After graduating high school in Japan, I finished university and graduate school in the US. Upon obtaining my degree, I entered the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, and continued my research. After returning to Japan and speaking to people here, I learnt that a research center called the CBRC would be established, and after interviews with former CBRC Director Akiyama, Dr.Asai and Dr.Suwa, I joined the CBRC in 2001. I had heard from others that the Center would be excellent, employing large scale computers, and that was definitely the case. I really felt that the CBRC was a Center that provided an excellent environment for research.
The research theme I'm currently tackling is biopolymer disassociative reactions due to light. Ever since I was an undergrad, I have had a particular interest in two areas: the "experimental" field, with laser and mass spectrometric analysis, and the "theoretical" field, with molecular simulation. Subsequently, I have continued to conduct research in experiments and simulations utilizing lasers. Although the subject of my research has changed, from low molecular to high molecular polymers, and then biopolymers at the CBRC, the core of my research has not changed.
Generally speaking, it is said that the US offers a greater degree of freedom than Japan. However, I think it's different in reality. In the US, contractual restrictions on research are extremely high. Many restrictions are placed on research, such as "you can't do this", or "you have to do it this way". More clearly-defined issues and goals are required of research. So if you start research in the US, on the first day they'll make you read a contract this big! (Laughs)
When I joined the CBRC in Japan, I was so happy to see the small amount of restrictions placed on research. Basically, researchers are able to tackle themes they like, and are able to continue their research. Japan actually offers more freedom and more challenging opportunities, from the perspective that you are able to consistently focus on your theme of research and field of interest. Naturally, when the degree of freedom afforded individual researchers is high, there is a danger that things can turn into a rabble if not managed well. But in the six years that I have seen the CBRC since its establishment, this has not been the case, and the Center has maintained an excellent environment for research.
That's not a problem at the CBRC. The Center definitely has gathered an extremely diverse group of researchers. Each researcher's specialty differs, and there certainly is a danger that the Center could turn into a rabble of researchers without any real organization. However, this has not been the case in my six years at the CBRC. Why should this be the case?
At the CBRC, while each researcher tackles research into their own chosen themes, they also work together as a team with other researchers to move towards the creation of one thing. Although each of their fields of expertise is different, the researchers create dense networks among each other both within and outside their teams, and seek to achieve one larger goal - the fruit of their research. Each researcher possesses this attitude, and at the same time a system is in place that enables the effective utilization of this network. This is quite significant, I feel.
I really want people who are curious and who like to take on new challenges to come to the CBRC. That says it all. Some people tend to dwell on what they have already done, and think only in terms of expanding upon that. I don't think that these kinds of people are suited to bioinformatics, a field of research where there is much change. In order to succeed in a field of research where the future is unclear, and change can be drastic, I think you really need to possess a certain level of curiosity.
I often think about the meaning of the abbreviation "Ph.D", and I remember something said to me in the US. "Ph" is short for "philosophy". The appellation Ph.D is given to people who have learnt ways of approaching and thinking about phenomena that appear before them. I hope that people who possess their own philosophies, and who like to continually take on new challenges, will come to the CBRC. I believe that the CBRC can offer major opportunities to these kinds of people.