On April 21, 2017, Dr. Yoshinori Ohsumi, Professor Emeritus of the Tokyo Institute of Technology, gave a lecture in New York titled “Reflections Since Receiving the Noble Prize”. The event was organized by Satsuki-kai America and supported by Friends of UTokyo, Inc. More than 50 participants, including alumni, high school students, researchers, and pharmaceutical professionals, attended the lecture held in the office of Paul Hastings, LLC in mid-Manhattan.
Professor Ohsumi, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine in 2016 for his work on “Elucidation of the Mechanisms of Autophagy,” received his B.A. from the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at the University of Tokyo, before receiving his doctorate from its science division (Rigakukei Kenkyuka). He subsequently enrolled at Rockefeller University in New York as a post-doctoral fellow for three years after which he returned to his alma mater as first a research assistant and then lecturer in the science division (Rigakubu) where his area of focus was the intracellular transport of vacuoles in yeast. In 1988, he was appointed associate professor at the UTokyo’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences where he started his research on autophagy (the mechanism by which cells break down and recycle cellular components) which ultimately led to his receipt of the Nobel Prize. For a detailed account of Prof. Ohsumi’s accomplishments, please refer to the Nobel Assembly’s press release, https://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/2016/press.html
Following opening greetings by Ms. Yuriko Suzuki, Vice President of Satsuki-kai America, Dr. Ohsumi discussed his various thoughts after receiving the Nobel Prize. He began by stating his belief that “Science is the whole of knowledge accumulated by mankind. It cannot be separated from man’s desire for knowledge. Science is also a reflection of man’s role and moment in history. He went on to use his experience researching autophagy over nearly 30 years as a case study of scientific exploration and stressed the importance of basic research for science.
During the Q & A session, the audience, especially young researchers, asked many questions, resulting in a lively exchange of viewpoints. Dr. Ohsumi commented, “It is important to create a society where young people challenge (existing knowledge and practices). It is society’s responsibility to create an environment which encourages and facilitates the efforts of graduate students to thrive. “ A standing ovation followed after he concluded his talk by stressing “the pleasure and importance of pursuing what one truly believes in to the very end.”