Imperial Highness Princess Takamado Visits OIST
On February 1, 2013, Her Imperial Highness Princess Hisako Takamado -- widow of Prince Norihito Takamado, the cousin of His Majesty the Emperor -- toured the OIST Onna campus with President Jonathan Dorfan, Provost Robert Baughman and their wives, Renee Dorfan and Hidemi Baughman.
Her visit began with a walk through the Tunnel Gallery, during which Dorfan and Baughman outlined OIST’s “Sea Horse” project. Headed by Professor Tsumoru Shintake of the Quantum Wave Microscopy Unit, “Sea Horse” is an endeavor that aims to develop ocean current energy technologies using the Kuroshio Current, which runs near Okinawa.
En route to the laboratory of art conservator Anya McDavis, a member of OIST's Science and Technology Group, Her Imperial Highness took the elevator to Level C and was guided through the Center Court to Lab 1. McDavis explained to Princess Takamado how she uses scientific techniques like X-ray fluorescence to identify trace elements in ceramics, infrared spectroscopy to study organic materials and spectroscopy to analyze the components of ceramic glazes. Princess Takamado took a keen interest in McDavis’ work, as Her Imperial Highness has a PhD in Arts and Culture from the Osaka University of Arts.
The Princess was then taken up to Level D in Lab 1 to speak with Professor Yoko Yazaki-Sugiyama, head of the Neuronal Mechanism for Critical Period Unit. Yazaki-Sugiyama studies how birds, specifically zebra finches, learn songs during a ‘critical period’ early in their lives. Since song birds learn vocals in a similar way to humans, Yazaki-Sugiyama is also able to correlate her findings in birds to similar phenomena in humans. As Honorary President of Bird Life International and an avid bird lover, the Princess also had great interest in Yazaki-Sugiyama’s work. “I enjoyed speaking with Her Imperial Highness because she had an extensive knowledge of birds. Princess Takamado even knew about a recent paper published in Current Biology about song bird learning,” said Yazaki-Sugiyama. “She asked questions at the level of a researcher in my field.”