JSPS awards for eminent scientists
 

Report on the invitation program for distinguish researchers 2008


  1. Host Researcher

    Name: SHIMURA Yoshiro
    National Institutes of Natural Sciences, President


  2. Invited eminent scientist (name, title and affiliation, nationality)

    Joan A. Steitz
    Yale University ,Department of Biophysics and Biochemistry, Professor
    United States of America


  3. Duration of the stay

    From Monday, October 20, 2008 to Sunday, October 26, 2008 (7 days)



  4. Schedule during the stay (date, research activities, name of the places to visit, and description of the visits )

    Date Location and Activity
    October 20, 2008 Arrival in Japan
    October 21, 2008 Morning Dialogue and tour at the Institute of Medical Science, The University of Tokyo (morning)
      Afternoon Visit to NINS Head Office and media institution interview (NHK)
      Evening Attendance at the Welcoming Reception held at the Hotel Okura, Tokyo organized by NINS
    October 22, 2008 Morning Dialogue and tour at Dr. Sakano's Laboratory, The University of Tokyo
      Afternoon Meeting with the President of The Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Guest Lecturer, NINS International Forum on Molecular Biology in Tokyo, Yasuda Auditorium, The University of Tokyo, Tokyo
    October 23, 2008 Morning Travel to Okazaki, Aichi
      Afternoon Dialogues and tours at the NIBB (National Institute for Basic Biology, the NIPS (National Institute for Physiological Sciences), and the IMS (Institute for Molecular Science)
    October 24, 2008 Morning Informal discussion session with graduate students from the institutes in Okazaki
      Afternoon Dialogues and tours at the NIBB (National Institute for Basic Biology, the NIPS (National Institute for Physiological Sciences), and the IMS (Institute for Molecular Science)
    October 24, 2008 Morning Informal discussion session with graduate students from the institutes in Okazaki
      Afternoon Guest Lecturer, NINS International Forum on Molecular Biology in Okazaki, Okazaki Conference Center, Okazaki
    October 25, 2008 Preparation to depart Japan
    October 26, 2008 Departure from Japan


  5. Description of and results from the invitation

    During their visit to Japan, Dr. James D. Watson and Dr. Joan A. Steitz delivered two public lectures at the NINS International Forum on Molecular Biology entitled "Watson and Steitz Discuss the Future of Biological Science: DNA RNA ?", held at the Yasuda Auditorium, the University of Tokyo (Tokyo, Japan) and the Okazaki Conference Center (Okazaki, Aichi). In addition, Dr. Watson and Dr. Steitz also visited laboratories and conducted exchanges with researchers within three of NINS' associated institutes, the National Institute for Basic Biological (NIBB), the National Institute for Physiological Sciences (NIPS), and the Institute for Molecular Science (IMS), as well as those at laboratories at the University of Tokyo.

    On Tuesday, October 21, Dr. Watson and Dr. Steitz visited NINS headquarters to participate in an interview by NHK. In the interview, hosted by journalist Takashi Tachibana, a member of NINS' Administrative Council, Drs. Watson and Steitz clearly described their research results to date. Their message to Japanese researchers as well as those aiming to pursue careers in research may serve to heighten interest in the natural sciences and molecular biology. The interview was later broadcast on NHK, making their discussion accessible to the general public.

    On Wednesday, October 22, Dr. Watson and Dr. Steitz participated in a forum held at the Yasuda Auditorium of the University of Tokyo. Their respective lectures, aimed at an audience of nearly 1,000 young researchers and the general public, was simultaneously interpreted. In addition to giving their lectures, they responded to a number of general questions from the audience, ranging from "What is life?" to "How can we control cancer?" to "What should we be doing as researchers?" The ensuing panel discussion, which included journalist Takashi Tachibana, Professor Hitoshi Sakano of the School of Science, University of Tokyo, and Dr. Yoshiro Shimura, the President of NINS, was held in an amiable and relaxed atmosphere, resulting in a very meaningful forum presentation.

    Prior to the forum, Dr. Watson and Dr. Steitz also visited the Institute of Medical Science, Graduate School of Science, the University of Tokyo. They participated in a tour of the research facilities, visiting the medical genetics laboratory and the neuroscience laboratory, as well as listening to researchers describe their current research topics and engaging in a discussion with them regarding their research. After the tour, they had an informal discussion with young researchers and graduate students, giving them advice based on their knowledge as researchers.

    On October 23, Dr. Watson and Dr. Steitz visited laboratories at the NIBB, the NIPS and the IMS, and exchanged views with researchers.

    On October 24, another forum was held at the Okazaki Conference Center. During this forum, Dr. Watson's and Dr. Steitz's lectures were of a more scientific nature, being aimed mainly at an audience of approximately 400 young researchers and graduate students from the NIBB, the NIPS, and the IMS.

    Prior to the Okazaki forum, 15 graduate students from the NIBB, the NIPS, and the IMS organized an informal discussion session with the two eminent scientists. Dr. Steitz responded to questions from female students concerning the difficulties of being a female researcher by noting that such researchers are often isolated because of their small numbers and suggesting that talking with other female researchers may be quite positive. Dr. Watson, enthusiastically responding to the question as to whether genes or environment were important with regard to the success of his own research, observed that quite possibly both were critical aspects. He went on further to emphasize the importance of environment in terms of obtaining a good education and coming into contact with good educators. The informal discussion time provided a significant opportunity for students to have face-to-face conversations with Dr. Watson and Dr. Steitz.

    Through these two forums and the lively visits and discussions to the research facilities that were scheduled during this visit to Japan, a great many young researchers and graduate students were provided with the opportunity to communicate with Dr. Watson and Dr. Steitz regarding their expansive knowledge of molecular biology and their deep insights concerning their individual experiences as researchers. Furthermore, their visit provided a stimulus for not only young researchers and graduate students but other researchers as well.

  6. Contributions to the Host Institute

    In the October 22 Forum held at the Yasuda Auditorium, the University of Tokyo, Dr. Watson and Dr. Steitz addressed a large audience of young researchers, undergraduate students, and graduate students, advising them that "regardless of your research topic, it must be based on your own sense of curiosity as researchers." In their presentations, they also spoke of the combination of individual experience, attitude to become researchers, and current circumstances in the molecular biology field as necessary attributes for researchers.

    To the participants, the chance to listen to the presentations made by these two world-class researchers, as well as the precious opportunity to directly meet Dr. Watson and Dr. Steitz to ask questions and engage in discussion, provided an extremely valuable experience. For NINS as well, organizing the forums focusing on DNA, RNA, and the future prospects of research topics in biological science, aimed at young researchers, undergraduate students, and graduate students who are challenging research frontiers in natural science particularly in the field of molecular biology, held a great deal of significance.

    In the forum held on October 24 at the Okazaki Conference Center, which was aimed at an audience of young researchers and graduate students from the NIBB, the NIPS, and the IMS, these young people were able to directly hear these two researchers discuss their expansive knowledge of molecular biology and their experiences to date as researchers. Being able to participate in the lively discussion, particularly for young researchers currently undertaking research at these institutes, was a highly stimulating experience. Furthermore, as a wide range of people were able to attend both forums, these events also contributed to an enhanced public awareness of NINS.

    During the informal discussion that was organized by 15 graduate students of the NIBB, the NIPS, and the IMS, graduate students had the opportunity to ask questions of Dr. Watson such as "What was the most difficult part of discovering the double helix?" and "Why did you focus on DNA?", to which Dr. Watson replied about his experiences. Students also asked Dr. Steitz questions about combining research activities with a family, to which she responded that "Universities and research institutions have the responsibility to provide adequate child-care support. The Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, headed by Dr. Watson, has wonderful child-care facilities." These answers were enthusiastically received by the students.

    In conclusion, with regard to future directions in biology, Dr. Watson demonstrated his keen interest in this area by pointing out that dramatic declines in the cost of gene analysis have allowed for greater information accumulation, which in turn has contributed to new discoveries and advances. For all students, these were extremely stimulating and wonderful opportunities to partake of a comprehensive overview of molecular biology and gain deep insights into this field.


 
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