Science Dialogue

2017/4/10 Science dialogue program was conducted.

The program offers JSPS Overseas Fellows the unique opportunities to volunteer to give lectures in English on their research work at Japanese high schools in the vicinity of their host institutes.

The aim of the lectures is to stimulate the young students’ interest in research and deepen their understanding from a global point of view through interacting with Fellows.

■Introduction program

Science Dialogue Lecture at Nagoya City Koyo Senior High School on 14 December 2016
Lecturer: Dr. Jamjan MEEBOON

On 14 December, Dr. Jamjan Meeboon, who is a JSPS postdoctoral fellow, gave a lecture to first-year students at Nagoya City Koyo Senior High School. It focused on the adaptive evolution of mildew in tropical and subtropical regions.

Dr. Jamjan Meeboon

Dr. Meeboon began her lecture by introducing herself and her home country of Thailand. She told the students about the Thai King, Bhumibol Adulyadej, who had just passed away after a reign of 70 years, and talked about to them about Thailand geography, Buddhism and other aspects of Thai culture. Using a variety of photographs, she then introduced them to Chiang Mai, where she grew up, and to the local people’s traditional garments, to the Kayan people who live in the Chiang Mai area, and to the elephants that are a close part of the people’s lives. Hearing these things, the students were surprised at how different Thai culture is from that of their own.

Next, Dr. Meeboon gave her reasons for choosing mildew as the subject of her research, explaining that in Thailand 40% of the people work in agriculture and related fields, and that a vital objective of the national policy is the sustaining and increasing of agricultural production. To the degree, however, that pathogens infect agricultural products, crop yield is reduced. To sustain and increase agricultural production, therefore, it is necessary to reduce the loss of crop yield caused by plant pathogens. Dr. Meeboon how she is advancing her research toward achieving that end. More concretely, she said that there are three ways of reducing the pathogenic contamination of plants: Through effective agricultural practices, by detecting and diagnosing plant pathogens, and by controlling or eradicating the pathogens. Among them, her research is focused on detecting and diagnosing plant pathogens.

She gave reasons for the importance of this area of research. First of all, if mildews are misdiagnosed, it will take more time and cost more money to control the disease. Also, when phytosanitary inspections are carried on traded agricultural products if errors are made in the list of pathogens on the exported products, they will be returned from the receiving countries. That would incur an economic loss for Thailand. Moreover, if mildew-contaminated products were overlooked in the importing process, they could increase the risk of local contamination by overseas strains of mildew, causing both agricultural damage and economic loss. Given this backdrop, Dr. Meeboon said that she is tackling the problem of mildew out of a desire to realize a stable food supply for both Thailand and a world of some 9-billion people.

Dr. Meeboon is currently carrying out her research at Mie University. The procedure she uses entails collecting powdery mildew in the field from Japan, Thailand and Indonesia, then bringing the specimens back to her lab to conduct microscopy observations and do DNA extraction and molecular analyses. As a Thai researcher, Dr. Meeboon said that she has four basic reasons for wanting to study mildews: (1) Wanting to increase agricultural production by eradicating pathogens; (2) Wanting elevate Thailand’s international competiveness in agricultural products; (3) Wanting to increase the food supply for people in Thailand and around the world; and (4) Wanting to teach the younger generation, who will shoulder the future of agriculture in Thailand, about plant pathogens and how to eradicate them. To achieve these goals and ambitions, Dr. Meeboon said that she chose to do research in Japan, as it is a leading country in the area of advanced agricultural management technology.

During the lecture

She used the time remaining after her lecture for a Q&A session with the students. First hesitant to ask questions, they soon felt more at ease and began pitching Dr. Meeboon a spirited volley of questions right up until the time ran out. Among their inquiries were questions about Dr. Meeboon’s life in Japan, the clothing worn by the Kayan people, and how to strengthen their English. Expressing interest in research, some of the students said that they appreciated the opportunity hear directly about the research being conducted by a researcher from another country. In response to a question about the Thai language, Dr. Meeboon taught the students how to pronounce Thai words, which led to everybody getting into the swing of practicing Thai pronunciation. A lively atmosphere abounded. The questions asked by the students not only showed interest in Dr. Meeboon’s research but also in her country’s lifestyle and culture, while their interaction with Dr. Meeboon gave them a chance to experience both the English and Thai languages.

Students asking questions