Dialogue with Prof. Marie Saitou: Exploring New Horizons in Evolutionary Genomics -from Japan to the United States and Norway

On September 18, Satsuki-kai America and Friends of UTokyo hosted a talk by Dr. Marie Saitou (Assistant Professor, Faculty of Biological Sciences, Norwegian University of Life Sciences). It was co-sponsored by Chicago Akamon-kai and FUTI Alumni Association. Over 20 people with various backgrounds from all over the world, including the United States, Japan and Europe, participated, making the event a huge success.

Dr. Saitou discussed the outline of her research as well as a comparison of research systems in Japan, the United States, and Europe. She also explained a wide range of topics such as living in Norway, because the audience included scientists as well as those outside science. A lively exchange of questions and views took place during the Q and A session with participants asking questions like the following:

“What kind of difficulties did you have in conducting an international job search and setting up a research laboratory in Norway?”

 “What are the differences in the education system, research system, and working environment in Japan, US, and Norway?” 

“What should Japanese undergraduate and graduate students interested in pursuing an international  career do now to prepare for the future?”

In addition, an active exchange of views followed after one participant commented that, “Many UTokyo female students may feel it a challenge to follow Dr. Saitou’s successful and flexible international career path. What kind of changes are needed in the value system and institutional setting of Japanese society and universities in order to facilitate them to follow the steps of Dr. Saitou and realize a successful career and satisfactory life?”

Finally, Atsushi Tsuda, Executive Vice President and Vice President (in charge of university development and external relations) closed the meeting with the following remarks, “Currently, under President Teruo Fujii, the University of Tokyo emphasizes diversification and efforts to increase the number of female students and researchers. It is often commented that for women’s social advancement, the employment system of Japan must be reformed. Today, I am very grateful to be able to discuss many important issues with you today.”

[Abstract provided by Prof. Saitou]

After earning a PhD in Japan in the field of biology, I worked as a postdoctoral researcher in the United States and in 2020 opened my own laboratory in Norway. The country has a small research population but they conduct high quality research. I often learn much about promoting diversity, a healthy work-life balance, and the rights of students and researchers by working in Norway. In this lecture, I would like to introduce the research / education system and working environment of Japan, the United States, and Norway based on my own experience, and engage in a discussion with the participants which incorporate various perspectives.

For Prof. Saitou’s resume, please visit https://sites.google.com/site/mariesaitou/home.