JSPS Quarterly
No.17 2007 Summer Topics

Third Award of JSPS Prize

Third Award of JSPS PrizeOn 2 March, a ceremony was held to award the third JSPS Prize. Selected were 25 talented young researchers with excellent records of scientific inquiry and exceptional promise to be trailblazers of scientific research in Japan. The ceremony for the FY2006 Prize was held at The Japan Academy in the presence of Their Imperial Highnesses Prince and Princess Akishino.

Selection of JSPS Prize Awardees

JSPS sent out requests for Prize nominees to 3,028 Japanese research institutions and academic societies, from which it received 275 names in June. Adding the 140 carryover nominees from the prior year, 415 researchers were screened by the staff of JSPS's Research Center for Science Systems, directed by Dr. Yoji Totsuka, the former director general of KEK (High Energy Accelerator Research Organization). Based of the results, the JSPS Prize Selection Committee, chaired by Dr. Leo Esaki (president of The Science and Technology Promotion Foundation of Ibaraki and of Yokohama College of Pharmacy) and comprising 13 members, made the final decision on the 25 awardees.

Award Ceremony

The ceremony for awarding the JSPS Prize was held in conjunction with the awarding of the Japan Academy Medal. At the ceremony on 2 March, JSPS president Prof. Motoyuki Ono offered an opening message, followed by a report on the selection process from Dr. Esaki. Prof. Ono presented the 25 recipients with a certificate of merit, a medal and purse of ¥1.1 million.

A ceremony was, then, held to confer the Japan Academy Medal on five of the JSPS Prize recipients. First, Japan Academy president Dr. Saburo Nagakura delivered welcoming remarks, after which Dr. Masanori Otsuka, chairman of the Academy's selection committee, explained the vetting process. Then, Dr. Nagakura presented the medal and a commemorative gift to each of the awardees.

Prince Akishino offered remarks, followed by Mr. Akio Yuki, Vice Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, who read a congratulatory message from the minister. To conclude the meeting, a message of appreciation on behalf of the Prize recipients was delivered by Dr. Kenji Ohmori, professor, Institute for Molecular Science, National Institutes of Natural Sciences.

After the ceremony, a celebration party was held. Attended by Prince and Princess Akishino, the Prize recipients, their guests, and the ceremony attendees, an atmosphere conducive to pleasant conversation was enjoyed by all.

JSPS Prize

The JSPS Prize was established in FY 2004 with an objective of helping to raise the level of scientific research in Japan to the world's highest standard. It does this by recognizing at an early stage in their careers young researchers rich in both talent and creativity. The Prize is meant to encourage the young recipients in advancing their work.

The Prize is awarded to Japanese researchers and to overseas researchers who have conducted research at a Japanese research institution for five years or longer. They must have published papers or articles in scientific journals and other publications in Japan and/or abroad, and obtained excellent scientific research achievements. As of 1 April of the Prize year, they must be (1) under 45 years of age and (2) have obtained a doctorate degree (or possess an equivalent level of scientific research expertise).

Remarks by Dr. Leo Esaki at Award Ceremony for 3rd JSPS Prize

As chair of the JSPS Prize Selection Committee, I wish to describe the selection process of the 3rd JSPS Prize and offer some words of encouragement to the young recipients.

In April 2006, invitations to nominate candidates for this year's Prize were sent out to universities, research institutions and related academic societies. Altogether 415 were received for the 3rd JSPS Prize. Preliminary screening was conducted by the program officers of JSPS's Research Center for Science Systems over an approximately 5-month period. The results were used by the 13-member Prize Selection Committee, which was convened on 9 November to choose the 25 recipients. As there were many excellent candidates, the vetting process was at times impassioned, but ultimately the awardees were selected based on a strict and careful deliberation of their respective research achievements.

To the Prize recipients, who successfully passed this rigorous selection process, I say: "Have confidence in your superb talents. Use this Prize as a catalyst to challenge anew your capabilities and to expand the margins of your endeavors. I say this to you having myself been so admonished when I was your age."

To be successful, I believe there are three attributes that are essential for a researcher to possess: (1) An ability to get to the heart of the matter, (2) a rich imagination coupled with an ability to discern the essence of things, and (3) the kind of vision or foresight that engenders the creation of new ideas. In addition, there are "five don'ts" that I would suggest one might observe in giving full expression to his/her creative potential.

Rule number one: Don't allow yourself to be trapped by your past experiences. If you allow yourself to get caught up in social conventions or circumstances, you will not notice the opportunity for a dramatic leap forward when it presents itself.

Rule number two: Don't allow yourself to become overly attached to any authority in your field. By becoming closely involved with even a great professor, you risk losing sight of yourself and forfeiting the free spirit of youth.

Rule number three: Don't hold on to what you don't need. The information-oriented society facilitates easy access to an enormous amount of information. The brain can be compared to a personal computer; we must constantly be inputting and deleting information, so save only that which is truly vital and relevant to you.

Rule number four: Don't avoid confrontation. At times, it is necessary to put yourself first and to defend your own position.

Rule number five: Don't forget your spirit of childhood curiosity. It is a vital component of imagination.

Over ten years ago, I gave these principles to a couple of hundred graduate students attending a Lindau Meeting in Germany. Also there was Prof. Carl Nordling, a member of the Nobel Committee for Physics. He turned around and introduced them in the Swedish academic journal Physica Scripta as "Dr. Esaki's Five Golden Rules for Winning a Nobel Prize." It was as if receiving a seal of approval.

Needless to say, these five rules are meant for young researchers, such as yourselves. I look forward to each of you pursuing your work with even greater vigor and achieving milestone research results.

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JSPS Quarterly No.20 2007