Bulletin of Keio University Faculty of Science and Technology
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10 Yukio Nozaki 2 Knowing the fun of physics in  classwork by my respected teacher

You mean chemistry is more interesting as it can explain the realistic world?
      Well, compared with physics that seems somewhat disconnected from reality, chemistry appeared to be simple and straightforward, allowing the cause and effect to be directly connected. This is why I was attracted more to chemistry in high school. Chemistry even appeared to me as approaching straight into the essence of things.
      To tell the truth, I became aware of the fun of physics only after I was admitted to Keio University. The impetus was a friend I became acquainted with on campus. I was influenced by him stressing that physics is excitingly interesting and pursuits other than physics are not worthy of learning. At that time I thought I would keep physics as one of my options. What determined my course of life was a class on electrodynamics by Dr. Hideki Miyajima (now Prof. Emeritus). Dr. Miyajima’s teaching was free of unreality – it was truly convincing, easy to understand and interesting, which made me think that physics might be fun to study. It was when I was a sophomore. Frankly speaking, I wish I became aware of this a little earlier.
      One of the things I took to heart after I began teaching at the university was the difficulty of teaching physics while conveying the sense of reality to students. In order to explain the essence of various phenomena, it is unavoidable to describe the microscopic world from a physics viewpoint. In the microscopic world, electrons and the like that constitute a substance behave in a manner entirely different from the sense of our daily lives, which in turn is very intriguing. However, we need to use complex formulas to explain it – too difficult for high school-level physics. To really appreciate the delight of physics, you need to clear a high hurdle. In other words, physics offers delight proportionate to the height of the hurdle. I must also confess that I came to find and appreciate some attractions of physics only after I became a teacher myself. Keio University’s motto “Half Learning, Half Teaching” is coming home to me.
      I’m also trying to convey the fun of physics to students through classwork, but it’s quite a challenge. I’m now trying various ways to make my lessons memorable. One way is encouraging my students to hand-write on a blackboard instead of using PowerPoint, for which the students are required to move their hands. This can provide an episode that interfaces physics they are learning with actual reality. This episode may serve as an impetus for arousing their memory later on when they need to restudy what they learned before. Even vague memories, such as writing a series of complex formulas on the blackboard were tough, and using unfamiliar formulas was a challenge, are much better than total loss of memories.

About when did you make up your mind to choose a researcher career?
      I became serious about becoming a researcher after I belonged to Dr. Miyajima’s lab and began to study in the master’s course. When I was looking for a research theme, a research associate of our lab, who was about to visit France for research purposes during the summer holidays, happened to be looking for a student who would accompany to assist him. I raised my hand the moment I heard of this offer. Since nobody else volunteered to do so, my visit to France was decided.
photo      To tell the truth, I raised my hand simply because I wanted to visit and see France. In retrospect, however, my visit to France turned out to be a major turning point in my life. The experience I obtained there was so valuable that it made me strongly conscious of my future career as a researcher. All of the students and researchers whom I met in France were highly motivated naturally as they had also come all the way to France for their research purposes. Furthermore, our stay was limited to two months, which made us all the more devoted to research work whether willing or not.
      Through the two-month period of devoted research work in a foreign country like France and surrounded by highly motivated foreign researchers, I became aware of the delight of concentrated research. I found research activity exciting enough even for an assistant like myself. Then how wonderful would it be if the research work were for my own sake? This was my impression, which urged me to choose a researcher career.
      Looking back at my life, I think I am a lucky person blessed with encounters with good people – a campus friend who was a physics enthusiast; Prof. Miyajima who gave me intriguing classes and whose lab I could belong to; and the many foreign researchers I met in France and worked together with day after day . . . Indeed, I have been assisted by a number of highly competent and friendly people at each turning point in my life. I owe what I am today to these people and am truly thankful.

 

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1 As a child I disassembled  a camera – for curiosity about  its mechanism
2 Knowing the fun of physics in  classwork by my respected teacher
3 Concentrate on what you’re doing, especially when you  are at a loss
Profile Yukio Nozaki Mr. Nozaki’s specialties are spin dynamics and spin electronics. His current research theme is the control of spin angular momentum dynamics that is strongly coupled, in ferromagnetic metals, with electronic and electron-phonon systems. He is developing his research work from basic research to applied research for practical applications. In 1998, after acquiring a doctorate (physics), he became a postdoctoral research assistant for Kyushu University’s Graduate School and Faculty of Information Science and Electrical Engineering, assuming the position as an associate professor in 2006. In 2010, he assumed the current position as an associate professor for Department of Physics, Keio University Faculty of Science and Technology.
 
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