The Graduate School of Biostudies was established in 1999 as Japan’s first independent graduate school focused on life science research and education with the objective of developing individuals who can transcend the existing frameworks of science, agriculture, pharmacology, and medicine to discover and apply new knowledge related to biological phenomena. As of the end of the last academic year, a total of 1,221 students had earned their master’s degree from our school, while 363 had earned their PhD; and these graduates are now contributing to life science research and the development of industry across life science-related fields. This is an achievement that brings tremendous joy to all of the faculty members who have been involved in research and teaching at the Graduate School of Biostudies since its inception.
I believe that the greatest mission of this graduate school is to train exceptional PhDs. Since the majority of those who are reading this message are probably hoping to enroll in our school, I would like to offer my personal thoughts on earning a PhD (doctoral degree).
When I was a student in the medical school, I had a strong desire to work overseas in the future. Since a Japanese medical license is not accepted overseas, I thought about going abroad as a researcher. To do so, I realized I would need to earn a PhD, so after completing my undergraduate degree, I immediately went on to graduate school and earned my PhD. When I explain what a PhD is, I tend to compare it to a driver’s license. For example, if you have an F1 license, you are allowed to race F1 cars on circuits throughout the world. Similarly, if you have a PhD, you are allowed to carry out research at universities and research institutes around the world. I believe there is no other qualification that enables you to so freely do what you like. After I received my PhD, I was hired for a postdoctoral position at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in the United States, where I was able to enjoy living abroad as I had hoped and to gain irreplaceable experiences. That was one of the most enjoyable times of my life.
So how can you earn your PhD? In order to do that, you must first find your personal treasure that gets you excited. It is like when you were a young child and you got all excited about discovering a pretty marble or seashell. But when it comes to this treasure, there are some conditions. It should have an element of being the “first in the world,” and the method for finding this treasure should be through experimentation. The more experiments you carry out, the faster you will find such a treasure. In particular, when you produce an unanticipated result, you could be closing in on a large treasure, so it is important to verify your findings.
If you find your treasure, next you should teach others about it. That entails writing papers. Writing papers requires a bit of hard work, but you can ask senior students and professors in your lab to advise you, so there is absolutely no need to worry. After the paper has been presented, if you write your doctoral thesis based on that and successfully defend it, you will receive your PhD, making you qualified to work at universities and research institutes around the world. You will then use your experience to steadily find new treasures and write more papers. That is the work of a researcher. It is fun! Even if you do not become a researcher, I can assure you that the experience and confidence you will gain from discovering something that nobody else in the world knew about will serve you well no matter what type of work you do. For that reason, I hope that as you begin your graduate studies, you will devote all of your efforts to conducting lots of experiments and discovering your treasure. Then, once you have discovered your treasure, you can move on to your doctoral
program with your mind at ease, further polish your skills, and obtain your PhD. Waiting on the other side of that goal line, you will find an exciting life that far exceeds your expectations. By all means, I hope that many of you will join our graduate school and will build the foundation for your future life. We, the members of the faculty, will dedicate ourselves to supporting your efforts and your growth.