New Kyurizukai

Did you aim to become an engineering researcher from the very beginning?
      No. My father was a university hospital doctor, whose back I had always being looking at. So it had been my dream, vague though, up to the junior high school days, to become a medical doctor like my father. Since Seijo University didn’t have a faculty of medicine, I had to take an entrance exam for a university with a faculty of medicine. In those days, the university I had in mind was a national university.
      But I failed the national university entrance exams even after spending a gap year. So I decided to switch to the second choice – Keio University Faculty of Science and Technology. There were a couple of reasons for this choice: I liked to mess around with things mechanical since childhood, and physics was my favorite subject as a senior high school student. To tell the truth, I was not very much interested in biology, the imperative subject for medicine. Because of this, as a gap-year student I was really at a loss whether or not advancing to a faculty of medicine is the right way for me. The fact was I was beginning to find myself more attracted to science and technology. If I put it in terms of positive thinking, the failure in the national university entrance exams might have been the due course of my life after all. I can say this because I was eventually able to choose and follow the course of life most suitable for me.
      Given my interest in interdisciplinary fusion studies, it was particularly the right decision that I chose the Department of System Design Engineering.

photoHow did you spend your campus life?
      Honestly speaking, I was a somewhat cynical student as a freshman and sophomore. In fact, my motivation of life was low and my life then was a purposeless one due mainly to failing the entrance exam for the faculty of medicine. So I attended only the classes of my favorite subjects; otherwise I used to kill time at the tennis circle and by working as a private tutor as a sideline. I could afford such a lifestyle because I could earn the required credits without studying hard thank to the knowledge I had accumulated during my gap year (some may criticize me for such an easy-going attitude though). Naturally, I had no intention whatsoever to become a researcher in the future.
      A turnaround in my motivation came when, as a senior, I joined Professor Tojiro Aoyama’s (currently Dean of the faculty) lab. I awoke to the excitement of shedding light on various phenomena as I conducted experiments while coming to find enjoyment as well as difficulty in giving concrete shape to my ideas.
      That said, in those days I had just begun to study electro-rheological gels (the forerunner of electro-adhesive gels) and couldn’t achieve any tangible results. I was shocked indeed by the gap between the armchair theory and reality. Despite that, I had to proceed with the challenge of seemingly answerless questions by finding problems by myself and probing for ways of solving them on my own. It was a delightfully exciting experience, but at the same time I took it to heart that a researcher’s career was such a painstaking one.
      So, when I went on to the master’s course, I complained to Prof. Aoyama and asked him for permission to change my research theme. But his advice was simple: “Patience is the key to success in research.” Consequently, I decided to focus on this material throughout the master’s course. In the initial stage of research, my major theme was application of the material. In the course of time, however, I proposed to Prof. Aoyama that basic research for developing the material itself would be indispensable. This time, the broad-minded Aoyama-sensei accepted my appeal agreeably. Now highly motivated, I devoted myself to research, which led to the successful development of a new functional material in the second summer of my master’s course. I applied for a patent for this development together with my joint research partner. This success naturally made me think that parting with this project at this stage would be a waste, urging me to lead it to the next step for application research. Up to this moment, finding employment with a private company had been an option for my future life, but I decided to go on to the doctor’s course.