HOPE Meetings

1st HOPE Meeting Overview

Date: February 24 - 29, 2008
Main Venue: Tsukuba International Congress Center, (Epochal Tsukuba)
Theme: Nanoscience and Nanotechnology

The first HOPE Meeting was held in February 2008 in Tsukuba, Japan. Its focus was on the field of nanoscience and nanotechnology. Over 80 doctoral students from 13 Asian-Pacific countries/areas participated in it, engaging in active cross-boarder/discipline exchanges with 13 distinguished lecturers including five Nobel laureates: Dr. Leo Esaki, Dr. Heinrich Rohrer, Dr. Hideki Shirakawa, Dr. Alan Heeger, and Dr. Robert B. Laughlin. The lecturers told about their own experiences, introduced their world-renowned research work, and described the important role played by nanoscience and nanotechnology in advancing science. On another plane, the famous painter Ikuo Hirayama delivered an impressive lecture on how exchange between Japan and the wider Asian community influenced the development of Japanese culture.

 In addition to these lectures, the participants engaged each other in discussions in multilateral, small group and poster presentation sessions. Via their participations in these activities, the students were also able to communicate with and received advice from the Nobel laureates, while interacting and networking across nationalities and disciplines with peers.

Over the three days of the first HOPE Meeting, 13 lectures were delivered by 5 Nobel laureates, scientists doing leading research in nanoscience and nanotechnology in Japan, an editor of an international science journal, and a renowned Japanese artist.

 The first day started with a keynote lecture by Dr. Leo Esaki (1973 Nobel Laureate in Physics). He spoke to the need of cultivating a deeply rooted “culture of science” within the Asia-Pacific region. Invoking his own experiences, he admonished the young participants to cultivate within themselves a sharp scientific mind steeped in rational thought so as to become the kind of scientists who can contribute significantly to advancing research within the global community.

Dr. Heinrich Rohrer (1986 Nobel Laureate in Physics) spoke about the contributions that can be made by nanotechnology in solving issues that prevail within today’s society. He was followed by Dr. Hideki Shirakawa (2000 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry), who introduced the concept of serendipity in research, drawing upon an episode that happened in his discovery of polyacetylene film and conducting polymers.
On the next day, Dr. Alan Heeger (2000 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry) described how the dream of developing low-cost plastic solar cells is becoming a reality using self-assembled nano-materials. Then, Dr. Robert B. Laughlin (1998 Nobel Laureate in Physics) had the students image a world in which carbon fuels had run out in considering the degree to which science is ready to take on the great challenge of energy supply that lies ahead.

Dr. Borje Johansson, member of the Royal Swedish Academy, spoke about the process entailed in selecting Nobel Prize winners and about the achievements of past laureates. Added to these lectures were also presentations by distinguished scientists, the editor of a science journal, and a Japanese painter, Mr. Ikuo Hirayama, who talked about the multicultural origins of Japanese culture derived via a long history of exchange with Asia across the Silk Road. Greatly inspired by these widely ranging lectures and presentations, the students asked volleys of questions after each of them.

 In the afternoon of the two days, the lecturers joined student groups to hold discussions lead by young Japanese researchers. The young participants enjoyed exchanging views with the distinguished scientists in a relaxed atmosphere. They received advice regarding their own research while delving into a wide range of topics including what’s needed to become a genuinely creative researcher, with the lecturers often drawing upon their own experiences in answering questions and offering counsel.

 By communicating directly with the lecturers, the students were able to acquire a depth of scientific perspectives and philosophies that could not be obtained through books or over the Internet. In addition, the discussions gave the young participants from throughout the region a good chance to interact with peers and mutually stimulate each other.

 In planning the HOPE Meeting, the question was asked how to achieve the most intensive exchange among participants in the short period of time allotted. The answer we came up with was to have them focus on tackling one issue. For this purpose, the first HOPE Meeting divided the participants into 10 issue-specific groups, each comprising members of various nationalities, languages and graduate-course majors. Each group was given the assignment of delivering a “group presentation” on its discussion results at a general meeting to be held on the third day. From the first day, the participants were already somewhat familiar with the members of their group, as they had introduced themselves to each other via email beforehand. They spent time together throughout the duration of the HOPE Meeting and often stayed up late at night to maximize the time available to them in winding up their discussions and preparing for their presentations.

 In the general meeting, the students stood in front of the Nobel laureates and their peers to deliver their presentations, which included their views on potentialities and challenges relative to nanotechnologies from their various group perspectives, along with comments on what they had gained from their participation in the meeting and how they intended to go about applying it in the future. In the Q&A periods following their presentations, the participants were at times bombarded with questions, occasionally finding themselves at a loss for words in trying to respond; but, that included, the experience they gained was highly valued as a precious opportunity by the young researchers.

 In preparing and delivering their group presentations, the participants ?who hailing from diverse backgrounds worked together on one issue? were able to experience achieving a mutual objective via a process of learning and respecting each other’s cultural and value differences. This experience helped to prepare the students to play active international roles as their careers unfold. They are also expected to seed the cultivation of a budding S&T community within Asia-Pacific region.

Beyond the lectures and group discussions, there were many opportunities for participants to exchange views with the lecturers in a free and relaxed atmosphere. On the first evening, a formal reception was held. Opening remarks were delivered by Mr. Kenichi Ichihara, mayor of Tsukuba city; Mr. Stefan Noreen, Ambassador, Embassy of Sweden; and Dr. Yoichi Iwasaki, president, University of Tsukuba. Then, Dr. Yoshiyuki Sankai, professor, University of Tsukuba, demonstrated his experimental robot suit HAL to a riveted audience. During lunch times, the lecturers sat at tables with the participants, who were seated in groups, and engaged in congenial conversations with them. Coffee breaks were also used by the students to ask the lecturers questions.

On the fourth morning, the participants took a tour to the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology and NEC's Tsukuba Research Laboratories to observe firsthand Japanese research facilities and operations. They observed laboratories and received briefings on the cutting edged research in nanoscience and nanotechnology being advanced at these institutions. In the course of these visits, the students showed a range interests from technical aspects related to research contents or experimental installations to institutional aspects regarding such things as laboratory management. That afternoon, the participants enjoyed free time spent browsing around an old district of Tokyo. This gave them a taste of Japanese tradition and culture and chance to deepen before going home their new friendships with one another.