When the CBRC was established in 2001, I was a student at the Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (JAIST). My research theme at the time was development of algorithms for finding genes in proteins. When I had begun thinking about the best way to advance with this research, Dr. Takahashi (senior research scientist of Research Institute of Instrumentation Frontier (RIIF)), a former JAIST associate researcher who had been a team leader at the CBRC, suggested to join the CBRC and stimulate yourself by interacting with other leading-edge researchers, which I decided to try. My mentor at the time, Professor Konagaya, generously understood my reasons for wanting to do this, so I took a temporary break from school life and joined the CBRC.
From my time as a student through to becoming a post doctoral fellow, I did my research here at the CBRC. Taking the opportunity to study kernel methods during my time as a postdoctoral fellow, my research subject switched from discovery of protein genes to discovery of RNA genes, however the actual research theme of finding genes has not changed. At present, I am carrying out project-based research with two postdoctoral fellows and 16 other researchers and staff working on the same project.
In terms of unlimited choice of research theme, I believe there is not so much difference between the two. I have been able to research what I wanted to and how I wanted to in both instances. My team leader in the past, Professor Asai, told me to "do things the way you see fit". The philosophy of "doing what you want to do" is common throughout the Center.
On the other hand, in terms of a working environment, things are very different. JAIST is located in the natural surrounds of Nomi City, Ishikawa Prefecture. I become quite nostalgic for the clear, flowing waters of the nearby river, Tedorigawa. This environment offered me the chance to spend a very meaningful two years during the early period of my doctoral program. When I entered the latter period of my doctoral program, I began to strongly feel a need to change my surrounding environment. The CBRC is located right in the middle of Tokyo, and is close to many institutions conducting advanced research, such as BIRC; Riken Yokohama Institute; The Institute of Medical Science at The University of Tokyo; and Kazusa DNA Research Institute. As it is easy to visit these nearby institutions and to exchange knowledge with other researchers, you feel energized to progress further with your own research.
In my case, I learnt much from Dr.Tsuda, a researcher I met here at the CBRC when I first joined. The period when you are a student is a time when you are able to gain a variety of knowledge from those around you, and is a time to develop. Being at a place where research is being conducted - like the CBRC - during this period offers significant benefits.
Naturally, it's possible for someone to become a researcher who settles down away from the city and takes their time with their research. However, having frontline researchers working in the same field as you in the near vicinity offers a great deal of stimulation. Whether you wish to conduct your research in a relaxed environment, or one where competition is fierce but the environment is stimulating, depends upon the nature of the researcher; but I think it is important that researchers choose the best research environments for themselves once they understand the benefits that both types of environment can provide.
The last five and a half years has just been a matter of pushing as hard as I can. I guess you could say that it has been a period during which I have really concentrated on moving forward with my research theme, and acquired knowledge and stimulation from those around me. At present the project is moving forward, and a number of other researchers and I are making progress.
In April this year, I took on the role of team leader. As a result, the nature of my work has changed greatly. In the past I just had to look after myself; but now, I must look after the needs of everyone else as well. As the CBRC is not an educational institution, it is not required to provide instruction or education in order to support students attempting to obtain degrees. At the same time, looking after other researchers is an important part of a researcher's work, so that team-based research and projects progress smoothly. I'm still slightly inexperienced in this role, so although I still have some apprehensions, I'm doing the best that I can.
In the field of bioinformatics, you need biological knowledge, mathematical knowledge, and computational knowledge. I believe that people who are knowledgeable in all of these fields can make quick progress in bioinformatics. However, there aren't many people who meet these requirements. It is usually quite tough for someone to specialize in even just one of these disciplines. Even so, I hope people do not give up. Don't just think, "I'm only good at XYZ, so I can't do it"; rather, it is important to think, "At the moment I can only do XYZ, but I want to use this knowledge and also take on new fields of study, and broaden the range of fields I tackle." We are looking for people who like to take on new challenges, and who do not wish to just cling to fields of study they already specialize in. I believe that the CBRC offers major opportunities to people who have this kind of attitude.