New Kyurizukai

What was your university life like?
      My life had been club activities-centered up to and through my high school days. After entering the university, however, my awareness of life turned around and I began to focus on study. As a freshman, I belonged to the tennis circle but I quit it halfway because I often had to study overnight to prepare assigned reports. Besides, I had to spend two hours one way to come to the campus from my home in Saitama. After all, I injured my health, which made it impossible for me to continue the circle activity. Studying itself was not a headache because I was blessed with good friends, with whom I could compete in a friendly manner. All of my good friends were bright; in fact, three out of four including myself advanced to the doctor’s course. Of course, our life was not limited to studying. We often played together and, after having come of age, we enjoyed drinking together almost every weekend, which is a good memory I still cherish.

Why did you take up the study of combustion?
      When I visited Professor Masahiko Mizomoto’s lab for inspection, seniors at the lab talked about combustion, which aroused my interest in this theme. After joining the Mizomoto lab, I was fascinated by combustion and soon found myself delving into this research theme with heart and soul. At the lab there were five to six seniors in the doctor’s course. Perhaps I was deeply impressed by their devotion to research. By that time I was living in a lodging house close to the campus, which allowed me to plunge into research day and night.
      The study of combustion is truly profound. For example, if you are going to simulate a certain combustion phenomenon, you must simultaneously solve problems related to elements such as fluids, heat, diffusion and chemical reactions of substances involved. Depending on the target, it can take more than a month even by using a supercomputer. Moreover, much still remains unsolved in fundamental theories, which makes fundamental research into combustion very exciting.
      To tell the truth, I once gave thought to finding employment as a researcher in a company. But I gave up this idea as I became increasingly inclined to study the basics. This is why I decided to advance to the doctor’s course. When I first consulted with my father about advancing to the doctor’s course, he opposed my proposal mainly due to a financial reason but finally agreed as I won a scholarship.
      Later, from September 2003, I began to work in Tohoku University as a postdoctoral researcher. Experiences I acquired there marked a major turning point in my life. Professor Kaoru Maruta, the boss of our lab, was so internationally minded that renowned researchers frequently visited the lab from overseas to meet him. Encounters with these foreign researchers were truly valuable because I learned the importance of global communication and was able to broaden my perspective. Although I thought I had cultivated an adequate level of international mind by that time through presentations at international conferences and other activities, the reality I noticed was a shocking one – the gap in levels was hopelessly great. I took to heart the need to cultivate the ability to develop real discussions about research subjects on a global scale.
      This motivated me to study abroad; I decided to study at Princeton University for one year from April 2005 as a research fellow for the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science. While Princeton University has a high reputation in Japan as a center for physics, mathematics and economics, it is also an institute with a long-standing history in the field of combustion study.

How did you find your researcher life abroad?
photo      Honestly speaking, really tough. At the beginning I couldn’t find a fixed place to live in, so I had to move from one place to another, asking professors and other acquaintances for shelter for the first two weeks or so. To make the matter even worse, my English communication ability was extremely poor, which almost made me homesick after only two weeks or so (Laughter). Research work itself was enjoyable, but it took some time before I became accustomed to living in an overseas country. Fellow members in our lab were all considerate enough to talk to me clearly, so there was not a problem communicating in English in the lab. But once out on the streets, local people spoke very fast and often used slang, making it difficult for me to catch their words . . . I still remember that I had a hard time even opening a bank account.
      I found Chinese students here and there on the campus where I learned, but very few Japanese. I could find only one Japanese person in another department. My mentor, Prof. Yiguang Ju, was also Chinese. He is a truly bright person. He is internationally minded as well as logical in thinking and acting just like Prof. Maruta of Tohoku University whom I mentioned earlier. Not only that, he also has a very agreeable personality. I respect him very much as a researcher.