For three days from February 27 to March 1, 2014, four HWIP faculty members (Professor Toru Fujiwara, Professor Naoki Wakamiya, Associate Professor Kojiro Ishii and Associate Professor Ken Nakano) and six program students (Junya Nakanishi, Tatsuya Nakamura, Taro Furubayashi, Atsushi Shibai, Natsuki Hiasa and Zuben Brown) visited the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom. The University of Manchester is a world-class research university that has produced several Nobel Prize winners, and built a strong track record in interdisciplinary education and training. The aim of this workshop was to exchange opinions and share information on interdisciplinary education and research with the faculty and students of a high caliber institution.
On the first day and in the morning session on the second day, Vice President of Research Dr. Jakob Edler and Dr. Sally Randles, both of the business school, and Associate Vice President of Research Dr. Matthew Lambon Ralph explained the university’s innovation strategy and introduced the graduate school programs they provide to promote innovation. This was highly rewarding for the HWIP students, who are aiming to generate innovation by way of interdisciplinary research.
A doctoral student workshop was held in the afternoon of the second day. The six HWIP students and four University of Manchester graduate students gave presentations on their research: Nakanishi discussed using robots for human-like communication; Nakamura spoke about quantifying page similarity by text mining Wikipedia pages; Furubayashi gave a presentation on his RNA coevolution experiments; Shibai explained his experiments on E. coli evolution; Hiasa discussed metabolic systems and the production of metabolites; and Brown presented his research on the reelin protein. After this, Shibai and Hiasa introduced the ongoing interdisciplinary research projects at HWIP. Even though this was the first time for most of the program students to give presentations overseas, they spoke English with confidence and participated actively in the discussions. All of the students surely uncovered several new issues they will need to tackle going forward.
On the third and final day, Dr. Randles and graduate students from the University of Manchester took the group on a tour of Manchester. They visited the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry and Chatsworth House, the residence of the Duke of Devonshire, located just outside of the city. Manchester is where the industrial revolution began, and the group was able to gain a sense of the city’s long history.
This was our first attempt at running an overseas workshop for the program, but the students were able to actively discuss interdisciplinary research, education policy and the details of their research projects. We learned many new things, and this will provide an excellent reference point for program operations going forward.
“This was my first trip to a Western nation, so I absorbed many new things in terms of language, culture and education. Learning about the educational systems and history of the University of Manchester helped me reconsider the pros and cons of the Japanese educational system and allowed me to think about how I wanted to pursue my research on this doctoral program with an eye on the future. Interacting with the students in the business school was good because it’s a discipline not represented in HWIP. Based on the shared theme of innovation, we were able to generate breakthroughs by examining each other’s points of view. Our discussions even went so far as to cover the process by which cooperation can produce technology for society. I think this session afforded me a more overarching view of innovation. I hope we can explore more effective ways of interacting with each other into the future.”
“One difference between the Manchester Institute of Innovation Research and HWIP is the international outreach that the students are engaged in. Since outreach activities can help you improve your communication skills, I think we should incorporate them into our program as well. We also visited some museums during our stay, and I was taken aback at how big they were. The fact is that Japan has fewer museums than the UK. I felt there was a lot we could learn about the preservation of history from the British system.”