6th HOPE Meeting Overview
Date: 11-15 March 2014
Place: Grand Prince Hotel New Takanawa (Tokyo, Japan)
Subject Fields: Physics, Chemistry, Physiology/Medicine and Related Fields
Organizer: Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS)
Lecturers and Participants
The sixth HOPE Meeting, chaired by Prof. Makoto Kobayashi, was held in Tokyo with a focus on physics, chemistry, physiology/medicine and related fields. It was attended by 106 doctoral students and postdoctoral researchers from 19 Asia-Pacific and African countries and regions, including, for the first time, participants from Kenya. Six Nobel laureates, among them were Profs. Ei-ichi Negishi and Brian P. Schmidt, and two distinguished researchers were invited to serve as lecturers. All the lectures were broadcasted live over Ustream.
Group Discussions and Poster Presentations
In group discussions, the participants conversed face-to-face with the eminent lecturers about their research activities, future career paths, among other topics of interest to them. Each discussion session was attended by a small group of not more than 20 young researchers. Their discussions were very spirited, often overflowing the scheduled time for the sessions into the coffee breaks and meal times.
Two opportunities were provided for the participants to give a talk about their own research: a one-minute “flash talk” and a poster presentation. This sharing of information on each other’s research initiatives spawned energetic discussions among the participants. This was the first time for a HOPE Meeting to have a theme that covered three disciplines, creating a wide dispersion of specializations among the participants. Many of them created ingenious ways to make their talks easy to understand for peers in other fields.
Research Facility Visit
On the third day, the participants made an observation visit to the National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS). After receiving a briefing on NIMS and MANA (International Center for Materials Nanoarchitectonics), established as a research hub under the World Premier International Research Center Initiative, the participants divided into five small groups to tour the two laboratories. From NIMS the participants bused to KEK (High Energy Accelerator Research Organization), where they observed three research facilities: its Photon Factory (synchrotron), Belle particle detector, and Linac linear accelerator. At all of the facilities they visited, the participants asked volleys of questions and engaged the researchers in discussions that jumped beyond the scope of their individual fields.
Activities of the Participants
On the last day, teams comprising multinational members delivered presentations on themes of their own choosing. They took many interesting shapes and forms, including videos and stage performances. The teams judged most outstanding were given the Best Presentation Award and Unique Presentation Award.
Following advice given by a past HOPE Meeting participant at a pre-meeting orientation held on 10 March, many of the participants started working on their team presentations from day one. This interaction gave the team members an early chance to get to know each other and form bonds that transcended research fields and nationalities.
At the closing ceremony, five participants were given the “Best Poster Award” by Prof. Kobayashi, the Meeting’s chair. Among them, Dr. Sean Stewart Hodgman from Australia was given the highest “HOPE Award” for his poster presentation.
Over this entire 5-day event, the participants hailing from different countries ate and lodged together. While forming ties as friends and colleagues of the same generation, they gained knowledge and inspiration from the lectures by and discussions with their top world-class seniors. In addition, they enjoyed a harp trio recital and refined their perspectives of Japanese culture by taking in a musical performance played with traditional Japanese instruments and trying their hand at shodo calligraphy, ikebana flower arranging, etc.
A HOPE Dialogue was held on 13 March to carry out an English dialogue between HOPE Meeting lecturers and Japanese high school students. It was led by Prof. Martin Chalfie and Dr. Richard J. Roberts, both of whom were lecturers in the main HOPE Meeting, and attended by 43 students from the Junior and Senior High School of Komaba (University of Tsukuba), Saitama Prefectural Urawa Daiichi Girls’ High School, Yokohama City Municipal Yokohama Science Frontier High School, and Ichikawa Gakuen Senior High School.
The students were divided into two groups to engage in discussions with each lecturer. They asked them questions regarding their research activities, their high school experiences, and how their lives have changed since winning the Nobel Prize. The lecturers offered warm and earnest responses to each question. In this animated process, the 70-minute discussion sessions felt as if they flew by in just a few minutes. Afterwards, some students commented on how listening to the lectures was a “valuable” and “interesting” experience for them, saying also that they enjoyed getting a feel for the lecturers’ personalities.
HOPE Meeting Jr.
A HOPE Meeting Jr. was held at the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation (Miraikan) on 15 March for elementary and junior-high school students to learn about the fun of science. Led by Profs. Hideki Shirakawa and Makoto Kobayashi and attended by 19 elementary and junior-high school students recruited from the public, this year’s meeting had a 3-part program. First, an experiment was conducted under the guidance of Prof. Shirakawa: The students made secondary batteries from conductive plastic film and charged and discharged them. Second, a taking session was held with Prof. Kobayashi and a science communicator on the theme “A journey in search of the origin of the universe.” Third, a dialogue session was held between the participants and Profs. Shirakawa and Kobayashi. The students asked many questions, some about how elementary particles are named or why electrons orbit the nucleus of atoms. The two professors responded seriously in simple language, kindling a strong interest in the young students to delve deeper into the world of science. Two young scientists, participants of the HOPE Meeting, attended HOPE Meeting Jr. for the first time, and they made a link between these two events.