On February 2, 2013, the Prime Minister of Japan, Mr. Shinzō Abe, paid a visit to the OIST campus in Onna Village to receive an update on the university’s progress. OIST President Jonathan Dorfan, Provost Robert Baughman and Board of Governors Vice-Chair Akito Arima greeted Mr. Abe as well as Mr. Ichita Yamamoto, Mr. Hiroshige Seko and Ms. Aiko Shimajiri – the Minister of State for Okinawa and the Northern Territories Affairs, the Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary and the Parliamentary Secretary of the Cabinet Office, respectively – who accompanied the Prime Minister during his visit to Okinawa. This was the Prime Minister’s first visit to Okinawa since he took office on December 26, 2012.
After an introduction about OIST by President Dorfan, Mr. Abe met with six graduate students, who all assured the Prime Minister of their positive experiences in Okinawa thus far. “In addition to my science studies at OIST, I’m enjoying learning Japanese and being immersed in Japanese culture,” William Powell, an OIST graduate student from England, told the Prime Minister. “My hope is that OIST will continue to progress so that eventually there will be a Nobel Laureate amongst the university’s graduates,” Mr. Abe said to encourage the students. Having listened to the President and students, the Prime Minister pledged his strong support for OIST.
Prime Minister Abe, Minister Yamamoto, Cabinet Secretary Seko and Parliamentary Secretary Shimajiri were then taken on a tour of Lab 2, which included a stopover in Professor Mukhles Sowwan’s Nanoparticles by Design Unit
. There, they were briefed on how the researchers are using state-of-the-art equipment to manipulate individual atoms and molecules for a wide range of applications in medicine, environmental protection and energy production.
While crossing the Skywalk from Lab 2 to the Center Building, President Dorfan showed Prime Minister Abe and his group the proposed future site of Lab 3. Lab 3 is imperative to the university’s growth, Dorfan informed the Prime Minister.
After traversing the Center Court, Abe, Yamamoto, Seko and Shimajiri were led through Lab 1 to Professor Noriyuki Satoh’s Marine Genomics Unit
. There, Satoh explained how his team was the first to decode an entire coral genome, a feat that will contribute to the understanding of the coral bleaching process. Satoh also discussed his current effort to decode the algae that live together with corals and to help the Okinawa Prefectural Government protect corals during coastline construction. “Okinawa is the perfect place to conduct coral research,” Satoh told the Prime Minister.
In keeping with tradition, the Prime Minister signed OIST’s Golden Book before departing. President Dorfan and Provost Baughman also presented Mr. Abe with a framed photo of OIST as a token of their appreciation for his vision and support of science and technology in Japan.