Monday, 12. September 2022 - 10:02

OIST welcomes 10th and 11th class of PhD students

In a ceremony held on September 1, 2022, OIST welcomed students, faculty and executives who have joined since January 2021 into the OIST community.

The Welcome Ceremony, which was attended by an audience of OIST community members for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began, also included the presentation of teaching awards and a traditional Ryukyuan dance performance.

Due to the pandemic, a total of 79 students from the classes of 2021 and 2022 were introduced in the same ceremony, 43 from the class of 2021 and 36 from 2022. 

The ceremony began with opening remarks from OIST’s President and CEO, Dr. Peter Gruss, who delivered words of encouragement to the new executives, faculty, and students.

“Welcome. You have chosen a young and dynamic university. […] In only a decade, OIST has made many notable accomplishments, rising quickly to become a world-leading research university in science, technology, and innovation. This was achieved by a community of ambitious, hard-working, talented, and diverse individuals, to which you now belong. I encourage you to embody OIST’s creative spirit and the ambition to go even further.”

OIST President and CEO, Dr. Peter Gruss, gave an opening speech to welcome new students, faculty and executives into the OIST community.

During his speech, Dr. Gruss acknowledged seven new members of the executive team that joined OIST since January 2021, and thanked them for their service and commitment to OIST in the face of challenges brought on by the pandemic.

Two current professors were also announced as incoming executive members – Nick Luscombe, who is the incoming Dean of Research, and Amy Shen, who will taking on the position of Provost.

Dr. Gruss also emphasized to the new students the importance of spreading their lives beyond the confines of the OIST campus and their research.

“Take time to step outside of the lab, outside of OIST to discover the Okinawan community that has generously supported us with its rich culture, tradition, and heritage,” he said. “Our connection with Okinawa roots us in this place, in time, and in history.”

He continued: “As a university supported by both the Cabinet Office of Japan and the Okinawa prefecture, our responsibilities extend beyond research and education. […] I encourage you to participate in local activities and to nurture your social and civic responsibilities. Become an active member of the OIST and Okinawa communities.”

Following the opening remarks, the new faculty members introduced themselves and their research to the audience. Since 2021, OIST has received 12 new faculty, whose research interests span a rich and diverse spectrum of science, from quantum physics and mathematics to ecology and neuroscience, further enriching OIST’s status as a hub for world-leading interdisciplinary research. 

Professor Ulf Skoglund, Dean of the Graduate School, then individually welcomed each student, and provided words of advice and support.

“You’re beginning a very exciting research and educational journey for the following years until you graduate. This journey will define you as a person for a long time,” he said. “Coming to Okinawa has been an important decision on your side. We at the Graduate School are very proud to have you as our students and we hope to guide you well over the years.”

As with previous batches, the PhD students from the classes of 2021 and 2022 encompass a diverse range of cultures and nationalities. The 79 students were recruited from 28 different countries, including, for the first time, Algeria, Sri Lanka and the Netherlands for the class of 2021, and Botswana and Ecuador for 2022.

PhD student, Lakshmipriya Swaminathan, the Academic Officer for the OIST Student Council, then gave concluding remarks on behalf of Leilee Chojnacki, the Student Council’s Faculty Assembly Representative, who was unable to attend.

She also presented the Students’ Choice Awards for teaching to two faculty members: Professor Tom Bourguignon and Professor Keiko Kono.

On behalf of the student council, PhD student, Lakshmipriya Swaminathan (right), presented the Student’s Choice Teaching Awards to Professor Tom Bourguignon (left) and Professor Keiko Kono.

The Student Council also awarded the first special teaching prize to David O’Connell, a PhD student in the class of 2019, for his special topics course on a mixture of topics in Differential Geometry. 

The ceremony concluded with a celebration of the rich Ryukyuan culture and history found in Okinawa through a performance of two traditional songs and dances. The first dance, “Yotsu Dake”, which was traditionally performed for important guests from overseas, was performed by the OIST community dance group, "Moyas", and the music by the OIST sanshin group, "Chindamiz". The second dance, “Tancha me”, showcases the daily lives of the people in Tancha, the area of Onna where OIST is located and was performed by professional dancers from Shimabu Ryu Chihiro Kai.

Two traditional dances were performed at the OIST Welcome Ceremony 2022, by professional dancers and members of the OIST community.

By Dani Ellenby

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