Friday, 26. August 2011 - 3:22

Science Talk with Dr. Akito Arima

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By Kaoru Natori

On August 23, seven students from the Okinawa National College of Technology, accompanied by Professor Hideyuki Yamashiro, visited the OIST campus for a “Science Talk” with Dr. Akito Arima, Co-chair of the OIST Board of Governors (BOG), Chairman of the Japan Science Foundation and the President and Chair of the Board of Trustees at the Human Frontier Science Program.

Dr. Jonathan Dorfan, President-elect of the OIST Graduate University, first welcomed the students and introduced Dr. Arima, referring to him as an eminent physicist, world-renowned academician, a published master of Haiku, former president of the University of Tokyo, and one of the founding fathers of OIST.

In a lecture entitled “For the Future of Science and Technology in Japan,” Dr. Arima encouraged the young students to be confident, saying that what appears to be a large decline in the level of academic achievements by Japanese schoolchildren over the past few decades is in fact an inaccurate interpretation of the survey results. Citing statistics from several international surveys, Dr. Arima pointed out that the number of countries surveyed has increased. He stressed that the decline relative to the increased pool of other countries is only modest and that the actual performance level of Japanese students has in fact improved. He did point out, however, that the flexible thinking ability of Japanese schoolchildren is lower in comparison to their peers in other nations, underlining the importance of self-learning and problem-solving.

In closing, Dr. Arima talked about energy issues, saying that Japan ranks the highest among the Group of Eight (G8) nations in reliance on oil imports. Citing Germany as a model nation, he called for a study into renewable energy resources, such as wind, solar and hydro powers.

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In a Q&A session, Ms. Sayaka Hateruma, a junior student, asked how one can improve data analysis skills. Dr. Arima stressed the need for finding second sources and comparing them to the original data. Ms. Sonomoto, also a junior student, asked Dr. Arima how he had studied at school age. Showing a short slide presentation with photos of items that used to fascinate him, Dr. Arima said he enjoyed reading Japanese ancient history books and physics books, as well as making motors and portable radios, explaining that finding tasks and tackling them broadened his knowledge and flexible thinking ability. Responding to a question by Mr. Ryoki Shinjo, a sophomore, about what teens should do before reaching 20, Dr. Arima emphasized the importance of English proficiency and basic studies of a field of one’s interest.

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After a group photo shoot, the students were then taken on a tour of the OIST facilities by Dr. Masahisa Yamada, Scientific Senior Manager of the OIST Common Resources Group. Seeing research equipment up close and personal, the students, who are all aspiring to pursue scientific careers, were impressed by the research environment at OIST and the magnificent view of the ocean.

Dr. Yamada and several OIST staff joined the group for lunch. Dr. Yamada talked passionately about his recollection of research days and stated that the kind of education and research about to be realized at OIST, which has freedom and no barriers between people working in difference fields, is a truly new opportunity in Japan. The students listened attentively to his talk.

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Looking back at their day at OIST, all students said they had a wonderful time, and were deeply inspired by the precious advice given by Dr. Arima and Dr. Yamada. Mr. Ryuki Ameku, a sophomore, said his motivation for achievement in research has increased tremendously.

Students other than those mentioned above are: Ms. Konomi Morita (senior student), Mr. Kenta Yoshida (senior student), and Ms. Miki Touyama (junior student).

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