Letters from HUAP

Dr. Alexander Pettitt

Assistant Professor, Physics and Astronomy faculty at California State University Sacramento, Hokkaido University Partner

Assistant Professor, Physics and Astronomy faculty at California State University Sacramento, Hokkaido University Partner

I was very pleased to be asked to continue to be a part of the Hokkaido University family. It has been an important part in my academic career and I’m very happy to give back in some form. During the pandemic, I’ve had little chance to do much as an HU Partner but, in the future, I would like to investigate the possibility of establishing a student exchange between our universities. I know there is a great deal of interest for students in the U.S. to spend some time in Japan.

While in Sacramento, I’ve continued to collaborate with students and staff in the astrophysics department at Hokkaido University. We discuss our ongoing simulation work on galaxies and aim to better understand their properties. I also have many fond memories of my time at Hokkaido University. It was the first time I had supervised student work, the first time I had taught at the university level, and the first time I was able to start my own fully independent research program. Going to the University’s museum for a drink after work with ISP* colleagues, meeting my fiancée by the river at Central Lawn for lunch in the sunshine, and trying the tasty food at the Hokudai-sai (Hokkaido University Festival) are some of the more personal memories that spring to mind.

Sapporo and Sacramento are both capitals of their respective regions (Hokkaido and California), but both make the pace of life less hectic than other more bustling metropolises. They are also very well connected to nature, with nearby mountains, lakes, and countryside. California State University, Sacramento (CSUS) has lots of trees on campus, which makes for lovely Fall scenes, and both cities are also famous for the wide variety of food available, with Sacramento being called the “farm to fork” capital of America. The winters aren’t as cold here, though the locals still manage to celebrate Christmas with great enthusiasm, and you can readily buy real Christmas trees (picture included with our cat!). The summer is much hotter though, and as I’m from England I’m also not very used to temperatures above 40 degrees; it’s been one of the harder things to get used to.

In Fall 2021, when I moved to CSUS, they were beginning the transition back to in-person instruction. However, the largest classes still had to be virtual, which was quite unfortunate for the students in my astronomy classes — for example, we couldn’t provide classes that were supposed to be held inside a planetarium.

The last few years have been tough on everyone but try to be as open to trying new things as possible! If given the chance to break out of your comfort zone a bit, do it. Travel somewhere new, meet someone from a different walk of life      — it is experiences like this that shape you and your outlook on life.

* Integrated Science Program: an English-language Bachelor’s and Master’s degree program in science for international students at Hokkaido University.




札幌とサクラメントは、それぞれの地域(北海道とカリフォルニア州)の首都ですが、賑やかな大都市に比べると、生活のペースはそれほど速くはありません。また、近隣の自然との結びつきが強いのも共通した特徴です。カリフォルニア大学サクラメント校(CSUS)にもキャンパス内にたくさんの木々が生い茂り、秋には美しい風景を楽しむことができます。また、サクラメントはアメリカの「farm to fork」の首都と呼ばれており、食べ物の種類が多いことでも有名です。サクラメントの冬は札幌ほど厳しくはありませんが、クリスマスはとても盛大に祝いますし、本物のクリスマスツリーを簡単に買うこともできます。私はイギリス出身なので、暑い気候に慣れるのは大変でした。

2021年秋に私がCSUS に移ったとき、CSUS は対面型の生活に戻る準備を始めていました。しかし、例えばプラネタリウムの中で行われるはずだった授業を実施できなくなるなど、学生や私はとても残念な思いをしました。

(※)Integrated Science Programの略称で、外国人留学生を対象とした英語による理系学士・修士課程プログラム。