Bulletin of Keio University Faculty of Science and Technology
  kyurizukai interview  
04 A Special Round-table Companies and universities, momentums for becoming research scientists photo

Differences between companies and universities
MC : Just a while ago Mr. Tanabe made mention of differences between companies and universities. What do you think, Mr. Kamihara?
Kamihara : Though I don’t know much about private companies, research projects undertaken at universities may be okay even if they don’t produce profits. In the case of a joint research project with private businesses, the university’s responsibility is to present the companies with reliable research results and correct information, and to suggest how they should develop the project from that point onward. Universities are advantageous in that researchers from different specialties are easily available for advice. You can openly ask any one of them, “What’s your opinion about this research result of mine?”
Tanabe : The company laboratory where I belonged was so academic-oriented that the remark I’m going to make may not exactly hold true. But generally speaking, I think there are two major differences between companies and universities. First, businesses are product-oriented. The fact that the result of one’s research work is launched into society in the form of a product means that the face of the researcher responsible for the product development is rarely introduced to society. Conversely, with universities the name and face of the researcher is introduced. To be introduced into the world as a product, or as an individual . . . this is a big difference.
      The other point . . . I can’t remember now. Sorry.
MC : What about differences in education? Approaches naturally differ between companies and universities, don’t they?
Tanabe : Oh, I’ve just recalled the second point. In general, there are personnel changes at companies, right? This sometimes makes it difficult for researchers to concentrate on their projects, or for the company to take sufficient time for educating researchers – assigned to a post in the manufacturing division and back to the laboratory, etc. On the contrary, at a university you can settle yourself on your own research work. You can educate your juniors more properly; it’s natural because a university is an educational institution.
      To tell the truth, companies also need to foster researchers through education. This holds true especially these days when the so-called “Baby Boomers” with advanced expertise and know-how are retiring successively. While their valuable expertise and know-how must be handed down to the younger generation, companies are too busy dealing with immediate tasks to inherit and use such assets. It’s also a pity that senior researchers often run short of time to educate their juniors as they are moving here and there restlessly.
MC : Ms. Saikawa, will you comment on this?
Saikawa : I also lack the experience of working for a company. But I have the general impression that the greatest motivation for company researchers is to see their research results being launched in the form of products. It’s a great cycle in that launching products is a contribution to society and the researchers themselves are paid for their achievements. At universities, meanwhile, research pursuits that do not produce immediate results can be permitted as “fundamental research.” As a person engaging in fundamental research, I know my research work, as is, does not visibly contribute to society. But as Mr. Tanabe put it, I’m happy about being allowed to devote myself to challenges that take time – without being bothered.
      I’d rather say that universities should aim at more of such research themes. Some of my friends working for national universities and research institutes say they have to move from one place to another at intervals of two or three years. Young researchers, in particular, are bound to experience frequent personnel changes, making it difficult for them to concentrate on time-consuming research themes. Conversely, at Keio, or my own department, it’s possible for us to pursue relatively long-range projects; of course it’s wrong to take advantage of such a permissive environment though. I’m comfortable in my environment with an atmosphere that sees projects from a warm, long-range viewpoint even if we can’t produce immediate results.
Kamihara : At the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST) I belonged to previously, there are several ongoing projects, each having an average period for completion of three to five years. When it comes to large-scale projects, the period may be extended to five to ten years. With most projects, however, researchers are motivated to come out with visible results by the end of year 2, and in the third year they publicize their achievements to find better employment opportunities. This makes no big difference from the pace of research work at private companies mentioned by Mr. Tanabe just a while ago. Though I myself feel like concentrating on long-range projects, it seems I need some “rehabilitation” for getting accustomed to Keio’s research culture.
Tanabe : Rehabilitation?
Kamihara: The tension I experienced during my JIS days is so deep-rooted that, before I know, I often feel compelled to think of short-range research themes with deadlines for completion.

Momentums for becoming research scientists
MC : Now please tell us why you set your mind on science or chose your careers as researchers.
Tanabe: As a junior high student I saw an NHK Special TV program entitled “The Autobiography of Japan as an Electronics-based Nation.” It was an account of Japan having striven as an electronics-based nation, introducing the transistor and other developments. So impressed by the program, I wanted to do something like that in the future.
Kamihara : Since childhood, I haven’t been a type with special abilities. So, like most of the friends around me, I thought I would enter a university and find employment with a company. Looking at my school report card, I found myself rather weak at English . . . but math and science records were acceptable, which encouraged me to go on to a university. Because my father was a high school teacher, I wanted to follow suit. So, upon graduation, I took an entrance exam for Tokyo Gakugei University – the result was a total failure. During one year of preparing for the next chance, I frequented the home of my high school physics teacher when he recommended several physics-oriented introductory books like an introduction to the theory of relativity, which intrigued me. Then I was admitted into the present department of a university the following year. Since then to date I have simply focused on challenges just before my eyes, going along the stream of things. I’m not a type with great ambition.
Tanabe : So was my case. I was so weak at the Japanese language that I had to choose the science course in college.
Kamihara : Ancient Japanese literature was interesting as far as its content, but I never became inclined to memorize what was written. After having escaped from all my weaknesses, I now find myself working in this course.
MC : Both of you left strong fields after having eliminated weak fields, right?
Kamihara : Well, to be exact, it’s a field where I could be “competitive” with others, rather than a “strong” field.
Saikawa : To tell you the truth, I used to definitely be a liberal arts type student. I loved and was good at subjects like the Japanese language and music. I didn’t like math and science so much. At home we often ate mountain vegetables. They might have been roadside grass. My eyes gradually opened to plants and the world of nature as I referred to an illustrated book of flora as to their classification and to check whether they were edible or not. I liked doing so and it was a necessity of life.
      In the autumn of high school sophomore year, I had to choose which course to take, liberal arts or science. By that time, I was not so good at the Japanese language. I particularly disliked the ambiguity associated with questions like “Describe the author’s thought or feelings.” The teacher would give me an NG (X) mark to my answer but I couldn’t understand why. Conversely, subjects such as chemistry and biology appealed to me as they used clear-cut approaches like “The constituents of this plant are so and so.” So I suddenly decided to change my course from liberal arts to science. It was the catalyst for shifting my career to this side.
      I seem to be an inquisitive type by nature, asking myself “What is this plant?”, “What constituents is this made of?”, “Is this edible?”, “When does this plant grow?” and other questions. But basically I’m a liberal arts type person in the way of thinking. This sometimes makes me regret my course change when I talk with persons who have come straight through scientific pursuit.
MC : Well, each one of you has his or her own individuality. With these teachers credited with outstanding achievements, we’re sure your students can foster hopes for a bright future. Thank you very much for your time and precious remarks. Newly arriving at your posts or just returning from overseas study, you must be highly motivated. We sincerely hope your research activities will develop greatly and produce superb results.

(Emceeing and editing: “New Kyurizukai” Editing Committee)

 

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Part.1 Keio as a venue of scientific pursuit
Part.2 Research attitudes  that create innovations
Part.3 Companies and universities, momentums for becoming research scientists
Profile Takasumi Tanabe To achieve extremely small-power and high-speed signal processing, Mr. Tanabe focuses on optical nonlinear control by means of optical microresonator based on photonic crystals and silica. So far he has succeeded in the development of an optical switch and optical memory that can be integrated on a semiconductor chip. After having completed Keio University Graduate School of Integrated Design Engineering (doctoral program) in March 2004, he joined Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation (NTT) in April and was assigned to NTT Basic Research Laboratories with promotion to the research scientist post in April 2009. He assumed the current post at Keio University in April 2010. Awards he received include the Scientific American 50 Award in 2007.
Yoko Saikawa Focusing on key compounds responsible for natural phenomena, she works on isolation of such natural products and determination of their structures. She also addresses the synthesis of complicated natural compounds by ingenious means, such as intramolecular Doetz reaction method. In March 2003 she earned credits for Keio University Graduate School of Fundamental Science and Technology (doctoral program). In April 2002 she became assistant for Department of Applied Chemistry, Keio Faculty of Science and Technology. In 2004, she obtained a doctorate (science). In April 2008, she assumed the current post. From September 2008 to September 2009, she worked as a visiting scholar at Harvard Medical School (under Prof. Jon Clardy). Among other awards, she received an Incentive Award at the 45th Symposium on the Chemistry of Natural Products in 2003.
Yoichi Kamihara Toward the goal of “discovery” of compounds exhibiting high-temperature superconductivity, Mr. Kamihara creates and evaluates highly crystalline samples and pursues studies to elucidate correlations between local structures of the obtained crystals and their electrical properties and magnetism. In March 2005, he completed the doctoral program at Keio University Graduate School of Fundamental Science and Technology. From April 2005, he served as a researcher in the ERATO SORST Hosono Transparent Electroactivity Project at the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST). From October 2008, he served as a researcher of JST’s Transformative Research-project on Iron Particles (TRIP). He assumed the current post at Keio from April 2010. Chief among awards he received is the 13th Superconductivity Science and Technology Award (2009).
 
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