The Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University is proud to welcome its third class of PhD students. President Jonathan Dorfan, Provost George Iwama, and Dean Jeff Wickens each welcomed the new students to the university in a ceremony on Monday, September 1st. The class of 2014 contains 27 students, representing eleven countries and five continents. Six of the students are from Japan, and twelve are women. Half of the students have a background in life or environmental sciences, while the other half have studied engineering or physical sciences.
In his remarks during the welcome ceremony, President Dorfan urged the new students to strive to be “not only effective professionals, but also to be engaged citizens and assertive leaders” to solve problems such as climate change, pollution, and widespread poverty. “The primary engines of innovation, namely research universities,” said President Dorfan, “are arguably the most powerful weapon for solving these problems.”
“I really look forward to doing research here,” said Yoriko Yamamura, one incoming student from Japan in the class of 2014. Yamamura studied cognitive psychology for her bachelor’s degree and then computational neuroscience for her master’s degree. Like many incoming students, Yamamura expressed interest in shifting her focus from previous research. “I procrastinate a lot,” she explained, “and I’ve been thinking about how I can do brain research that helps me overcome this problem.” The audience laughed as Yamamura added, “I’m sure it will be useful for a lot of people.” Under OIST’s unique rotation system Yamamura will be able to explore the research of several labs before selecting one specific project for her doctoral research.
The welcome ceremony emphasized the importance of students to the OIST community. “This is a university that values its students. We have emphasized how important your input is,” said Provost Iwama, encouraging students to take set the bar high for future student research. Dean Wickens added to this sentiment, saying “Students are the lifeblood of a university.” He proceeded to thank the government of Japan for their generous investment to OIST, and then addressed the students directly, describing OIST as the product of much labor from staff, faculty, and the surrounding community. “You, as our graduates, and your scientific impact will be the prized fruit of this labor in times to come,” said Dean Wickens.
The ceremony ended with a joint performance from local drum group Ryusei Daiko and singing group Sansanar. The halls of the OIST auditorium rang with the repeated call “Mor-e!” which means “Dance!” in the Okinawan dialect.
By Poncie Rutsch