JSPS awards for eminent scientists

Report on the JSPS Invitation Award for Eminent Scientist

JSPS Award Recipient
Professor Gilbert Stork
Department of Chemistry
Columbia University, U.S.A.

Host Researcher
Professor Keisuke Suzuki
Department of Chemistry
Tokyo Institute of Technology

Period of the Stay
September 29, 2005 to November 9, 2005 (41 days)


The host institution, Tokyo Institute of Technology, provided accommodation in “The 80th Year Memorial Building for Foreigners”, owned by the host University, to the invitee (Professor Stork) and his family. The apartment is one floor setting with two balconies, two bedrooms, a spacious living room/dining room, well equipped kitchen and a western style bathroom. In addition, the apartment is completely furnished, including a large desk for study, a 45 inch HD TV-DVD/CD system, and various cooking equipment, dishes and utensils. Access to internet and telephone, which could be used even for international calls and e-mails, made Professor Stork’s life in Tokyo easy from the very first day of his stay. Professor Stork was able to communicate with friends and family members via internet and telephone. The building of this apartment is located on the quiet part of the campus, surrounded by trees. Around the campus within 10 min walk from the apartment, there are many small stores and supermarkets convenient for shopping for daily needs. We provided an office for Professor Stork in the main building of the Institute. That office, the lecture room and the living quarters were all within a 10 minute walk, and this arrangement made Professor Stork’s busy schedule rather smooth and efficient. As Professor Stork mentioned to us, his stay in Japan was very comfortable.

The office which we provided to Professor Stork, was located on the first floor of the main building of the Ookayama campus of Tokyo Institute of Technology. The office was equipped with a large desk and chairs, as well as a white-board and a telephone access. As described in the report regarding the summary of Professor Stork’s stay, discussions were held every day between Professor Stork and faculty members or students (3-4 people per day). Professor Stork listened very patiently to the chemistry presented in English by our staff members, and often carefully discussed key problems/points, and commented on various aspects he found of particular interest in these problems. Quite often, he drew the structures related to the questions, thus helping young chemists understand better.

We provided the wide rectangular lecture room in the main building of the Ookayama campus. In this lecture room we put 4 large blackboards in the front, so Professor Stork could use them for his chalk-talk lectures. With 7 lectures, Professor Stork outlined seven important methodologies related to chemical reactions discovered by his group, and illustrated them by their applications to the synthesis of complex natural products. In each lecture, Professor Stork drew various key structures in order to emphasize what is a key and what is important. Because his lectures were given as if they were individual discussions, it was easier to follow the chemistry better than if they had been a series of formal slide presentations. Not only graduate students, but also faculty members, could easily follow the meaning of various methodologies he discovered, and the purpose and the background of the application of these methodologies to his syntheses. This is a quite unique experiences for us, because it is obvious that we could not have obtained as deep a feeling for the chemistry involved in his syntheses with just a single formal lecture.

We held a Stork Symposium at the Ookayama campus during his stay (October15, 2005). We selected 5 speakers from Tokyo Institute of Technology (one associate professor and 4 assistant professors), and invited 4 outside young speakers from Univ. Tokyo, Tokyo University of Pharmacy and Life Science, Tokyo Science Univ., and Riken Institute. Over 120 people, including 30 people outside of Tokyo Institute of Technology, attended this symposium. The speakers outlined recent discoveries in their research, and all presentations were given in English. There was very active discussion and comments between Professor Stork and all speakers. We felt that the symposium was a great success.

Professor Stork visited Professor Masuo Aizawa, President of Tokyo Institute of Technology, in his office at the Ookayama campus. A main purpose of this visit was for Professor Stork to show his appreciation for the hospitality of the host institute. Talk between Professor Stork and President Aizawa was especially smooth because of President Aizawa’s fine command of English.

As one of the outside activities, Professor Stork attended the 47th Natural Products Symposium, which was held at Tokushima City from October 7-10. He presented a lecture, entitled "Polyene Cyclization Looking back after 50 years". This lecture was based on Stork’s early discovery, now called the Stork-Eschenmoser hypothesis, on cationic polyene cyclizations and the experiments done by various researchers to test this hypothesis. The talk gave a great message to the audience of 1000 people at the symposium with regard to how this aspect of the history of chemistry has evolved over the past 50 years.
Professor Stork visited University of Tokyo on invitation from Professor Eiichi Nakamura, and gave a lecture regarding the history of his discoveries on the chemistry of enamines. He spent the remainder of the day in discussions with various professors at University of Tokyo. Professor Stork also visited the research laboratory where Professor Mukaiyama has his group, to give his lecture (“Total Synthesis of Reserpine”). All in all, Professor Stork’s visit to Japan was a great opportunity for many chemists, not only at Tokyo Institute of Technology but also at other institutes in Japan, to exchange personal contacts with him.

Contribution of the recipient to the host institute
(Encouragement to the young researchers and international influences to the host institute)

  • Lecture at Tokyo Institute of Technology (7 times)
  • Discussion with graduate student of Tokyo Institute of Technology
  • Discussion with young faculty member of Tokyo Institute of Technology as well as the outside research institutes
  • The Stork Symposium

The schedules described above were our plans when we decided to invite Professor Stork at Tokyo Institute of Technology. A main purpose of our plans was based on the fact that, considering Professor Stork’s accomplishment in organic and synthetic chemistry, it would be a great benefit for young researchers at Tokyo Institute of Technology and other institutes in Japan to learn his experiences in chemistry directly through his lectures and personal discussions. This direct contact with professor Stork, we believed, is much more effective than learning through his papers.

Professor Stork gave 7 lectures at Tokyo Institute of Technology. His lectures were presented in English, and this gave a good opportunity for students to practice the use of English in science. He described his numerous discoveries of reaction methodologies and how he applied these methodologies in the synthesis of complex natural products. He also included the meaning of his synthesis in the history of the synthesis of the particular natural products. It gave us a great opportunity to see how the history of organic synthesis contributed to the development of the stereospecific construction of complex molecules. It was an experience that we could not obtain from textbooks. It was a great stimulation for us to know the fundamental questions in synthetic organic chemistry, and it gave us, particularly to our young students, great encouragement to do research in these fields. In addition to his lectures, Professor Stork spent time every day in discussions with students and young faculty members. The discussion lasted about one hour per person, during which a researcher presented his or her research project to Professor Stork, and discussion regarding the project followed. We received various useful comments from Professor Stork. Of course, discussions were done in English, so it was a great opportunity for the young students and some faculty members at Tokyo Institute of Technology, who do not have experience in international events, to access scientific English. Professor Stork was consistently patient in our discussions, and this gave us great encouragement.

The discussion between professor Stork and our young faculty members (associate and assistant professors) consistently lasted about one hour, and he expressed high praise for our research accomplishments. The young faculty members also received great stimulation by experiencing the enthusiasm of Professor Stork for his own researches.

We organized the Stork Symposium to be an important chemistry meeting, not only for the people of Tokyo Institute of Technology but also for the people of other institutes in Tokyo area. All presentations were given in English. It was not only a great opportunity for young speakers to give their presentations regarding their chemistry in front of Professor Stork, but it was also considerable benefit for them to receive comments on future strategies from Professor Stork. There were very active discussions following every presentation, and we felt that the Symposium was a great success.

As described above, it was particularly beneficial for many young faculty members and graduate student at Tokyo Institute of Technology to be able to learn multi-dimensional aspect of organic and synthetic chemistry, including their historical meaning through direct discussions and lectures with Professor Stork. In that sense, it is not overstated to say that we were exposed to education at its highest level on world class research.

We would like to express our sincere appreciation to JSPS (Japanese Society for the Promotion of Sciences) for their kind sponsorship of Professor Stork’s visit to Japan which provided us with the opportunity for a very successful international exchange.