Bulletin of Keio University Faculty of Science and Technology
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07 Junko Hayase Seeking a research career to achieve something innovative

Just about when did you make up your mind to become a researcher?
      When I was a senior at my university, I decided to join the lab of Professor Kazuhiro Ema who was then only in his second year of arrival in his post. The lab was focused on nonlinear spectroscopy using ultrashort light pulses – a forefront field of study leading the world. Until the end of the year as a junior, I had learned theories and experiments the answers of which are known and provided. But at the Ema lab we took up the challenges of experiments no one in the world had ever conducted, and could produce innovative results. Since the lab was only in its second year, we had many things to do – improving the facility, setting down rules, making experimental devices, and so on. But doing all these things was both challenging as well as very fulfilling. We often carried out experiments all night long, but it was not troublesome at all. Once concentrated on something, I’m not satisfied until I carry it out to the very end.
      Having put myself in such an environment, my yearning to become a researcher must have grown stronger and stronger. People often say that I appear to be a quiet type at a glance, but I find myself rather stubborn and uncompromising once I’ve decided to do something (laughter). My parents advised me, saying “It’s best to find employment with a company after graduation and marry a suitable young man.” But I gave no ear to their advice and decided to go on to graduate school for a doctoral course.

Encounters with good teachers, both in high school and university, turned out to be your vital turning points, right?
      I’m now in a position to preside over a laboratory and guide students myself. As such, I can say my experience of having learned under Professor Ema is truly useful. Recalling those days, I don’t remember being severely scolded by Professor Ema. He always encouraged his students and helped them develop their potential by praising good things about each student and giving them advice and research themes that could draw out their motivation. I’m modeling my approach toward students after Professor Ema’s.
      After earning my doctor’s degree, I joined the RIKEN institute to become an academic research scientist. It was a position as a postdoctoral fellow with a term of three years. I applied for RIKEN by proposing a research theme of my own, which was luckily adopted by the institute. The theme is a bit different from my current theme, but had things in common in that it would handle light and nanostructured semiconductors. Following my service with RIKEN, I moved to the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT), where I encountered quantum dots. It just happened that at NICT there was a research team engaging in the making of characteristic quantum dots, which I found intriguing. I belonged to NICT for about four and a half years. With the NICT as well, I obtained a position for myself through job-seeking activity. In our academic world, the acquisition of a doctor’s degree doesn’t necessarily mean a stable employment without term.
      Striving under such circumstances, therefore, I approached one research institute after another to obtain necessary research funds and secure a stable research environment. During my service with the NICT, I was successfully chosen as an eligible researcher by the Japan Science and Technology Agency’s (JST) “PRESTO (Sakigake in Japanese)” competitive research funding system that targets individual research projects, surmounting a highly competitive ratio of one in 15 applicants. What was particularly good about the “PRESTO (Sakigake)” system was that the adopted researchers and advisers on the screening side get together in semiannual boarding sessions to engage in discussions in an unrestricted atmosphere. On these occasions, the participants make presentations on the progress of their respective research projects. Each participant is subjected to unreserved opinions and criticism from others – a coveted opportunity for obtaining an extremely high level of advice, which provided me with nourishment for future growth. Being a boarding session, nighttime off the core time discussions was also fruitful and enjoyable as we could talk about each other’s future frankly as late as 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning. In the academic world, human relationships are highly valuable. The fellow researchers I could get acquainted with through the “PRESTO (Sakigake)” system are now a great asset for me.
      Using participation in the “PRESTO (Sakigake)” system as momentum for stepping up my career, I then became a teacher for the University of Electro-Communications by taking advantage of thetenure-tracking system (a system that encourages young researchers to accumulate experience as independent researchers under employment with a term and obtain stable employment afterphotopassing rigid screening). And last year, at last, I could find a permanentposition at Keio University. Inretrospect, I can say that my experience as a postdoctoral fellow with a term, though unstable, was a fruitful one because I could devote myself to research. Now I’m in a position to operate my own lab, with six students, undergraduate and graduate, under my care. I feel great responsibility for this duty, which is fulfilling as well.

You have forged your way always on your own, haven’t you?
      Observers may say I have worked energetically according to my life plan. But I must confess that I’ve merely been pursuing what I liked to do according to the call of opportunity. Now settled in a position without term, I’d also like to take up challenges that take a long time to complete.

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1 Turning point in my life: an  encounter with a high-school  physics teacher
2 Seeking a research career to  achieve something innovative
3 I’ve been always natural, not  particularly conscious of being  “female”.
Profile Junko Hayase Dr. Hayase’s specialty is quantum optoelectronics. Specifically, she engages in studies regarding optical properties of nanostructured semiconductors based on the use of ultrashort light pulses, quantum control, and application of quantum information. Ms. Hayase acquired a doctor’s degree (science) at Sophia University. Before being assigned to the current position as an associate professor of Keio University’s Faculty of Science and Technology in 2010, Dr. Hayase served as a fellow researcher at RIKEN’s basic science laboratory, a fellow researcher at the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT), 
a researcher at the Japan Science and Technology Agency’s (JST) “PRESTO (Sakigake)” system, and a research associate professor at the University of Electro-Communications’ Education and Research Center for Advanced Studies. In 2009, she was awarded the “Young Scientist’s Prize” by the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.
 
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