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.

Saturday 1 June 2013

Tohoku University Science Angels 2013

This year 63 female graduate students have been appointed under the name of President as Science Angels in Tohoku University.
They are messengers, like Angels bring words of God to people, to introduce joy and fun of science to the public, especially of younger generations.
They thus serve as role models for high school girls to get into science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.
For example, Science Angels give seminars in high schools and advice on career paths in STEM fields.
They also volunteer in local scientific events for children by demonstrating experiments like extracting DNA from banana or showing the cloud chamber.
This unique system of Science Angels has started 8 years ago, as a part of the gender equality project to promote and encourage women scientists because women researchers are minority especially in the STEM fields.
There are already 160 ex-Science Angels who are now active in various field in Japan and other countries as postdocs, junior faculties, workers in private companies, etc.

Also this year our university will celebrate 100th anniversary of the first women students in Japan.
In 1913, three students, i.e., Chika Kuroda, Ume Tange, and Raku Makita, entered Faculty of Science.
Chika and Ume majored chemistry, and Raku studies mathematics.
It is very interesting that the first university students in Japan were all in STEM fields.

Today, I met Prof. Kotaro Kuroda, who is a son of the step child of Chika Kuroda.
He graduated Faculty of Engineering in Kyushu University.
It is amazing to know that I have connected with Chika Kuroda in the real world.

Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science, Tohoku University
Origins of Female University Students