6 Sep 2012

New Science and Technology Graduate School Opens in Okinawa

500 people packed into the new auditorium at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST) on 6 September to celebrate the official opening of the Graduate School. OIST is the first fully interdisciplinary, English-speaking Graduate University to open in Japan.

OIST establishes a new model for world-class science education at the doctoral level. At least half of the OIST Graduate University faculty and students have been recruited from outside Japan, and all education and research is conducted in English. Forty-six world-class faculty in the life, physical and environmental sciences have already joined. Thirty-four doctoral students have been selected from amongst the best candidates available worldwide and the first class begins their studies at OIST as of 10 September. The curriculum provides students with a strong grounding in their core discipline and courses will also be required to extend their discipline-specific knowledge in ways that promote cross-disciplinary research. The absence of academic departments, the strong emphasis on common research tools and the imaginative layout of the research space, provide a natural home for truly inter-disciplinary research. 

OIST President Jonathan Dorfan thanked the Japanese Government, the Okinawan Prefectural Government and the local community for their bold vision and solid support. OIST Graduate University aspires to the unabashed goal of becoming one of the leading research and educational institutions in the world.  But more than that, OIST Graduate University is breaking new global ground with the manner in which we conduct research and the way in which we will educate our students.  With the generous and sustained financial support from the Japanese government, we have been able to recruit world-class faculty and researchers and we are able to provide outstanding research infrastructure and state-of-the-art equipment.”

Senior Vice-Minister for Okinawa and Northern Territories Affairs, Katsuyuki Ishida, presented a speech on behalf of Tatsuo Kawabata, Minister of State for Okinawa & Northern Territories Affairs, stressing the rapid progress that has been made. “Although OIST is a newly-established organization, it already has outstanding researchers who have gathered from around the world, and an environment where interdisciplinary, advanced, world-class education and research can be conducted with innovative ideas, is being put into place.”

Hirokazu Nakaima, Governor of Okinawa, underlined his expectations of the benefits that OIST will bring to Okinawa and wishing every success to the new students. “Okinawan people respect everyone who is passionately involved in academic activities. All the people of Okinawa offer you cooperation and help so that you can engage in your research. I would like to conclude by hoping that you will contribute to addressing various issues in the world and the advancement of education.”

Ichiro Kanazawa, a long-term member of OIST’s Board of Governors, who has been essential in guiding the university from its earliest days to today’s opening celebrations, gave the keynote speech. He concentrated on the importance of research, both “Science for Science” such as particle physics, theoretical physics, basic mathematics, and also “Science for Society” such as clinical medicine, agriculture, environmental biology and engineering. “Now, what type of Sciences are promoted here in OIST?” asked Kanazawa. “Needless to say, both types of Sciences are conducted in an inseparable fashion.”

Jeff Wickens, Dean of the Graduate School, celebrated the arrival of the first group of doctoral students. “There is a phrase carved on the famous bell at Shuri Castle in Naha City Okinawa, “Bankoku Shinryo”, which means “a bridge among nations”.  We know that students often form a bridge between laboratories, institutes and universities.  By building future human networks, the OIST Graduate University will contribute to building bridges among nations.” 

In his remarks, OIST Provost Robert Baughman reviewed the careful planning and creative thinking that went into the establishment of the OIST campus. “The result is that OIST is one of the best university environments in the world for students to learn the challenging skills of crossing disciplines and creating new research areas and fundamental discoveries.”  He concluded, “Today is one of the most important days in the history of OIST.  In order to initiate this exciting new university, much was promised.  As you can see today with the arrival of the students on campus, much, in fact, has been delivered.  But with all this, please note that OIST has just begun to make its real contribution: training independent and creative young researchers who will enrich Japan and the world, and who will bring to Okinawa new hope and opportunities.”

For photos of the event please go to the photo album.