New Kyurizukai

photoAfter entering the University of Tokyo, you chose the Department of Physics as a junior, is that right?
      Yes. There were so many bright students around me and I was happy being able to study together with these excellent students. On the other hand, I was obsessed by a feeling that I wouldn’t be able to survive in this competitive world as a professional if I did the same thing as them.
      I made up my mind to study device physics at the graduate school whereas many others chose to major in particle physics or space physics. So, I advanced to the Institute for Solid State Physics at the University of Tokyo Kashiwa (Chiba Pref.) campus. Then, as a postdoctoral fellow, I went abroad to study at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL). In this way, I’ve been trying to walk a unique path of my own. Fortunately, the field of my interest was the study of material science based on laser light. This meant that places and opportunities for my research activity were plentifully available around the world.
      To tell the truth, I was at a loss which department to choose, the Department of Physics or Department of Applied Physics. This was because I was somewhat interested in a study that could be applied to the needs of the real world. On the other hand, I found in myself a persistent passion “I wish to shed light on the truth behind things.” After hovering this way or that, I decided to choose the Department of Physics. It was in those days that I encountered “Optics.” What attracted my interest in particular were research achievements of Dennis Gabor who had won the Nobel Prize for the invention of holography. This gave me strong motivation to become a researcher like Dennis Gabor, so I finally chose the study of optical science.
      At the Institute for Solid State Physics, I studied fundamental physics of semiconductor laser structure under Associate Professor Hidefumi Akiyama. During my graduate school days, I was able to nurture the “ability to think deeply and carefully.” This ability helps me a lot even today, for which I am very grateful to Prof. Akiyama.
      I went to Switzerland to study not merely to learn measurement but also the “making of things” as well. Under the guidance of Professor Eli Kapon, I engaged in the manufacture of a semiconductor quantum device structure. I was able to participate in the manufacture of quantum dot of the world’s highest quality, which was a truly valuable experience. It also remains a pleasant memory because I could work together with a number of highly individual postdoctoral fellows from many parts of the world. Furthermore, studying abroad helped me overcome my fear of communicating with foreigners. It was a great windfall for me (Laughter). I also learned a lesson that we should not hesitate to assert ourselves, especially overseas.
      Then I belonged to Professor Ryo Shimano’s lab at the University of Tokyo Graduate School as a research associate, where I took up “condensed matter physics based on terahertz radiation” that led to my current main research theme. In those days, this field of study was still budding, so we had to feel our way almost in the dark. But we finally succeeded in developing an unprecedented measuring technique while learning the basics of a variety of measuring technologies at the same time.
      In this manner, I was blessed with valuable opportunities to accumulate experiences – in both “optical measurement” and “sample preparation” – at these world-leading labs, which has proved to be a great asset for me as a researcher.

Setting the course of study and identifying suitable study themes as a researcher is an exhaustive task, isn’t it?
      Given the highly competitive world of researchers, I’m always thinking about how I can survive the competition. In this sense, it’s my policy not to take up themes that are “in fashion.” If you jump at a theme “in fashion,” you will eventually find yourself nowhere in terms of achievements. That said, it’s true that “terahertz light” is “in fashion today.” I know my remark sounds a bit contradictory. Yet, I can say I’m pursuing original research from my own unique approach. On the other hand, if I went too far with my personal likes and focused on themes that are too far from being “in fashion,” I would surely find myself in difficulty to raise vitally needed research funds. This is the point requiring careful “consideration,” which annoys me all the time.
      By the way, at the Keio University Department of Physics, “reading original texts and making presentation” (students are required to read original papers in English – from every age and everywhere – and express their comments) is a compulsory subject for seniors. In this class, I join my students to learn how famous researchers of the past opened up their fields of study using their own strategies. To produce new ideas and approaches necessary for promoting research activities, following the footsteps of great figures of the past is the best shortcut. As such, I’m striving daily to produce breakthrough research achievements while learning strategies taken by our great predecessors.