Science Challenge 2016

Students from universities throughout Japan attended a one-week workshop to explore the question: What would you do in graduate school?

For one week, 29 undergraduate and graduate students from universities around Japan came together to learn more about science and explore life as a Ph.D. student in Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University’s (OIST) second annual Science Challenge workshop. From March 7-11, the selected participants visited labs, attended seminars, interacted with current Ph.D. students, and explored the theme: What would you do in graduate school?

“We hope that through the week the students have gained some different ideas of what they want their graduate school experience to look like,” Yuuki Guzman, OIST student recruiter and workshop organizer, said.

At the end of the week, each student gave a presentation on the theme and all 29 participants had different, interesting, and creative ideas of what topics they would explore in graduate school. The ideas ranged from preserving the environment and advancements in space exploration to disaster prediction and quantum computing.

While the participants had many scientific ideas, the importance of interdisciplinary research, international collaboration, and science communication were repeatedly emphasized as important characteristics to a graduate school program and which are important tenets in the OIST concept.

“Diversity is important,” Shuangying (Helen) Yu, Science Challenge participant from Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University said. “It gives you more ideas, opens your mind, and gives you more perspective.”

Yumi Takahashi, another Science Challenge participant from Tohoku University said, “I have realized that I need to be able to communicate my science or no one will understand the importance of what I am doing.”

A panel of OIST judges deliberated about the presentations and picked a winner of “best presentation” as well as two honourable mentions. The honourable mentions were Shuangying (Helen) Yu and Ai Kohata, a student at the University of Tokyo. Yu spoke about conserving the marine environment and Kohata spoke about creating products for marginalized populations. The winner was Ken Kuroki, a student from International Christian University, who spoke about using bioinformatics to help conserve the environment. He also noted that in order to do the best science, he also needed to keep himself healthy.

OIST Science Challenge participant and winner of best presentation, Ken Kuroki.
Kuroki, OIST Science Challenge participant and winner of best presentation, speaking about innovative ways to use bioinformatics to help conserve the environment.  

“The judges were impressed by his passion, integrity, and self-awareness,” Dr. Machi Dilworth, Vice President for Human Resource Development and Gender Equality said.

Dilworth also said the judges recognized the theme of science communication from the students and that this makes them “encouraged about the future.”

This yearly week-long workshop is a great opportunity for excellent students who show a keen interest and curiosity for science to jumpstart their academic careers by understanding the skills necessary to be successful in graduate school. It is also a way to find out about the latest research and technology happening at OIST.

“This was an opportunity to realize my passion for science,” Yu said. “I came from a Liberal Arts background, but have always wanted to learn more about science.”

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