31 May 2019

Celebrating OIST’s Newest Graduates

The Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST) held its second graduation ceremony on May 25, 2019, to celebrate the achievements of OIST’s latest graduates. This occasion is testament to the dedication and hard work of OIST’s students, staff members, and founders and also shows how Japan is continuing to produce world-class scientists.

The graduation ceremony took place on Saturday afternoon. About 300 people attended the ceremony in the OIST auditorium to celebrate the success of the 19 graduates who completed their doctorates in diverse subjects ranging from marine genomics to wave energy transport. The audience included family members of the graduates as well as representatives of Japanese and international academia, industry, and government.

This year’s graduates enjoy the musical accompaniment from the front of the auditorium.

The ceremony opened with the academic procession and live musical accompaniment. OIST President Peter Gruss gave a welcome speech and introduced the special guests, including representatives speaking on behalf of the Minister of State for Okinawa and Northern Territories Affairs, Mitsuhiro Miyakoshi, and the Governor of Okinawa Prefecture, Denny Tamaki. Dr. Gruss thanked the graduates for their contribution to OIST and commitment to excellence, going on to say that the graduates “have the influence to be global citizens and help spread the message about what science, technology and reason can deliver to the world.”

The commencement address was delivered by Sir Paul Nurse, Nobel Laureate and Director of the Francis Crick Institute. He encouraged the new graduates to use their skills wisely, for the benefit of humanity. Drawing on many great enlightenment thinkers, Sir Paul presented the case for viewing science as a public good. “The best of science is truly revolutionary, ultimately more so than revolutions based on politics or ideology,” he said. “Scientific knowledge can result in sustained revolutionary changes to human society and culture.”

OIST President Peter Gruss gave a welcome speech and introduced the special guests.

After a short break and a musical interlude came the conferment of the PhD degrees. The graduates came up one by one and were introduced by their doctoral advisors, some of whom included heartfelt recognitions of challenges overcome. Professor Tsumoru Shintake, for instance, focused on Dr. Kalale Chola’s strength in overcoming the loss of a loved one during his studies and his courage when returning to finish his thesis. Professor Greg Stephens, meanwhile, praised Dr. Tosif Ahamed for his creativity, which aligns with OIST’s vision of interdisciplinary study.

After being introduced the graduates received their hoods, which featured a local textile called “Yuntanza Minsa,” in OIST colors of red, white and black. The design of the hood, hand-woven with locally hand-dyed cotton from a craft weavers’ guild in Yomitan, combined local auspicious patterns for long life and luck in money and happiness with stylized sine waves representing the sciences.

Sir Paul Nurse delivers his commencement speech on “science as a public good”.

Dr. Jessica Verena Schulze, a graduate from the Neural Computation Unit led by Professor Kenji Doya, spoke on behalf of the graduates. She recounted Professor Brené Brown’s powerful TED talk, “The Power of Vulnerability,” applying the concepts to scientific discovery and asking big, risky questions. She also thanked OIST, Okinawa and Japan and delivered part of her speech in Japanese. “When I first arrived here, I wasn’t entirely certain I made the right choice. Today, I can say it was one of the best decisions of my life,” she said.

As part of the ceremony, OIST awarded an honorary degree to Professor Svante Pääbo from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, for his outstanding contribution to the field of paleogenetics. As one of the founders of this field, Professor Pääbo has shed much light on our evolutionary history. In 2010 he became the first scientist to successfully sequence the genome of Neandertals, a species closely related to modern humans that became extinct about 40 thousand years ago.

Dr. E Laine Wong celebrates in the May sunshine following the Graduation Ceremony.

Following closing remarks from Chair of the OIST Board of Governors Cherry Murray, the ceremony ended with a musical finale followed by the academic procession, in which the graduates walked out into the May sunshine to rapturous applause.

This was a very special day in the history of OIST Graduate University. Congratulations to the graduates and may they enjoy every success in their future endeavors.

1 Jul 2019

For more photos from OIST Graduation 2018, click here.

By Christopher Richardson


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