New Kyurizukai

Did you decide your course of research when assigned to your lab?
      To tell the truth, at the time I felt a passion for physics rising in myself again, so I joined the Department of Physics Prof. Tetsuya Sato’s lab. In April when I became a senior, however, it happened that Prof. Saito, who had been a research associate at the Department of Physics, was promoted to Assistant Professor of the Department of Applied Physics and Physico-Informatics and set up his own lab. With this event as an opportunity, I was allowed to join the new lab as a first-generation student. Immediately before establishing his lab, Prof. Saito discovered the “inverse spin Hall effect” phenomena; the new research theme “spin current” intrigued me very much. Furthermore, the following year 2007 saw two spintronics researchers become Nobel Prize laureates. All in all, these events made me go into this field of study with heart and soul.
      What first overwhelmed me upon joining the lab was Prof. Saito’s exceptional enthusiasm toward, and a profound understanding of, physics. When I raised a question to him, for instance, he instantly responded with an answer supported by the most advanced and profound knowledge, which almost made me think he had been thinking about that particular subject up to a minute before. I was truly impressed by Prof. Saito’s attitude. Indeed, he always remained in the vanguard of research and spoke with his own words; his understanding was deep and thorough, not superficial at all.
      Members of our lab included: my seniors who followed Dr. Saito and transferred to our lab, such as Mr. Kazuya Harii (now researcher, Japan Atomic Energy Agency) and Mr. Hiroyuki Inoue (now researcher, Princeton University); and my junior, Mr. Kenichi Uchida (now associate professor, Tohoku University) who claimed “My hobby is experiments!” All of these members were so bright that I was greatly stimulated by them.
      But our lab was only newborn and virtually devoid of equipment for experiments. So we had to borrow it from another facility and conduct experiments on Saturdays and Sundays only. While this adverse condition forced us to study, hold seminars and discussions indoors during weekdays, it had a favorable side as well because it helped us look for new ideas for research and deepen our thinking.

Didn’t you take up any pursuits, such as circle activities, other than research work?
      I joined a tennis circle as a Keio freshman, but quit it very soon. Before joining the lab, I worked part-time as a cram school teacher and a private tutor, but gave them up when joining the lab because I wanted to concentrate on lab studies. Of course, I sometimes took a breather by going out for drinking with former members of our undergraduate experiment group and with fellow members of our lab.

And yet, you devoted almost all of your student life to research, didn’t you?
      I may have been a lucky guy. As a newly established one, our lab allowed me to pursue research almost as I wanted. I could also see one achievement after another in the new field of research. So my research life was both truly exciting and rewarding. Once a year or so, I came across unexpected data. It was misty at the beginning, but the moment I was able to understand what the data meant, the mist suddenly disappeared and nearly made me jump for joy! It really was an excitement. Each time I found a new phenomenon, I was enveloped with a special sensation that I was the only person in the world who knew about it. Such is a privileged and rewarding moment only researchers can enjoy, I’m sure.
      In the second year of my master’s course, I built a hypothesis, conducted experiments, made a theoretical model and worked out a thesis – all on my own. By doing so, I could appreciate a sense of great achievement. I don’t remember exactly when, but I once asked Prof. Saito, “What theme should I take up next?” He responded by saying, “Whatever may come, you’ll be able to handle it all right.” It seems to me that all these events combined to gradually build up confidence in my future as a researcher. Speaking about my parents, they once told me jokingly, “Do you still want to continue studying?” But they didn’t object to my course of life partly because I was receiving a scholarship.
      After all, I wrote well over ten papers (including several joint papers) between the senior and doctoral course years and completed my master’s and doctoral courses combined in a short three years.