Akihiro Kusumi

My love of membranes was accidentally initiated when I, a senior majoring in physics at that time, entered a wrong lecture room where Prof. Shun-ichi Ohnishi of Kyoto University happened to be lecturing about the Singer-Nicolson’s fluid mosaic model in his membrane course in 1974, just two years after the publication of this model. I instantaneously fell in love with the beauty of the fluid-mosaic model, which tremendously stimulated my physics mind because I sensed the cooperative nature of molecular interactions occurring in the 2.5 dimensional space of the cell membrane. Prof. Ohnishi became my PhD advisor, with whom I studied the rotational diffusion of rhodopsin in reconstituted membranes using saturation transfer EPR, just invented by Prof. Jim Hyde of the Medical College of Wisconsin.

I did my postdoc research with Jim, who is responsible for my developing patience for the signal-to-noise ratios of less than three (nonlinear EPR of membranes, 1980-2), which later helped me greatly to develop and conduct single-molecule imaging in living cells. Then, I did my second post-doc with Prof. Malcolm Steinberg (Princeton University, 1982-4), who is responsible for my cellular and developmental biology (cell adhesion and desmosomes).

Through these foggy periods, I somehow developed my love of time-resolved fluorescence measurements under the microscope (1984) and single-molecule imaging (1989). Like molecules in the plasma membrane, I underwent hop diffusion from Kyoto (Asst. Prof. 1984), Tokyo (Assoc. Prof. 1988), Nagoya (Prof. 1997), Kyoto again (Prof. 2005), and then to Okinawa (Prof. 2016), and sometimes became trapped in smaller domains within a compartment, carrying out projects called “Membrane Organizers”, “Membrane Mechanisms”, and “Hierarchical Meso-Scale Domains”, supported by Japan Science and Technology agency and the Ministry of Education of the Japanese government.

Professional Experience

  • Assistant Professor, Department of Biophysics, Faculty of Science, Kyoto University, 1984-1988
  • Visiting Professor, Department of Radiology and Biophysics, The Medical College of Wisconsin, 1984-1994
  • Associate Professor, Department of Life Sciences, The University of Tokyo, 1988-1997
  • Professor, Department of Biological Science, Nagoya University, 1997-2004
  • Project Leader, Kusumi Membrane Organizer Project, Exploratory Research for Advanced Technology Organization (ERATO), Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST), 1998-2005
  • Project Leader, Membrane Mechanisms Project, International Cooperative Research Project (ICORP), JST, 2005-2010
  • Professor, Institute for Frontier Medical Sciences, Kyoto University, 2005-present
  • Professor, Institute for Integrated Cell-Material Sciences (WPI-iCeMS), Kyoto University, 2007-Present
  • Visiting Professor, Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University, 2016-Present
Photo of Akihiro Kusumi
Akihiro Kusumi
D.Sc. (Biophysics) Department of Biophysics, Kyoto University, 1980
B.Sc. (Biophysics) Department of Biophysics, Kyoto University, 1975