On September 1, the OIST community gathered in a ceremony to welcome its fourth class of PhD students.
OIST is a Graduate University where a wide variety of people come together. With 24 students, representing fifteen countries and one region, the class of 2015 is no exception. Ten of the students have a background in life or environmental sciences, while 14 have studied engineering or physical sciences. President Jonathan Dorfan called attention to the presence of three students with a chemistry background, reflecting last year’s successful hiring of three new chemistry faculty members. With this new class, the graduate student population at OIST has grown to over 100.
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, disease, poverty, food and water shortages... “Science and technology must provide the solutions,” said President Dorfan, “primarily through basic research coupled with aggressive technology transfer programs”
Dean Jeff Wickens explained the three-lab-rotation system in the first year of the program and said, “through this out-of-field rotation you will learn enough of the language and the way of thinking of another field to be able to communicate and understand important ideas and results. This will give you something that PhDs from other universities will not have, and this may become your edge in the future.”
Professor Ken Peach, Dean for Faculty Affairs, confirmed the significance of studying in “Okinawa with beautiful scenery and warm and inviting people” through the experience of being a member of a “minority”. “Living in a different culture leads you to appreciate your own culture and to see things clearly. It eventually enables you to be a better scientist”
Hong Huat Hoh, an incoming student from Malaysia, said, “I pursued medical studies in Poland, but here at OIST, I am excited to be able to do research on cancer biology and developmental biology. I am also happy to live in Okinawa, with its subtropical climate to which I am accustomed from my home in Malaysia.”
The ceremony ended with a performance by local dance group, Shimabukuro Ryukyu Dance School, including OIST’s Ami Chinen. For the incoming students, this was one of the very first exposures to Okinawan traditional culture.