Science Starts Here: Sawako Nakamae
Sawako (Saco) Nakamae and her family.
Sawako (Saco) Nakamae.
Researcher, Condensed Matter
Physics (French Atomic Energy
Time and Role at the Mag Lab
1993 to 1999, graduate research
Saco Nakamae is an experimental condensed matter physicist who investigates magnetism of
nanostructured objects including magnetic nanoparticles, biomolecules and biologically inspired materials.
In her own words
I arrived to the Mag Lab shortly after its construction. Nearly all of the labs/research groups had not
been finished (or even started). Therefore, I witnessed start-up labs from their birth to operation.
This was a unique and valuable experience that has helped me decide how to (or how not to, for that matter)
start my own research group.
I keep reminding myself and my students that in research, every effort, including failed experiments,
leads to the advancement of our knowledge.
I have worked at many different labs in the
world and I have yet to find a research institution
as dynamic as the Magnet Lab.
How mentors make a difference
I did not "meet" Justin Schwartz at the Magnet Lab. I started working in Justin's group initially as a
Japanese-English translator of scientific articles on MAGLEV (magnetically levitated vehicles) during my
undergraduate years at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I became quickly interested in the contents
of what I was translating more than in the translation itself. Noticing this, Justin suggested that I join his
research group to see "what it is like to do research."
Professor Schwartz thinks fast and wide. At times I felt as if his brain was a 10-lane highway (each lane
representing his project, course, etc.) with 10 cars driving at 100 miles per hour, switching lanes, without
anybody having an accident. But what impressed me more than such super-human scientific ability was
his very human personality. Contrary to the sterotypical image of a brainy professor, he can tell jokes
(and sometimes, they were even funny!!) and always treated his graduate and undergraduate students with
What made the Mag Lab special
The Magnet Lab was full of researchers who had recently arrived to build (or re-locate) their own
research groups. They were VERY ambitious scientists. Needless to say, this created an exciting environment
for research as well as for the surrounding community. Since then I have worked at many different labs in the
world and I have yet to find a research institution as dynamic as the Magnet Lab.
Published in Volume 16, Issue 3 of Mag Lab Reports (Download this issue in
PDF format, 1.9 MB).