Here is President’s video message for Autumn Entrance Ceremony, 2021
Congratulations to everyone who will begin their graduate studies at Saitama University this fall. Today, we are proud to welcome 34 Master’s students, and 34 PhD students. These totals include 65 international students.
It is our greatest pleasure to accept you all into our graduate school as partners in the journey on the path of scholarship. On behalf of all our faculty and staff members, I welcome you with an open heart. In addition, I would like to take this opportunity to say congratulations to the friends and family of these new students who supported them on their way here.
Since last year, we have endured an unprecedented pandemic. Vaccines were developed faster than any previous drugs, which has allowed many people to receive vaccinations, but the appearance of new variants means that the conclusion is still out of sight. For nearly 2 years, our daily lives have been disturbed in countless ways. On-campus activities have been restricted at university. The loss of in-person activities and opportunities to interact with friends and colleagues has surely led to many long days of impatience and loneliness. I would like to commend the efforts of everyone who joined our graduate school today, to you who continue to push forward on the academic path despite these troubled times.
Today, I would like to congratulate you on your entry into the world of serious academic research by sharing 3 pieces of advice.
First is the importance of actively seeking discussion and mutual understanding between your own ideas and other people.
In order to make deeper progress in our fields, we require a place to freely express ideas and discuss questions. Naturally, I expect you to engage in thorough discussion with your professors about your studies and research, but I also strongly encourage you to maintain a circle of colleagues who can discuss things more casually. Talking to people with different perspectives will help consolidate your own opinions and reveal questions that you hadn’t considered. Engaging in a variety of discussions will bring fresh insight into your own research, and might even inspire surprising new ideas. The interaction of different personal ideas is absolutely essential to make progress in your research. This is why academic associations and symposiums are valuable opportunities to deepen your discourse. At first, you might hesitate to present your own questions within a large group, but if you find the courage to keep asking questions, the psychological barrier will grow less imposing. Previously, one of my senior colleagues told me this: “Bad answers exist, but bad questions don’t exist.” Share your research to the fullest possible extent. Facing tough questions at academic events is necessary for improving your own research and communication skills.
My second point of advice for you all is about a skeptical approach to research. When the recently deceased Nobel Prize recipient Toshihide Masukawa talked with the iPS cell researcher Shinya Yamanaka, he said: “Showing thorough doubt for the theory you want to prove, thinking of every possibility within imagination, and testing each idea one by one is called ‘skeptical labor for affirmation.’ Results gained after relentless investigation will only contain the most undeniable facts.” This skeptical approach to research is required for improving your own objectivity and propriety, and I believe it will lead you to your first leaps of truth. Your theory might be disproved by your own research, or it might be disproved through discussion with your professors and colleagues. Dr. Masukawa also said this about his research on CP violation with co-recipient Makoto Kobayashi: “First, I forced myself to make a theory. Then Kobayashi would show me I was wrong, and we’d try something else.”
Showing skepticism, and disproving your own ideas and research results, may lay waste to all your previous hard work. It is an extremely harsh personal trial that you must impose on yourself. However, this uncompromising affirmation process will yield results that are fresh, unique, and convincing. You must be prepared to face this strict process in order to succeed in your research.
The third piece of advice is to maintain an attitude that will not succumb to failure. My own research within the fields of biology and basic medicine is focused on hormone secretion systems, and the mechanisms of action inside the body, especially the digestive tract. Using methods from molecular biology, cell physiology, and anatomical physiology, we were able to form a hypothesis and perform investigative experiments based on data from previous findings and our own ideas. We identified a physiological phenomenon within living organisms and revealed the mechanism in play. Looking back, so many of our experiments went poorly, and we endured failure after failure. There were many times when the demon of doubt loomed over us and we lost confidence in our ideas. However, we also felt swells of joy when we got the results we hoped for, and when unexpected twists solved our problems. This applies to all fields of research, not just the natural sciences. We must provide evidence to support our discoveries that will satisfy the inquiries of other researchers and society. The most cutting-edge research progresses like a fumbling trek through the wilderness. Failures and frustration are absolutely unavoidable. Don’t let your flops keep you down. Continue to push forward again and again with hope and inspired adjustments. If you can overcome these obstacles, you can build your academic career.
Saitama University is unusual among national universities because we host all departments and graduate schools on a single campus. This environment allows students and professors from diverse backgrounds to interact and learn from each other. Our location bridges local regions and the capital Tokyo, which enables our students to utilize a variety of rich resources. Be greedy and use this to your advantage. Don’t limit yourself to your own school or your own field of study. Keep a wide perspective, get out there, and mix with people from other majors. Express your ideas and share your research results, and maintain the strength to collaborate. If you can accomplish this, then you will be able to expand the scale of your future studies and research, and it will become possible to link your results to solving issues in our society.
During your time in graduate school, the path of progress in your major might be jagged and steep, or it might be long and twisted. But if you cling to your motivation, if you keep pushing forward with passion, you will find the way. Your professors are waiting further down the path of scholarship to guide you along the way. Please reach out and ask anything if you’re having trouble with your research, or in your daily life. Every faculty and staff member here is ready to provide their full support.
Once again, congratulations on your admission to our school.
September 24, 2021
President, Saitama University