A meeting of minds at the second Noyori Summer School

On September 17–18, the RIKEN Harima Institute hosted the second Noyori Summer School, a retreat for PhD students in the International Program Associate (IPA) and Junior Research Associate (JRA) programs conducting research at RIKEN.

With the aim of training young researchers for a future in science, the summer school provides a cross-disciplinary, international setting and opportunities for young researchers to present their work to a broad audience. This year’s program included lectures and presentations as well as tours of local facilities: the SPring-8 synchrotron radiation facility and soon-to-be-opened X-ray Free Electron Laser (XFEL), which be made available for shared use.

Achintya Kundu of the Molecular Spectroscopy Laboratory at the RIKEN Advanced Science Institute, one of the researchers who participated in this year’s summer school, received a ‘Best Poster’ award for his work on a surface active molecule at the air/water interface. Kundu recounts how listening to lectures and meeting students from many different countries provided renewed motivation for his own research:

"For an aspiring scientist, having the chance to meet Nobel laureates in person and attend their lectures is tremendously inspiring. As a graduate student at RIKEN, I was provided this opportunity at this year’s Noyori Summer School, and it was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. The event also provided a unique chance to make new friends in different research fields and of different nationalities.

Presentations at the summer school included inspirational lectures by RIKEN President Ryoji Noyori, Executive Director Maki Kawai and SPring-8 Center Deputy Director Masaki Takata. I came away from these lectures with a deeper knowledge of RIKEN’s history and its position in the world as a research institute. Hearing about the scientific careers and early research efforts of President Noyori and Executive Director Kawai was extremely inspiring, and a powerful motivation for my own scientific career.

Beside lectures, other events included a tour of SPring-8 and the X-ray Free Electron Laser (XFEL), as well as poster sessions and a banquet. RIKEN’s XFEL, a new light source with a wavelength roughly the size of an atom, is among only a handful of such cutting-edge facilities in the world. Seeing the XFEL’s electron gun and accelerator, and learning about its applications, was very exciting for me. The poster sessions were also fascinating, not only those in my own field of chemistry but also those presented by students in other fields.

One of my fondest memories from the summer school was of our late-night talks in which each of us shared our own cultural perspectives on various topics such as the Japanese way of life. The poster session awards ceremony was also very exciting, with awards handed out to top presenters in the fields of chemistry and materials science, biology and medical science, and physics and engineering. But my real moment of excitement came with the announcement of two additional prizes, the Noyori Prize (best poster award) and the ballot box prize. To my great surprise, my name was announced as the winner of the Noyori Prize.

Before attending the summer school I never dreamed that I would have the chance to present my work to President Noyori, yet this dream came true. I returned from the Noyori Summer School this year with a fresh outlook and new enthusiasm about my research, and many new avenues for future collaboration."

Published: 10 Dec 2010

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