JSPS Quarterly
No.33 2010 Autumn Topics

Research and Life in Japan by a JSPS Fellow (19)

Dr. Mohammad Moniruzzaman
Dr. Mohammad Moniruzzaman
Associate Professor, Department of Animal Science, Bangladesh Agricultural University (BAU)
Ph.D. (Animal Science), Kobe University, Japan, 2007
M.Sc. (Agriculture), Kobe University, Japan, 2004
M.Sc. (Animal Science), BAU, 2000
B.Sc. (Animal Husbandry), BAU, 1996

Hailing from Bangladesh, Dr. Mohammad Moniruzzaman has since October 2008 been conducting research with his host Dr. Takashi Miyano at the Laboratory of Reproductive Biology and Biotechnology, Kobe University, under the JSPS postdoctoral fellowship. After obtaining his MSc degree in Bangladesh, he was selected for a Japanese government scholarship to pursue his graduate work at Kobe University from 2001.

Dr. Moniruzzaman’s 6-year-old son was born in Japan and has what his father calls a Japanese spirit.

What are you currently researching under the JSPS fellowship?

I am investigating the mechanism regulating the activation of oocytes, immature egg cells, in primordial cow and pig follicles, small ovarian sacs.

How did you become interested in your research field?

Mammalian ovaries contain a lot of primordial follicles. A small number of these follicles are activated, i.e., they develop and take part in ovulation and fertilization, while a large number of them remain quiescent. The mechanism regulating the activation and dormancy of these follicles is not well understood. If we were to elucidate it, we could control animal production and human fertility. That challenge is what sparked my interest in this field.

How did you get to know your Japanese host researcher?

First, I found some excellent articles he published in good journals. Then, I wrote him about my interest in studying at his laboratory. I did my master’s and doctoral course work under his supervision.

Why did you choose Japan to pursue your research?

In the biological sciences, Japan offers a sophisticated environment, both in terms of technology and experimental apparatus, as well as the presence of top-notch researchers. I am very appreciative of my host professor’s effort to provide me with an optimum research environment, and am thankful to the other faculty and students for the support and kindness they always accord me. The people in the neighborhood are also very kind to me, making my stay in Kobe most enjoyable.

What is your impression of your Japanese host institution?

Kobe University has an excellent standard of higher education and advanced research. There are around a thousand overseas students currently enrolled in the university. It has a vibrant international environment, which always impresses me.

Generally speaking, what’s your impression of Japan’s research environment?

Most of the laboratories in Japan are carrying out cutting-edge research of a high global standard. Japanese universities and research institutes have an abundance of scientific knowledge, research funding, and state-of-the-art facilities.

What have been the highlights of your research under the JSPS fellowship?

I found that primordial oocytes from prepubertal pigs took a longer time to initiate growth in xenografts, tissue taken from one species and grafted into another, compared to those from neonates. I proposed that ovaries of neonatal mammals contain a mixed population of quiescent and activated primordial oocytes, while almost all primordial oocytes are quiescent in adult females. My results revealed that primordial oocytes become dormant through a FOXO3-related mechanism, whereby a non-growing oocyte pool is established within the ovary for future recruitment.

What do you do outside your research work?

I play with my 6-year-old son when I get free time.

What do you think of life in Japan―its culture and customs?

I like the Japanese lifestyle, culture and customs very much. I try to attend festivals and ceremonies here in Kobe in my free time.

By the way, you gave a lecture under JSPS’s Science Dialogue Program at Seishin Girls’ High School, didn’t you? How was that experience?

It was a great experience. I was very happy to visit that nice high school and have the opportunity to introduce my country and research to the younger generation of Japanese.

What do you plan to do after your fellowship ends?

I shall go back to my country and continue my teaching and research at Bangladesh Agricultural University as an associate professor.

Do you have any advice for young researchers who may be thinking about doing research in Japan?

The JSPS fellowship offers overseas researchers a really good research opportunity, so there’s no excuse not to take maximum advantage of it. It provides a great chance to improve your research skills while advancing your work. Moreover, I recommend going outside the university and communicating with people, and enjoying the Japanese language and culture. Learning more about Japan—its customs and concepts—can help to expand your personal perspectives and perceptions.

You are skillful in Japanese. How might other researchers go about developing their Japanese language skills?

My Japanese was zero when I first came to Japan. Before coming, I practiced greetings, such as “ohayo gozaimasu,” again and again to say to my host researcher. But when I tried to use the words in Japan, I suffered a complete memory lapse.
Taking a Japanese language course is normally not sufficient to master Japanese. So I tried to speak Japanese as much as I could in the lab. By doing so, I was able to build up my Japanese proficiency. I feel sorry when I see other foreign researchers stop using Japanese when it is not understood by their colleagues. Learning Japanese is challenging, but if you persist you can gain confidence in your ability to communicate in the language, and that will make your life in Japan much more enjoyable.

When we asked Dr. Moniruzzaman “what his career goal is,” he thought for a while then said that the biggest problem in Bangladesh is unexpected growth of population, causing electricity outages, food shortage and other difficulties. To make things worse, he said that the population is expected to keep growing rapidly. Therefore, there is an urgent need to control the birth rate to reduce these problems. He hopes his research will help contribute to solving population issues in his country. We hope his experience as a JSPS fellow will help contribute to his successfully advancing his research and achieving his important goal.

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JSPS Quarterly No.33 2010