Donors’ Messages: Dr. Shunpei Yamazaki and Prof. Iwao Ojima

We have made a request to several of our donors in FY 2015-2016 to write a few words to students and alumni. The messages to be presented in the Newsletter 15 and the upcoming 16 (to be issued in the fall of 2016) are from those who graciously accepted. We hope that their messages will be appreciated and encourage a positive response to our 2016-17 annual fundraising campaign.
YamazakiShunpeiDr. Shunpei Yamazaki
President, Semiconductor Energy Laboratory Co., Ltd.

  • Bachelor of Engineering at Doshisha University, 1965
  • Doctor of Engineering at Doshisha University, 1971
  • Dr. Yamazaki invented a transistor structure of non-volatile memory now known as “flash memory” in 1970, while in Doctoral Degree Program at Doshisha University. In March 2011, the Guinness World Records recognized him as the inventor or co-inventor holding the most patents (over 6,314 patents) in the world.

I am not a graduate of the University of Tokyo, but after a gracious request from Friends of UTokyo, Inc. I have accepted to write a short piece. I have donated to FUTI as I am acquainted with Prof. Hisashi Kobayashi, President Emeritus of FUTI and Sherman Fairchild University Professor Emeritus of Princeton University. I have been greatly indebted to Prof. Kobayashi since meeting him in 1990 when I visited Princeton University. FUTI’s mission to provide support and nurture future leaders appealed to me, and I have on several occasions contributed whatever I can. Every time I see their numerous activities reported in the newsletters and annual reports, I feel very happy that the contribution is put to good use.
When I look back on my student days, I have received great support from several people to help my studies. I am very grateful to my mentor, Dr. Yogoro Kato, the inventor of ferrite, who has greatly helped me from the time I met him in my second year in college until his passing, through our studies in the “Creative Scientific Educational Laboratory” which he established with his own personal funds. Not only did Dr. Kato provide us with various learning opportunities, but also he gave out a scholarship of 6,000 yen (roughly 60,000 yen in today’s value) which he saved by riding the cheapest third-class seat on his trips to Tokyo, and his contribution made my studies possible. It is precious and irreplaceable experience that I learned under Dr. Kato, who practiced “creative scientific education,” during my impressionable student years.
Dr. Kato himself was also given the opportunity to study in the United States for two years in his youth, through the support of Prof. Arthur Amos Noyes who helped establish Caltech and at the time was a professor at MIT. What Dr. Kato saw about the education and characteristics in the advanced nation of America was far different from that of Japan, and it inspired him to return to Japan and devote his life to education.
Thus, people cannot learn by themselves and must have received support from those around them or from encounters at some point. Providing support and opportunity to the aspiring young generation is an important duty for those who were fortunate enough to study with the same kind of warm support from the people around them. I think it is important that we support as much as possible, and that those who receive the support shall never forget their gratitude and study hard so that they can contribute to society in turn. Currently I serve as president of the public interest incorporated foundation, the Kato & Yamazaki Educational Foundation which provides educational support to the young generation. Through FUTI, I would be happy if I could be any help for the discovery and training of young, aspiring and promising people.

Dr-Iwao-Ojima_800Prof. Iwao Ojima
University Distinguished Professor
Stony Brook University – State University of New York

  • 1968: UTokyo, Chemistry, B.S.
  • 1970: UTokyo, Organic Chemistry, M.S.
  • 1973: UTokyo, Organic Chemistry, Ph.D.
  • 1970 joined Sagami Institute of Chemical Research, Research Fellow, while working for Ph.D. and then Senior Research Fellow. Joined the faculty of State University of New York at Stony Brook as Associate Professor in 1983, Professor (1984), Leading Professor (1991), University Distinguished Professor (1995). Chairman, Department of Chemistry (1997-2003). Founding Director, Institute of Chemical Biology and Drug Discovery (2003-). President, Stony Brook Chapter of the National Academy of Inventors. President, Japan Center at Stony Brook.
  • Fellow: National Academy of Inventors, John S. Guggenheim Foundation, American Association for Advancement of Science, New York Academy of Sciences, American Chemical Society.
  • Major Awards: Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award (1994), Emanuel B. Hershberg Award (2001), ACS Medicinal Chemistry Hall of Fame (2006), ACS Award for Creative Work in Fluorine Chemistry (2013) (all from American Chemical Society); The Chemical Society of Japan Award (1999).

The most important learning, among the education I received at UTokyo (Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science), which has had a long lasting influence on my life and career, would be the message, “Always think with your own brain based on the scientific principles and methodologies; Do not imitate someone’s work; Explore new frontiers (that no one else has stepped in, if at all possible)”. This message was given repeatedly through my interactions with professors in the department. At that time (late 1960’s) at the Chemistry Department, the Junior and Senior undergraduate students were treated as “grownups”, but in turn were required to have responsibilities and awareness. That is to say, parent lions throw their baby lions into a valley/cliff and recognize only the ones which can climb up to come back by themselves as “qualified”. I think I naturally acquired the concept, “unique ideas are born only from your own brain although techniques and craftsmanship can be obtained from technical experts”. It was, of course, a requisite for my graduate study and Ph.D. thesis, but I was able to grow by putting my own ideas into my Senior Thesis through detailed discussions with faculty advisors. I typed and submitted all of my reports for the laboratory courses in English, and faculty members in charge of the courses kindly and thoroughly edited my reports and gave me good advice. Accordingly, I was really lucky to have received my early chemistry training under ideal conditions.
Throughout my undergraduate and graduate studies, I clearly had a self-confidence that we were elite students and would become responsible to lead the advancement of science and technology in Japan in the future. But, I had further self-confidence, “The real pride of a ‘UT graduate’ should belong to an individual who can compete with others only based on the fact that he/she was educated at UT, but NOT because he/she has a label of being a UT graduate, which the Japanese society values”. This was indeed proven when I became an independent researcher. It is one of the fascinating aspects of being a science researcher that one can make scientific friends whom one never met through publications of research articles in academic journals, and one can judge the international status of your research through invitation to plenary lectures at international conferences and request for authoring reviews and papers. Thus, when I was courted by famous American professors asking me to come to a US university as a tenured professor (I was 36 years old at that time), I did not have much hesitation to the challenge although I had not had any experience in working or living in foreign countries. After interviews and receiving offers from three universities, I chose the State University of New York at Stony Brook.
Of course, it is naturally extremely difficult to be successful as a Professor in a U.S. research university if one did not graduate from a college/graduate school, or worked as a postdoctoral researcher in the US. Nevertheless, fortunately, I have been successfully running very active research and higher education for more than 32 years since I joined Stony Brook in 1983. I served as the Chair of the Chemistry Department for 6 years (2 terms), as well as founded the Institute of Chemical Biology and Drug Discovery and have been serving as the Founding Director. In order for a scholar to be appointed as a junior or senior professor at our Chemistry Department, a candidate must have obtained his/her Ph.D. or done a notable job as a postdoctoral research at an Ivy League school in the Northeast, University of Chicago or Northwestern University in the Midwest, or Stanford University, California Institute of Technology, UC Berkeley, UCLA and few others in the West Coast, but I have been the only exception. Since a “UT graduate” does not have any significance in the US universities, in my case, my appointments and promotions were done only based on the number and quality of my publications, inventions and patents, research grant acquisitions, high reputations in the national and international chemical societies and science communities, including induction to prestigious societies as Fellows, contributions to higher education, especially graduate education, etc. Also, I was honored by receiving three prestigious national awards from American Chemical Society and also the Chemical Society of Japan Award, which is the highest honor in the society. Accordingly, I believe that I was able to have demonstrated the “real pride of being a UT graduate” mentioned above, in the US academy which has unparalleled generosity for talents and achievements.
There is a “Hooding” ritual at the Ph.D. granting ceremony in the US universities, wherein Ph.D. advisors put on their Ph.D. alma mater’s gowns and caps. I have hooded 65 Ph.D.s till now, who performed their Ph.D. studies in my research laboratory at Stony Brook. Since there was no UT gown and cap until 2006, I was using Stony Brook’s gown and cap for the ceremony. However, UT implemented its own gown and cap finally in that year. Thus, I acquired it and have been using the UT gown and cap which bear the golden emblems of ginkgo leaves. Since the design of the UT gown is unique to Japan and distinct from those of US and UK universities, I believe it has been an excellent advertisement of UT at the ceremonies over the years.
I have donated to the UT Foundation at the first fundraising campaign in 2006 (UT President: Dr. Komiyama), and became a “koken kaiin (貢献会員)”. Also, I was invited to the 2009 UT Homecoming Day by the UT Foundation and attended the event. I have been returning to Japan every year in the fall for lectures and consulting, and have been giving a lecture at the Faculty of Science, Pharmaceutical Sciences, or Engineering every year for more than 20 years. I have also been attending the class reunions of the “Showa 43 nen graduates” from the Chemistry Department every year for the last 10 years. However, I had not had the opportunity to make a new donation after the one in 2006, until I met Professor Hisashi Kobayashi, ex-President of FUTI, at a NY Ichokai annual meeting in 2013. I was particularly interested in supporting FUTI’s scholarship program for study abroads. Thus, I started donating a little to this program since then. I started serving in the FUTI Scholarship Review Committee at the request of Professor Masaaki Yamada, the current President of FUTI, from this spring and also will serve in the FUTI Advisory Committee as well.
Since there are tax deductions for donations to charity, my wife and I have been donating several 10,000 dollars to education, culture and arts, scholarships, professional societies, and other charities every year by taking into account our tax filing situation. My sincere hope for my donation to FUTI’s scholarship for the study abroad program is that many UT students come to the US universities and graduate schools to meet and interact with their excellent peers to receive strong stimulations; to become “bilingual” proficiently, think in English and be able to respond spontaneously in discussions; to become competent and competitive professionals in the global scale activities in the future.

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