JSPS Quarterly
No.26 2008 Winter Topics
Siries Message

Message from Former JSPS Fellow (12)

JSPS Postdoctoral Fellowship: As the Launch Pad of My Research Career

Dr. Sisira Kumara Edirippulige
Dr. Sisira Kumara Edirippulige
Coordinator, e-Healthcare Programs, Centre for Online Health, the University of Queensland, Australia
JSPS Postdoctoral Fellow, 2000-2002

In mid-2000, I was busy making final preparations to submit my PhD thesis at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. One day I rushed into the staff tearoom in Department of Political Studies to meet my PhD supervisor Prof. Rouben Azizian. There, he introduced me to a Japanese professor who was visiting the Department. He was Prof. Yujiro Iwamoto from Kobe Gakuin University, an expert in New Zealand and Australian politics. Prof. Iwamoto would subsequently become my host and advisor under a JSPS postdoctoral fellowship.

Visiting Japan had been my childhood dream. Later, novelists like Yasunari Kawabata, Kenzaburo Oe, Yukio Mishima and Haruki Murakami became some of my favourite authors. Therefore, receiving a JSPS postdoctoral fellowship not only helped to launch my academic career, but was also literally a dream come true.

At Kobe Gakuin University, I continued my research in the area of peace and conflict studies, with particular focus on a comparison between Japan and New Zealand's nuclear policies. The topic fascinated me because the two nations have long been ardent peace advocates at the forefront of the nuclear disarmament process, while, at the same time, possessing distinctly different nuclear policies.

I benefited immensely from my association with Prof. Iwamoto, who was always very generous in sparing time to discuss issues and to share with me his experiences and expertise. During my time at Kobe Gakuin, I learnt how to undertake research challenges and to communicate my research findings; in other words, how to use research theories and methodologies and put them into practice. I was offered ample opportunities to meet experts in areas of Japanese nuclear policy, constitutional law, policymaking, and peace and conflict studies. My colleagues at Kobe Gakuin also imbued me with a wealth of knowledge and experience.

The JSPS fellowship allowed me to travel around Japan while carrying out my research. My visit to Hiroshima during the Peace Memorial Ceremony (held on 6 August) to attend a conference on nuclear disarmament was most memorable. The conference offered me an opportunity to meet researchers and practitioners from around the world and discuss issues with them. I was also able to visit the Peace Memorial Park and Museum, which was an indescribable experience. The very fact that the Japanese people have chosen the words "peace memorial" as opposed to "war memorial" (as in other places in the world) evoked within me a deep sense of respect and veneration for them.

After completing my JSPS fellowship, I came back to Australia and accepted a teaching position at the Centre for Online Health, University of Queensland. My primary responsibilities are teaching and coordinating graduate and postgraduate e-Health programs.

I maintain close contact with my JSPS host and colleagues at Kobe Gakuin University and a number of other Japanese institutions. Since my departure, I have visited Kobe Gakuin on several occasions. In 2005, I was invited as a guest speaker at a conference organised by Niigata University of Health and Welfare. Again in 2006, I attended a conference on "Technology-Enabled Global Knowledge Structuring" organised by the Association of Pacific Rim Universities (APRU) and held at the University of Tokyo. On a number of occasions, my colleagues from Japan have visited the University of Queensland and other institutions in Australia and New Zealand. For me, it has been a privilege to host them and facilitate their research and collaborations.

In addition to research, during my stay in Japan I put some effort into learning the Japanese language. Today, I find my knowledge of Japanese to be an invaluable communication asset. Influenced by some of my Japanese friends, I also adopted marathon running and mountain climbing, which have become part of my life back in Australia.

In sum, I feel extremely fortunate to have been awarded the JSPS fellowship because of the chance it gave me to advance my research, make colleagues and friends, experience the way the Japanese appreciate and celebrate everything good in human nature and the natural environment, and last but not least, enjoy the exquisite Japanese cuisine.

Dr. Edirippulige with his former host Prof. Iwamoto
Dr. Edirippulige with his former host Prof. Iwamoto

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JSPS Quarterly No.26 2008