenever we complete some works or event. This party can actually strengthen the bond between members.

Future hope and my role in Asia

I am aspired to work in a research center or in industry. In both places, I can learn new things, interact with other researchers and produce results. In a research center, I'd like to develop methods or techniques to better understand the behavior of composites. In industry, I'd like to develop new materials that ultimately can help build safe and comfortable flight vehicles.
I can be a focal point between Japan and Indonesia in the future, especially in the technological advancement in aerospace industry, research and education in general. I hope that two countries will have better understanding, build stronger tie, benefit each other in terms of economy and people development.

To faculty, university staffs and friends who helped me during my stay

There were actually countless people who made my stay in Japan enjoyable. But I want to thank Prof. Naoyuki Watanabe for his advises during my PhD studies. I also thank Dr. Iwahori and Dr. Hoshi in JAXA who constantly provided technical advises for my research. I’d like to thank Prof. Masahito Asai (my project leader), Prof. Ayumu Inasawa (my resident advisor), Dr. Atsushi Kondo (MSC Japan) and my PhD committee (Prof. Suemasu, Prof. Kitazono and Prof. Kobayashi). Administratively, I received a kind help from Ms. Sekiguchi and Ms. Yamada. Students under the same program (Asian Human Resource Fund) have also rendered their heartfelt friendship. I also happened to know a few Japanese families in Hino city who had been very nice to us: Sawada family, Kasai family and Matsushita family. Thank you all for your kindness – may you have wonderful years ahead.

Message to future exchange students studying in Tokyo

Studying (and certainly living) in Tokyo will be a memorable time in your life. Despite its beautiful spots and vibrant atmosphere, just stay focused on why you live in Tokyo: to eventually graduate, and get your degree. Studying in itself is not something to be taken for granted – your academic credential is at stake. Being in Japan, learn as much as you can about science, technology, customs, language, methods or even traits. Put your heart in your studies, work passionately (like you’ll live for 1000 years!). Be independent and try to resolve with all of your abilities. Maintain a high-quality of research (by publishing your work in reputable journals). Build network with Japanese researchers and people around the world. Last but not least, be positive about everything – you’ll learn more (and survive!) with this attitude.