Sakura Science Program 2018 at Tohoku University Graduate School of Medicine

Systems Neuroscience Prof. MUSHIAKE, Hajime

Japan-Asia Youth Science Exchange Program in Science, “SAKURA Science Program” in short, was launched by the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST) since April 2014. The mission of this program was to facilitate short-term visits of competent Asian young people to Japan and to increase the interest of Asian students and young researchers in studying science and technology at leading Japanese universities. When this program was announced by the JST, we believed that the SAKURA science program would help to promote an “open door policy” at Tohoku University. Tohoku University Graduate School of Medicine (TUGM) joined the SAKURA science program in collaboration with Tohoku Tabunka Academy Foundation (TTA), an incorporated foundation that supports short-term study in Japan from abroad.  Sakura Science Program 2018 was the fourth since 2014 for TUGM.

Planning Sakura Science 2018

Professor Hajime Mushiake, Department of Systems Neuroscience, who accompanied the trainees, reports his experiences from the SAKURA Science Program, 2018:

Since this SAKURA Science program began in 2014, four of participants entered graduate courses at Tohoku University. They are all excellent as graduate students and promising young scientists. This year, we accepted 14 short-term trainees from Asian countries: 8 from China, 2 from Korea, 2 from Indonesia, 1 from Mongolia, and 1 from the Philippines.

Our version of the SAKURA science plan is unique in that we provide an opportunity for the participants to visit their preferred laboratories at TUGM, with preferences based on the mutual research interests of the laboratories and individuals. According to their preference in the research field, they were assigned to Internal Medicine and Rehabilitation Science, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Epileptology, Anatomic Pathology, Virology, Cardiovascular Medicine.

Welcome to Tohoku University and Autumn-colored Sendai city

On Sept 10, 2018, an opening ceremony was successfully held in the presence of Prof. Igarashi, the Dean of the Graduate School of Medicine, Ms. Miki Mushiake, the Director of TTA, Prof. Oshitani, the Director of International Exchange Office, and Assist. Prof. Mariko Saito, from International Exchange Office. Prof. Igarashi made a welcome speech and a short introduction of TUGM. Ms. Qiu Jiahe from China, a Senior student who had participated in the 2014 SAKURA Science Program shared her experiences from the Sakura 2014 program, as well as those from their study at Tohoku University and life in Sendai. We were impressed with her story of how that SAKURA science program had changed her life and brought her back to Tohoku University as a graduate student.

The main aim of the program was to provide the participants with a three-day visit to their chosen laboratory. All laboratories warmly welcomed the participants and allowed them to join various laboratory activities; we were especially grateful to the laboratories for their hospitality. Participants visited the Tohoku Medical Megabank Organization and observed the latest technology and facilities for a large-scale genomic cohort study. They also visited Simulation Center for Medical Skills Training and Research housing various types of medical simulators for clinical skills training. Following day, Prof. Nakasato, Director of Disability Science Courses presented his special lecture about Epilepsy with the introduction of Disability Science Courses. All participants seemed to understand the three missions of Tohoku University: the “Research First” principle, the “Open Door” policy, and “Practice-Oriented” research.

On 14 September, the last day at Tohoku University, a report meeting was held. Each participant briefly summarized his/her laboratory activities, including research or any other exciting experiences. Everyone appeared to be satisfied with their research experience and appreciated the hospitality they had received during their stay. Each participant received a certificate of completion from Prof. Oshitani. We believe that this visit had allowed the participants the opportunity to develop a better understanding of their mentors’ research interests and direction, as well as to cultivate friendships with other participants. We were pleased to hear that some of the participants had expressed their intention to return to Sendai.

Closing ceremony and the beginning of new relationships

Everyone involved agreed that the Sakura Science Plan provides a basis for developing close relationships based on mutual trust and respect; thus, the closing ceremony was not the endpoint, but the beginning of new relationships and future collaborations.
We are grateful to all of the TUGM faculties for joining the Sakura Science Plan 2018 and especially appreciate the continued efforts of the international exchange office and public relations office. We also appreciate the person-centered care provided by TTA staff members. Finally, we express our gratitude to all the participants of our programs. We hope that continuing this type of short-term visitation program will raise awareness of TUGM programs among Asian youth and promote the enrollment of international students in the future.


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