Welcome Ceremony

OIST President and CEO, Dr. Peter Gruss, gave an opening speech to welcome new students, faculty and executives into the OIST community.
OIST President and CEO, Dr. Peter Gruss, gave an opening speech to welcome new students, faculty and executives into the OIST community.

Good morning
Thank you for joining us today as we warmly welcome OIST’s newest members here in our auditorium.
“Here in our auditorium”: These words sounded trivial three years ago, and yet we all know what has come to pass over these years.
And today, again, it is my great pleasure to see you all finally here together in the biggest room on our Campus.
During the pandemic, many of you had to work and study remotely, endure delays due to immigration restrictions and a challenging relocation process to finally arrive at OIST.
Thank you for not losing patience and hope!
Since we can meet today for the first time since the autumn of 2019 for this welcome ceremony, the group of newcomers is longer than usual.
And we have different kinds of newcomers: Some of you first joined OIST remotely, Others have been here on Campus for almost a year, many have only just arrived.
Today, on behalf of everyone at OIST, we can finally welcome all of you.
It is a pleasure to have you in our OIST family!
Welcome to the Ph.D. Students, the Class of 2021 and the Class of 2022.
Welcome to our new faculty members.
And welcome to the Executives.
And to every one of you who has joined us over the last two and a half years.
You have chosen a young and dynamic university.
A few months ago, we celebrated our 10-year anniversary.
In only a decade, OIST has made many notable accomplishments, rising quickly to become a world-leading research university in science, technology, and innovation.
This was achieved by a community of ambitious, hard-working, talented, and diverse individuals, to which you now belong.
I encourage you to embody OIST’s creative spirit and the ambition to go even further.
Enjoy the campus and the surrounding region that will be your home for the next several years.
Its beauty and architecture never fail to amaze me.
You chose a career in science or science management.
Rightfully so.
The potential of science, technology, and innovation to meet pressing societal challenges was never so clear as in these last few years — be it around climate change, health, or so many other areas.
The COVID-19 pandemic caused unimaginable disruption to our daily lives.
To be here today in this auditorium is no small achievement.
At OIST, our entire community of researchers, students, and staff came together to face the adversity with a remarkable array of research projects and outreach initiatives.
For instance, here on campus we set up a highly effective PCR testing lab, which has performed more than 340 000 tests for Okinawa and is still running today.
COVID infections will not disappear so we must live with them as we have learned to live with the influenza virus.
In our university we are well positioned to deal with COVID as the ‘new normal.’
And here at OIST, we are also dedicated to tackle other pressing challenges through our work.
We are very excited that all of you have chosen to join us.
Strengthening OIST’s leadership team, we welcome:

  • Shigeharu Kato, Secretary General and Vice CEO
  • Amy Shen, a renowned professor at OIST, who will serve as Provost from October onward. She is taking up the position from Mary Collins who will return to the U.K. in September. Thank you so much Mary for your remarkable work as OIST’s Provost.
  • Gil Granot-Mayer, Executive Vice President for Technology Development and Innovation
  • Heather Young, Vice President for Communication & Public Relations

Gil and Heather joined OIST at the height of the pandemic.
They took responsibility for their divisions while they could not enter Japan from Israel and Canada, respectively.
I admire how both managed to become part of our executive team and lead their departments with expertise and dedication across continents and time zones.
Thank you for months of sleepless nights due to the time differences, and everything you overcame to work with us.
We are very glad to have you here with us.
We also welcome,

  • Isaku Higa, Vice President for Financial Management
  • Izuru Maeda, Vice President for Human Resources, and
  • Nick Luscombe, incoming Dean of Research (he cannot be here today)
  • Kathy Takayama, Executive Director of C-Hub
  • And Melanie Chatfield, Senior Advisor to the President.

The qualifications and wealth of experience you bring with you will lead OIST in its next stage of development.
Great leaders inspire their contemporaries, but they are also inspired by them, and I hope OIST gives you plenty of inspiration.
A warm welcome to our 12 new faculty members.
They cover a broad spectrum from Quantum Physics to Synthetic Biology, from Mathematics to Synapse Formation.
They enrich our research spectrum, the cooperation, and the interdisciplinarity at OIST.
We will learn more about each of you later when you introduce yourselves and your science.
But for now, I would like to say that we are very proud to have you here – this distinguished group of researchers and academics joining us.
Your achievements and expertise in diverse areas of science and technology will enhance our dedication to excellence in research and teaching, and will benefit humanity and society.
And now to our largest PhD student cluster, comprising 79 students who have joined us today.
It gives me great pleasure to welcome you all to OIST.
You are beginning an exciting new journey of exploration and scholarship.
During your PhD education you will acquire new knowledge, skills, and the habits of mind that will prepare you to thrive in our increasingly complex and interconnected world.
This will enhance not just your professional life, but also your personal and civic life.
The results of your research will be new discoveries of how the biological and physical worlds work and new inventions.
You will deliver papers, author articles and books, register patents, or begin start-up companies—all the different ways of taking your new work, your new ideas into the world.
Your work will contribute to improving human life and the planet on which we live.
To all our new members, I want to assure you that as your research unfolds and you find yourself immersed in long days of experiments and classes, we have many resources to support you, starting with the graduate school and the faculty affairs office, as well as the Ganju wellbeing, health, resource, and child development centers, and our newly established C-Hub for your career development.
All of you have come to OIST from many different parts of the world.
Take time to step outside of the lab, outside of OIST to discover the Okinawan community that has generously supported us with its rich culture, tradition, and heritage.
Our connection with Okinawa roots us in this place, in time, and in history.
As a university supported by both the Cabinet Office of Japan and the Okinawa prefecture, our responsibilities extend beyond research and education.
OIST is committed to the sustainable development of Okinawa, and we have established several education, mentorship, and outreach programs with the local community.
Furthermore, we are working hard to build an Innovation Park that will help Okinawa generate a high-tech industry.
I encourage you to participate in local activities and to nurture your social and civic responsibilities. Become an active member of the OIST and Okinawa communities.
I am confident that you will quickly discover, as I did almost 6 years ago, that OIST is a special institution, not only in Japan but globally, with a unique vision and model.
Make good use of this and don't believe what Ralph Waldo Emerson remarked: Everything in nature goes by law, and not by luck.
Because as we know, there will always be serendipity involved in discovery.
And so, for your upcoming time at OIST, I wish you the best of luck in your journey of learning and discovery.
Thank you.