Bulletin of Keio University Faculty of Science and Technology
  kyurizukai interview  
05 Citterio, Daniel Japan is complete with an excellent research-encouraging environment

Mr. Citterio is devoted to the development of handy paper-based sensors that anyone,
not only specialists, can handle with ease. Eight years have passed since Mr. Citterio,
born in Zurich, Switzerland, came to Japan to engage in research work.
He praises Japan as an attractively fertile soil for research pursuits thanks to strong bonds among researchers as well as an excellent research environment relatively favored with both ample budgets and advanced facilities.

 

1 Coming to Japan to broaden my horizons in life

photoWhen did you come to Japan?
      My first visit to Japan was in 1996 when I was a doctor course student at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETHZ). At that time I had an opportunity to participate in a joint project and belonged to the Chemical and Biosensor Laboratory at the University of Tokyo’s Graduate School of Science, staying for three months.
      With universities in Europe, students in natural sciences usually find employment after completing a doctor’s course and then pursuing postdoctoral studies overseas for at least one year. Many of my fellow students liked to study in the United States, but I didn’t want to go there. This was because, rather than for the sake of research only, I also wanted to broaden my horizons in life. In other words, I wanted to take up new challenges in a land where culture and language are totally different. So I made up my mind to study as a postdoctoral fellow in Japan, the destination I had visited as a doctor course student.
      During my first visit to Japan, I found this country very intriguing. At first sight, Tokyo appeared no different from big cities in the West. After talking with its people, I felt that it had a culture totally different from Western cultures. What surprised me, for example, was the fact that vertical human relationships in labs between superiors and subordinates and between senior and junior students were absolute. Not to mention food and people’s lifestyles, everything I saw and experienced was fresh and surprising indeed.
      To tell the truth, during my first visit to Japan I had an opportunity to visit Keio University for only one day. On that occasion I paid a visit to Professor Suzuki’s lab, to which I belong now. I learned that Professor Suzuki’s lab is engaged in research close to that of mine. Finding that students there were all open-minded and easy to communicate with, I had a good impression of Keio.
      It was in March 1998 that I revisited Japan as a postdoctoral fellow of Keio University. My initial plan was to stay for one year. But as I got accustomed to my research life in Japan, I began to think it would be a waste of precious opportunity if I left Japan as initially planned. Our lab’s atmosphere was so comfortable that I postponed my return again and again. As a result, I had stayed in Japan for four and a half years in total.

Did you acquire your Japanese language ability in those days?
      Yes. In my early years I could hardly speak Japanese, which put me in trouble even for shopping and other daily matters. But my Japanese gradually improved thanks to once-a-week Japanese lessons from a private teacher and daily communication with students on the campus. The most effective learning above all was through communication with students. But I was amazed at Japanese students’ very poor English-speaking ability. So at the beginning, we had to talk by means of writing, myself in English and Japanese students in Japanese though kanji characters still remain my weak point even now. (laughter)
      Later, in 2002, I returned to Switzerland and began to work as an assistant professor at a university. Meanwhile, I became interested in patents by that time because our Keio lab had obtained several patents. So I acquired a patent attorney qualification by entering a university again to study. Formerly the generally accepted idea about research scientists was that they should devote themselves to research, staying away from worldly matters such as obtaining patents. But things are different today. Knowledge of patents is very important for us to make the most of our own research achievements in society.
      Armed with these careers, I once found employment with a Swiss chemical maker, but left this company a year later and returned to Japan.

 

 

1 Coming to Japan to broaden my horizons in life
2 Japan has a favorable environment for researchers
3 Why did I choose to become a researcher?
Profile Citterio, Daniel By creating and combining functional materials (dyes, polymers, etc.), his research work focuses on the development of (bio) chemical sensors for application in industrial, medical, and environmental analysis. Born in Zurich, Switzerland, he graduated from the Department of Chemistry of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETHZ) in 1992 and obtained his Doctor degree from the same school in 1998. After postdoctoral research at Keio University, he became a research associate at ETHZ. Through postgraduate studies, he obtained a Masters degree in Intellectual Property and joined a Swiss chemical manufacturer as a patent attorney. In 2006, he returned to Keio University, were he became a tenured Associate Professor at the Department of Applied Chemistry in 2009.
 
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