Unique ceremony celebrates OIST’s newest graduates
The Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST) held its third graduation ceremony on 21 May 2021 to celebrate 41 graduates. This was a unique ceremony. Firstly, because it celebrated two batches of students – the graduates of both 2020 and 2021. And secondly, because it was both an in person and virtual event, with many of the graduates attending via a livestream. It was organized by the OIST Graduate School.
Those that attended in person were dressed in the OIST academic dress, which was designed by OIST students, and contains OIST’s red, white, and black colors. The hood features a local textile and its design combines local auspicious patterns for luck in money and life, and stylized sine waves, which represent the sciences. These hoods were generously hand-woven from locally hand-dyed cotton by Ms. Misae Gakiya from Yuntanza Hanaui, a craft weavers guild from Yomitan.
In his welcome speech at the start of the ceremony, OIST President, Dr. Peter Gruss, addressed the graduating classes. “Graduates – your graduation marks both the start of a new journey, and the end of an important era in your lives.”
He went on to explain how, given the extremely challenging final year that the graduates had, many of them had to make significant changes, and had to adapt to working remotely, having their thesis examinations moved online, and adjusting to a new way of living. But, he highlighted, that adversity can create new opportunities and that this was a unique chance to rethink, re-evaluate, and re-imagine a new set of ideals.
“Graduates, as you take your next steps, I want to encourage you to be bold with your aspirations, to push the boundaries of what you think you can do and to use your skills to make a positive difference.”
“You will have to be the next pioneers of this world. Whether you already know what you want to do, or whether you are still searching for your way to make an impact, I hope you will use your talents to change the world for the better.”
This welcome was followed by speeches by representatives from the Okinawa Prefecture Government and the Cabinet Office.
The commencement speaker for this graduation ceremony was Mrs. Kathy Matsui, former vice chair of Goldman Sachs Japan, co-head of Macro Research in Asia and chief Japan equity strategist.
Kathy described Okinawa as paradise. She emphasized how OIST punches well above its weight in the global scientific rankings and talked about the diversity that can be seen both in the graduates (40% are female) and in the University as a whole. She encouraged the graduates to keep an open mind and heart.
Given the uniqueness of the ceremony, the PhD degrees were also conferred in a unique way. Each graduate’s achievements were highlighted by their supervisor but, if the student was not able to attend in person, the faculty member accepted the certificate on their behalf. Faculty members talked about, not only the scientific achievements of their graduates, but also shared stories of their time at OIST and discussed their contributions to the wider community.
Peter Gruss Doctoral Dissertation Excellence Award announced
The graduation ceremony was where the Peter Gruss Doctoral Dissertation Excellence Award was publicly announced. This award was created in 2019 and includes a cash prize of 200,000 JPY, which was donated by Dr. Gruss.
The 2020 recipient was Dr. Paavo Parmas from the Neural Computational Unit.
Speaking on behalf of the Award Selection Committee, Dr. Ulf Skoglund, the Dean of OIST Graduate School, stated that “through his PhD research at OIST, Dr. Parmas has clearly shown his ability to analyze a problem experimentally, mathematically, and even creatively.”
“The Committee views Dr. Parmas work as exemplary of OIST missions to break previously-set boundaries and limits of sciences. His thesis was truly outstanding and sets exciting new horizons.”
The recipient of the 2021 Peter Gruss Doctoral Dissertation Excellence Award was Dr. Han Yan from the Theory of Quantum Matter Unit.
“Dr. Yan’s accomplishments from his graduate study and research at OIST are best explained by statistics: ten papers published in peer reviewed journals including the most highly regarded in the field, with two more papers under review, and a further two manuscripts in an advanced state of preparation,” said Dr. Skoglund. “The Committee recognizes Dr. Yan’s outstanding achievements in scholarship and research. We commend his impressive academic work at OIST, an exemplar of the university’s value of striving for excellence!”
Given the high caliber of applicants for the 2021 award, two further graduates received special mentions. These were Dr. Lin Li, from the Fluid Mechanics Unit, and Dr. Ayaka Usui, from the Quantum Systems Unit.
Graduating student honored to speak on behalf of fellow graduates dispersed around the world
Graduating student, Dr. Shivani Sathish gave a speech on behalf of her 40 fellow graduates.
She highlighted how Okinawa had become a second home to them, described how it had been a pleasure to watch OIST grow and thanked everyone who had been involved in their PhD journeys.
“As we move away from this island, it is not only important for us to keep these experiences close to our hearts, but also stay connected to our close-knit community. Our holistic growth stimulated by OIST’s diverse scientific, multi-cultural and social environment, has given us the opportunity to be the new generation of scientists, professors, entrepreneurs, and leaders. Let’s step into the world with confidence and with a will to make a change, where success is not just defined by our professional achievements, but also by the relationships we build and the professional and personal environments we create,” said Dr. Sathish.
Company generously donates gifts to celebrate graduates
Nichiryo, a company, which manufacturers liquid handling devices, gave each graduate a personalized micropipette with their name printed on it.