18 Jul 2014

Supporting OIST Research: Female Specialists

Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST) has highly-educated women who have chosen to use their skills and expertise to advise and collaborate with the research of others, rather than conduct their own research. With the title of Research Support Specialist, each of these women teaches others a wide range of skills, from how to operate advanced microscopes to how to run a mass spectrometer. They help students and researchers to perfect their methods when they need assistance running OIST’s remarkable range of research equipment. Yet their jobs extend far beyond the title of support; each feels that learning more about lab technology whilst working at OIST is a step forwards in her career.

Ms. Fuka Koja works in the Biology Resources Section, which manages and maintains research equipment such as mass spectrometers and electron microscopes to conduct analyses for life science research. Before working at OIST, Ms. Koja researched agricultural science to develop effective farming methods of Okinawa’s challenging semi-tropical climate with frequent typhoons. She experimented with local farm products to find new applications. Ms. Koja hopes to make Okinawa develop sustainably, through economic and agricultural growth. “In the future, I dream of contributing to Okinawan industry,” Ms. Koja said with a smile.  She is currently devoting herself to training she is receiving from her colleagues, Alex Villar Briones and Michael Roy, and is looking forward to contributing her skills to the wide variety of research at OIST.

Having majored in astrophysics, Ms. Akiko Soemori in the Physics Resources Section feels right at home contributing to physics research at OIST. She says that conversations with researchers make her feel that she is still in the thick of the scientific progress. Operating research equipment in the Physics Resources Section is essential to OIST. “My desire is to support those who push on with their research,” says Ms. Soemori.

The Marine Science Resources Section’s Dr. Yuko Hasegawa perhaps transitioned the furthest of these women when she moved to OIST. Yet this is perfect for Dr. Hasegawa, who says she loves trying new things. Dr. Hasegawa completed a PhD at the Marine Biology Laboratory at Woods Hole in the United States, where she developed a new imaging technique to examine microbial communities within the human body. Now, she helps maintenance of the Okinawa Coastal Ocean Observatory System, organizes fieldwork training for OIST researchers and students who conduct marine activities as part of research, and facilitates liaison with local governments and fishery associations. “I am also interested in being part of the envisioned establishment of the new marine science facilities at OIST,” said Dr. Hasegawa. She sees her work and the future OIST Marine Science Center as opportunities for growth, which motivates her in her daily tasks.

These female specialists, with their own scientific research backgrounds, share a common passion to move science forward. OIST would not be able to conduct research smoothly and efficiently without the contributions of these dedicated and forward-thinking women.

By Mayumi Nishioka


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