• Dean's Interview

Interview 群長インタビュー

Taking Unique, World-Leading Research Even Further:
An Interview with Dean Soichiro Nakamura of the ICCER, a Research Center in its Third Year

The Interdisciplinary Cluster for Cutting Edge Research (ICCER) serves as an important center for research unique to Shinshu University. It comprises five facilities: the Institute of Carbon Science and Technology, the Center for Energy and Environmental Science, the Institute for Fiber Engineering, the Institute of Mountain Science and the Institute for Biomedical Sciences. Three years have already passed since the Cluster was established for purposes of interdisciplinary research in these fields.
Shinshu University Trustee and Vice President Soichiro Nakamura has taken over the role as the second ICCER dean following Kunihiro Hamada, President of Shinshu University, who served as the dean at the time of initial establishment. We interviewed Nakamura about the ICCER's progress at its two-year mark as well as the Cluster's future prospects.
(Text by Akihiro Kegasawa.)

Pursuit of cutting-edge research and development of young researchers

- What has the ICCER achieved through selection, concentration and integration of different research?
Over the last two years, we at the ICCER have utilized our ability to view the larger picture as well as our imaginative strengths in ways that transcend traditional thinking and the limitations of field specialization to foster a research environment where we can take on new issues and challenges, with the aim of overcoming problems faced by society and continually creating new value. Through a combination of efforts to bring together full-time researchers, particularly young researchers, seek instructors from overseas for collaborative work, as well as pursue combined, cooperative research not limited in scope to a single discipline or field, we have seen outstanding results in various areas, including frontier fibers, biomedical, fibers, nanocarbons, water treatment, energy storage devices, composite materials, storage batteries, fuel cells and mountain science.
- Which projects do you think deserve the most attention?
Our projects to develop body-implantable walking-assist cyborg devices or wearable equipment that continuously monitors vital-sign readings, such as blood pressure etc, to name a few, represent impressive efforts with real-life practicality in the society in the near future. ICCER research and development efforts in water-resource environment technologies, carried out in collaboration with institutions selected for the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports and Technology (MEXT) Center of Innovation Science and Technology based Radical Innovation and Entrepreneurship Program (COI STREAM), are part of a global-scale endeavor that incorporates nanocarbons, fibers and other fields and technologies in which Shinshu University specializes.
- How are research results incorporated into your educational framework?
In order to incorporate ICCER research results and findings into the Shinshu University educational system, we have implemented cross-departmental education programs and restructured the Faculty of Science and Faculty of Agriculture in FY 2015. Additionally, restructuring of the Faculty of Engineering, Faculty of Textile Science and Technology, and Graduate School of Science and Technology (Master's Program) is also in the plan for FY 2016. With respect to the teach staff, reassignment was conduct to detach the instructors from departmental affiliations and place them as academic researchers in ten academic fields across the three larger disciplines. The ICCER serves as the driving force for the restructuring at Shinshu University.

Symbols of ICCER progress: three rising stars

- Are there any young research staff you feel merit special mention?
On January 6, 2016, the University held their first conferment ceremony for officially designated Shinshu University "Rising Star" ("RS" for short) teaching staff. RS represent the best of the best among young, up-and-coming researchers at the ICCER, and those selected are entitled to prioritized support in terms of research funding, facility usage time, evaluation of research results and so forth to encourage their continued development to succeed in the research world.
The ICCER has three RS: Associate Professor Ick Soo Kim of the Institute for Fiber Engineering developed electrospinning, a method used to fabricate large amounts of nanofibers, as well as various nanofiber applications; Associate Professor Yuji Shiba of the Institute for Biomedical Sciences (IBS) has brought regenerative medicine utilizing induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells) to the point where it is nearly ready for practical applications in society; and Associate Professor Shizue Masuki, also of the IBS, further explored the interval walking method ?created at Shinshu University? based on genetics, psychological indices and other perspectives to establish central exercise approaches for the elderly in the field of preventive medicine for application in Japan's super-aged society. Three outstanding researchers being named as RS is representative of the progress the ICCER has made over the last two years.

Toward the establishment of a next-generation research center

- What new pursuits are underway at the ICCER?
We are compelled to take steps in new directions based on the research results I have already mentioned. Without a doubt, such efforts are founded in mutual "crossbreeding" between the ICCER's five research facilities ?merger and collaboration between fields and academic disciplines? to take existing research even further as we move forward.
Several years down the road, we also plan to establish a new ICCER research center, in addition to the five existing facilities, which will function in new ways for the sake of the Cluster as a whole. We refer to this new ICCER arrangement as the Next-Generation Cluster, and in the coming FY 2016, we plan to recruit teaching staff to form a working-group to brainstorm ideas for the new Cluster.
Currently, we are striving to bolster research efforts at the five existing ICCER facilities while experimenting with further expansion of the ICCER's scope of activities.
- What types of objective assessment criteria are important?
A wide range of evaluation criteria exist when it comes to assessing research results, and this makes choosing the correct criteria very difficult. Not only is the number of relevant academic papers published in well-known scientific journals such as Nature an important factor, the number of citation received by publications of other researchers is also an important consideration because influential and important publications are often cited by researchers around the world. Based on the number of citation of the published paper, our research in the field of fiber materials and composite materials are currently at the top of the world ranking.
However we are striving to accomplish even higher achievement. In the worldwide university rankings, Shinshu University is currently ranked in the 600th- to 800th-place group, and the University is striving to move up to the next category (500th?600th place). To attain this goal, both the number and quality of academic publications are vital, which is where the ICCER plays a major role.

Expanding efforts in the humanities and social sciences as well

- What efforts are you pursuing in terms of integration between science and humanities?
Regarding the Next-Generation Cluster I mentioned earlier, we hope that teaching staff in the humanities and social science fields will take active part in these new efforts. Today, leading-edge research in nanocarbons, fibers, functional materials, storage batteries, fuel cells and other such areas have deep-reaching ties with marketing, life design, art and crafts, and other fields. The pursuit of longer lifespans in the biomedical field requires further research in dietary and other supporting fields such as agriculture and local community lifestyles and culture. By engaging in research focused on Nagano Prefecture ?part of the Shinshu region known for long lifespans? that comprehensively integrates arts and sciences, we believe that our results will prove of use to people around world, and that we can further showcase our strengths as a university.

Striving for greater stability and progress throughout international society

- What are your personal ambitions and dreams as ICCER dean?
As I mentioned at the start of the interview, the ICCER strives to help society ?including citizens, communities and lifestyles? to tackle the problems it faces while continually creating added value. It is my firm belief that, by pursuing collaborative efforts that transcend the bounds of specific research specializations and maintaining a global perspective, we will not only overcome challenges faced here in the Shinshu region but also contribute toward greater stability and progress in international society as a whole. By leveraging our expanded network extending across the border through invitations to overseas researchers and other means, we hope to extend our research efforts in Shinshu out to the rest of the world.
Soichiro Nakamura
Dean of the Interdisciplinary Cluster for Cutting Edge Research, Shinshu University
Trustee, Vice President
Dean of Faculty of Agriculture
Soichiro Nakamura
■Position
Academic Assembly Professor (Institute of Agriculture), Ph. D. in Agriculture
■Career
1976Graduated from Faculty of Agriculture,
Shimane University
1976Assistant Professor, Ube College
1981Senior Assistant Professor, Ube College
1991Associate Professor, Ube College
1994Graduated from Graduate School
of Agriculture, Tottori University
1994Professor, Ube College
1994Research Associate,
University of British Columbia
1999Professor, Shimane University
2000Adjunct Professor,
University of British Columbia
2005Professor, Faculty of Agriculture,
Shinshu University
2010Dean of Faculty of Agriculture,
Shinshu University
2012Vice President of Shinshu University
2014Dean of School of Agriculture,
Shinshu University
2015Board Member of Shinshu University
Chair of the Interdisciplinary Cluster for
Cutting Edge Research of Shinshu University
■Research Field
Food Chemistry
■Research Theme
Development of Food for Specified Health Uses (FOSHU) having immunomodulating
effects, anti- amyloidosis effects, anti-obesity effects.
Study of structure-function relationship of protein.