Monday 27 January 2014

New Year Message from the President (Early Spring 2014)

The Annual Meeting is Your Meeting!

Here's wishing you a belated happy New Year! I hope that 2014 will be a wonderful, fulfilling year for all of you.
Last December was a hectic month for me, as I am sure it was for all our members as well. It is fitting that the old Japanese word for December is shiwasu, which literally means “teacher runs,” and is said to derive from the fact that the last month of the year is a time when Buddhist priests have to busily go from place to place to chant sutras.
Of course, for the MBSJ, December is the month when we busily gather together for our annual meeting, the most recent being last year's 36th session. Thanks to the 120% effort that Prof. Shigeru Kondo delivered up to the last minute as the meeting's president, we successfully hosted an exciting gathering that drew as many as 7,836 participants, even though the event was not co-hosted with any meetings of other societies.
One of the more striking features of the scientific program was how the symposia were personally presented by their organizers, who were selected by the Program Committee and its head, Prof. Takashi Kadowaki. And, the two luncheon seminars put on by Prof. Mikiko Shiomi and her Career Path Committee were a big success, I hear—I unfortunately have to say “I hear” because I was participating in other sessions at the time as below.
The program also included Administrative Board Forums focused on scientific misconduct, which were held in six 90-minute slots, one each morning and afternoon, but lasted ten hours in total since they ran a little longer than scheduled. Since these forum meetings were held at the same time as other science-related sessions, each was attended by a few dozen participants, but all together some 200 people joined. The hard work and dedication of MBSJ Vice President and Chair of the Research Ethics Committee Yuji Kohara, fellow Vice President Keiichi Nakayama, Annual Meeting Working Committee member Akira Shinohara, and other leaders make it possible for us to hold lively discussion among not only scientists, but also representatives of research grant organizations and the media, as well as an editor for Nature. Summaries of every session are already posted on the MBSJ website, and we plan to release a full transcript in the near future. Guided by the content of these forum discussions and the input given by our members in the online survey we conducted last June, I will lead our efforts to examine the awareness-raising and educational activities that our society should implement with regard to research ethics, including consideration of whether we need to establish an organ similar to the Office of Research Integrity.
While on the topic of research ethics, I would like to mention that the University of Tokyo publicly released on December 26 an interim report on their investigation of the recent case of suspected scientific misconduct, and also sent me a letter regarding this report. Both the report and the letter were posted on our website on the following day, and, as I indicated in my comments online, the MBSJ believes that it is vital for the life sciences community to rigorously deal with the issue of misconduct in research so that we can ensure a sound future for scientific exploration. As scientists, we need to keep in mind that public funding accounts for a very large proportion of our research budgets, and hence we must strive to avoid making any missteps that would betray the trust placed in us by society. Otherwise, it would become very difficult for us to pursue basic research of our own volition.
Last December's annual meeting also examined the scientific community's relationship with society in a panel discussion on scientific policy that included as guests former Vice Minister of MEXT Kan Suzuki and Council for Science and Technology Policy member Yuko Harayama. This session was broadcast on Ustream and received various comments over Twitter. I personally had the opportunity to step up to the podium for another part of the annual meeting, an open lecture titled “Exploring the World of Life.” This lecture was designed as a TED-style presentation and I was tasked with communicating in just twelve minutes the joy of research that drives scientists. I approached this mission with a tension unlike what I would normally feel, so I rehearsed the presentation at the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation in September, and then did a final run-through on the morning of the lecture. We will upload a video of the talk on YouTube with the goal of reaching out to an audience even greater that the more than 700 people who attended.
The annual meeting wasn't all business, however—we also had many fun features as well, such as an art program that encompassed an exhibit of Genes to Cells covers, a science image contest, a jazz session, and more, plus we invited postdocs from overseas to actively join us. And, I am pleased to say that many people attended the bulk of the conference, all the way up to the “2050 Symposium” that capped off the afternoon of the last day. Another nice thing was the festive air reminiscent of a school pageant that enveloped the various award ceremonies and other events. We are now running a survey about the 36th annual meeting on our website, so please be sure to share your opinions—both the things that dissatisfied you or needed improvement, and the things that you liked and want to keep in future meetings. Your feedback will help us to plan the next meeting (to be presided over by Prof. Shigeo Koyasu), so let us know your thoughts, even if you did not attend last December. After all, the annual meeting is YOUR meeting, so let's work together to make the next gathering another success.
January 2014
Noriko Osumi
18th President of the MBSJ
Professor, Division of Developmental Neuroscience, Tohoku University Graduate School of Medicine

Wednesday 13 November 2013

Interviewed for SfN Career Development Show Case

During attending 43th annual meeting of Society for Neuroscience, the biggest society in the field of neuroscience, I had a chance to be interviewed as one example of career development and as a mentor.
It was a unique experience for me.

Below is the messages I thought to talk (not actual one).
I got questions just before the interview.

The staff also sent me an e-mail message with some tips to be interviewed, including dress code.
Unfortunately, I do not have a good ones...

Interview contents:
Joys of Science
·       How did you first decide to become a neuroscientist?
When I was a high school student, I liked psychology and linguistics, but I entered a dental school because I would like to help others. Then, I became a graduate student because I found I prefer research that has more speed, change, and freedom. I first worked on craniofacial development, but because I bumped into a mutant rat that has no eyes and no nose, I have interest in that mutated gene, Pax6. Since Pax6 is also important in brain development and neurogenesis, I have entered neuroscience. Now I am working on animal model of autism, which is the topic very close to my original dream.
·       What is an example of a great day that you have had in the lab? What made this experience impactful?
I love beauty of the nature. When I come across with visually high impact data, I feel very happy to see them.
·       What drives you to continue in the field?
Passion for science. I love something with speed, change, and freedom, which can be the most likely obtained in science fields.
·       What are the rewards of a career in neuroscience?
To see the development of science. You know, neuroscience is the cutting-edge field, and lots of new findings come out every month, every week, even in every day around the world. It is really a fun for me.
·       What are challenges that you have faced during your career and how did you overcome them?
I could not have a chance to study abroad. Instead, I have tried to attend international meetings and almost always I give seminars in nearby cities or countries so that I can make friends and networks.
·       What advice would you give to young investigators to encourage them to stay in the pipeline?
Make good friends and obtain nice mentors. Do not compare with others. Everyone is unique.
·       What types of advice are needed at different stages in a neuroscience career?
I would like to say, chose your career in 2-dimensionally. One axis is you like it or don’t like it, and the other is you are good at it or bad at it. You can be successful if you can choose your career that you like and that you are good at it. Of course, you should not choose one you dislike and you are bad at. Then which you should choose something you like a lot but you are not good at it, or that you do not like so much but you are good at it. I would advise you should choose the latter. It is a good way to continue your career to choose something you are good at it rather than you just like it.
·       Do you have any tips on the best way to approach an unknown neuroscientist for career advice?
·       What are steps that are useful to take in preparation for a conversation on career advice?
·       What is your most rewarding experience as a mentor?
To see mentees grow. Actually, students, postdocs, young faculties make good progress.
·       How can mentors best manage relationships with mentees and mentoring relationship requests while managing other responsibilities?
I am not sure. 
·       How can a mentor best advise a mentee that will be pursuing a career away from the bench and the mentor’s area of expertise?
I am not sure. In that case, he or she should consult other suitable mentors in that area.
·       When has a mentor helped you make better career choices?
·       What is your most rewarding experience as a mentee?

Additional Questions if Time Permits
·       Can you think of any moments early in your career that helped you know that neuroscience was your passion?
·       What has your experience been in the field (training, attending conferences, etc.)?

·       Are there any changes in advice given with today’s budgetary limitations?
·       What should a good mentor strive for in their mentoring relationships?
·       How have you identified mentors throughout your career?
Watch out around me. It’s just like observation in science. You can find suitable mentors in your institute, or in the same scientific field if you look around.



The interview questions will be provided prior to filming. Below are some tips for speaking in front of a camera. 

·       Practice your delivery. Allow time to present the information at an easy and unrushed pace.

·       Speak naturally and enunciate. If you’re someone that talks with your hands, practice keeping them still. Hand movements distract the viewer. Also, keep head movements to a minimum.

·       Speak directly to the interviewer as if you are talking to a single audience member 1:1. Avoid looking at the camera.

·       Microphones are worn 6 inches below the chin for best sound. Avoid touching the microphone. Make sure it is placed somewhere that does not rub against your clothing.

·       Be yourself.  Once you begin speaking you’ll find that the information will flow smoothly. To maintain positive energy in your voice, smile while you are speaking. If you are sitting or standing during the interview, keep your shoulders back for good posture. Stay relaxed and stationary.

·       Dress appropriately. Wear pastel or light colors.  Avoid white, red and black. Avoid striped and patterned clothing as it does not transmit well on camera because it is visually distracting. 

·       Arrive a few minutes early to the interview to get oriented.

Thank you

Sunday 27 October 2013

Seasonal messages as President of the Molecular Biology Society of Japan

Since January of this year (2013), I have become President of the Molecular Biology Society of Japan.
It was one of the biggest society in the life science field, with 150,000 members.
I have started to send seasonal messages to the members to share our ideas and informations.

President's Message (Fall 2013)

portrait of Prof. Noriko Osumi
To the Members of the MBSJ

Thoughts on Tokyo's Selection as the Venue for the 2020 Olympics: Cultivating Science Talent Is a Key to Japan's Growth as a Nation

President's Message (Summer 2013)

portrait of Prof. Noriko Osumi
To the Members of the MBSJ

Celebrating the Birth of Japan’s First Female Scientists a Century Ago

President's Message (Spring 2013)

portrait of Prof. Noriko Osumi

Conveying and Discovering the Fascination of Science

Wednesday 17 July 2013

I was interviewed by Nature on "Japanese version of NIH" the other day. My comments were cited in News of July 11th issue.
I found the web page used one more picture that is not included in the hard copy, which makes the article more catchy.

Outcry over plans for ‘Japanese NIH’

Researchers fear reforms will bring cuts to basic science.
  • Ichiko Fuyuno

Wednesday 26 June 2013

Classical yet innovative

Spirit of Japanese culture is sometimes difficult to explain for Western people. We often prefer "asymmetry" rather than "symmetry" that is more naturally understood beauty.
This mind is related to the fact we appreciate "imperfection", like "IZAYOI" moon rather than the full moon.
Or, it is reflected on tea bowls patched with gold, which adds more "scenery" than they are perfectly made.

And this favor for "imperfection" seems to relate with "transition of time".
For example, Japanese drawings tell stories from the right side to the left side.
They do not reflect just some "scenes" of a certain moment.
This may be come from we have distinct seasons that change one to another.
So, we love something transitory.

Asymmetry is seen in various ways, like distribution of stones in rock gardens, shelves of SUKIYA-style old houses, and even in the gate of shrines (TORII).
Did you know that right and left pillars of the gate is not the same diameter?
Behind the gate is the shrine, and so, if you come and face the gate from outside, your left hand-side (geometrically, the west-side) pillar is wider than the right hand-side (the east-side).
I have heard from this fact from my friend who once was working on left-right asymmetry of the fish, such as sword fish.

I attended Neuro2013 last week, and visited FUSHIMI-INARI located southeast to Kyoto Station, just before coming back to Sendai.
It is really amazing that hundreds of gates, i.e., TORIIs, are lined up in a row.
Each TORII, the gate, is the donation from people who wish something like happiness or health or treasure.
There is a notice showing who donated each gate, and it seems the gate is regularly turns over, replacing a rotted one by a newly donated one.

It is like a passage to a world of different dimension.....
And I suddenly realized this is really modern and innovative even though each gate itself is just a classic old style.

Sunday 23 June 2013

Neuro2013 Satellite Symposium on Brain Development and Evolution in Kyoto

Attended Neuro2013, this year a joint meeting of Japanese Neuroscience Society, Japanese Neurochemistry Society, and Japanese Neural Network Society, was held in Kyoto, and we, Dr. Tadashi Nomura and me, organized a satellite symposium on brain development and evolution at the library hall in Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine.

There were 99 participants including 10 speakers from the US, Germany, France, and Japan, plus one Keynote Lecturer, Prof. Wieland Huttner@Max Planck Institute in Dresden. Thanks to volunteers to set up the venue or serve other things and Tadashi's powerful yet friendly organization and hospitality, the meeting was quite successful with beautiful presentation and lots of hot discussion.

In my opinion, it is a good timing to hold such a small meeting on brain development and evolution. Actually, in the succeeded two days in Neuro2013, there were another two symposia on similar topics with variety of different approaches. One was organized by Tadashi and Dr. Yoko Arai, my previous student who are now in Alessandra Pierrani's lab in Paris. Yoko shared her days with Tadashi, who was an assistant professor in my lab, learning embryonic manipulation techniques to do developmental neurobiology, and now expanded her research field to vertebrate brain evolution toward human being. The other one was held by Prof. Kazunori Nakajima in Keio University and Dr. Carina Hanashima in RIKEN CDB. There were larger amount of audience than we expected in both of the symposia. This means, various intriguing questions in brain evolution can now be solved with cutting-edge cool tools.

So, Brain EvoDevo is quite HOT in the field of neuroscience!

Facebook for the meeting

Thursday 13 June 2013

Yesterday, Mr. Stefan Noreen, previous Ambassador of Sweden and now Senior Advisor in Office of the President of The University of Tokyo, visited Tohoku University.
This is based on the purpose of our university to become officially linked to Karolinska Institute and other research institues in Sweden.
I had an opportunity to have lunch with Mr. Noreen with our Vice President Prof. Sadayoshi Ito and Prof. Ryuta Kawashima, a brain scientist who is famous for "Brain Training" DS program.

I introduced that our Tohoku University has long history in brain science, and also did mention about the 100th anniversary of acceptance of women students in our university in 1913.
We also talked about globalization in universities, which must be the key to change Japanese educational systems.
Our Tohoku University has a policy of "opening the door", originally to undergraduate candidates who did not graduated "high schools" in those days.
Now the door should be more widely open abroad to accept a larger amount of students from foreign countries.