University students explore the freedom of research on OIST campus

Twenty-five bachelor’s and master’s students joined Science Challenge 2024.

Science Challenge 2024 header image

From February 17 to 23, the Graduate School at Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) welcomed 25 university students from across Japan to participate in Science Challenge 2024. Science Challenge is a one-week workshop for undergraduate and graduate students in STEM fields that focuses on refining students’ scientific skills and allowing them to experience student life at OIST. 

Since its beginning in 2015, each Science Challenge workshop has had a different theme. This year's was “Freedom of Research” and from 254 essay applications submitted, 25 students were selected and invited to the OIST campus. During the workshop, the participants had to turn their essays into 3-minute research proposals and present the project they would pursue had they been given unlimited access to resources. 

Throughout the week, the participants, who study different research fields, had many opportunities to experience cutting-edge research on OIST campus, while connecting with their peers and staff from the OIST community who provided valuable support during a successful Science Challenge 2024. 

Participants learned about different forms of science communication
Together with volunteer staff from the OIST community, the participants learned about different forms of science communication, such as poster presentations and essay writing, and received guidance on how to deliver a 3-minute proposal. Credit: Admissions and Outreach Section (OIST)
Participants engaged in hands-on science activities
The participants engaged in OIST’s cutting-edge research through hands-on science activities, such as experiencing integrated processes of visual and tactile sensation, extracting RNA from fish tissues, testing enzyme reactions, coding and controlling robots, and performing a total carbohydrate content assay. Aside from the hands-on activities, they explored the facilities and equipment on campus during guided campus and facility tours and visited the research unit laboratories at OIST. Credit: Ayaka Yoneno (OIST)

The workshop concluded with 3-minute research proposals presented by each participant. These were judged based on respect for time constraints, engagement with the audience, clarity, and persuasiveness.  

Science Challenge 2024 “Best Presentation Award” judges
The judges, Dr. Harry Wilson, Curriculum Specialist, Dr. Roger Huerlimann, Postdoctoral Scholar, Dr. Merle Naidoo, Science Writer, and Ms. Nonno Hasegawa, PhD Student, selected the winner of the “Best Presentation Award”. Credit: Yuuki Guzman (OIST)

Jion Tominaga, who recently completed his bachelor’s degree in bioscience at Waseda University, impressed the jury with his 3-minute proposal on memory mechanisms in octopuses and received the “Best Presentation Award”. His proposal aimed to understand how memory functions in organisms with neuroanatomy vastly different from that of vertebrates. Tominaga stated, “I am honored to receive the award and grateful for the mentorship that helped me present my research concisely. Preparing for this challenge was a valuable opportunity to collaborate with and learn more about my fellow Science Challenge members and their work.” 

In addition to the Best Presentation Award, the Science Challenge organizers invited the audience of the final presentations to vote for their best presenter. The “Audience Award” was presented to Rina Keboushi, a student at the University of Tokyo. In her 3-minute proposal she suggested attaching sensors on whales which can dive to very deep depths to collect data on the marine environments where they pass. She convinced the audience that these “living sensors” could provide deep sea information and help researchers understand the food chains and ecosystems that are part of the whales' habitats. 

 “I really appreciate everyone’s interest in my research idea! This experience will help me plan my future and has made me more confident in my abilities,” Keboushi mentioned. 

Science Challenge 2024 award winners
The winner of the Best Presentation Award, Jion Tominaga, and winner of the Audience Award, Rina Keboushi. Credit: Fang Yi Tai (OIST)

For photos of Science Challenge 2024, please visit our photo gallery here:  

Authors: Mira Narita, Yuuki Guzman, Ayaka Yoneno, Dr. Merle Naidoo, Jun Tao (OIST) 

For press enquiries:
Press Inquiry Form

Share on: