Message to April 2020 Incoming Students (In place of entrance ceremony remarks)


The entrance ceremony was originally planned for today, but this time, considering the prevention of the spread of new coronavirus (COVID-19) infection, unfortunately the current situation has forced NAIST to cancel the entrance ceremony, which should have been your official start at NAIST.

On behalf of the 370 faculty and staff members here at NAIST, I would like to welcome the 318 students entering the master's course and the 84 new and continuing students entering the doctoral course of NAIST today. I would also like to express my heartfelt congratulations to the families of the new students.

I am pleased to announce that the incoming class includes 48 international students from 19 countries/regions. In particular, I would like to express a warm welcome to those of you who have chosen to leave your home country and study in Japan. Including the entering class today, we now have 282 international students from 34 countries/regions. I feel we are coming very close to fully realizing one of NAIST's basic goals, the achievement of a globalized education and research environment open to the world.

NAIST is heading into its 29th year and, 2 years ago, the structural reorganization into a one graduate school system through merging the original 3 Graduate Schools of Information, Biological and Materials Sciences to the Graduate School of Science and Technology was completed. You are the 3rd class of the Graduate School of Science and Technology who will make a new page of our history.

Now, I would like to take this opportunity to look at the background of NAIST's establishment. In the concept paper for NAIST's establishment released in August 1991 by the Establishment Preparatory Committee, the guiding mission of our research is described as:

"Characteristically, the fields of frontier science and technology have wide-ranging, interdisciplinary dimensions in which innovative developments are taking place at a very rapid pace. In these fields, new knowledge from fundamental research results in technological developments in very short periods, and technological developments, in turn, become the base of fundamental research and make further progress possible. Thus, high integration of science and technology is remarkably more notable than in any other field. With this in mind, it is crucial to promote interdisciplinary fundamental research that reaches beyond traditional academic divisions in these fields."

Also, the education mission of NAIST is explained as: "With the rapid developments in the areas of frontier science and technology, an important issue for both academic research and industry is the organized fostering of researchers and engineers capable of undertaking research and development in these fields. Especially in these fields, it is necessary to train diverse human resources with refined fundamental skills to respond flexibly to developments in science and technology, and to continuously pursue new fields of research."

To sum this up, NAIST was founded to conduct interdisciplinary research in rapidly developing fields of frontier science and technology such as information, biological and materials sciences, by integrating science and technology and extending beyond the borders of established study areas such as engineering, physical science, agriculture and medical science. With this as our foundation, NAIST develops human resources capable of flexibly responding to developments in science and technology, and continually cultivating new leading areas of research.

In response to the globalization of society, NAIST's current education and research mission has since been revised to include the keyword "to see [issues] from a global perspective." The mission was pioneering from the outset and continues to represent the ideas necessary for society today.

With dynamic research by spirited faculty members gathering from various areas including academia, research institutes, and private industry, and through organized graduate school education based on cutting-edge research, NAIST has produced 8,332 master's course and 1,637 doctoral course graduates, and 64 doctoral graduates through thesis submission since first accepting students in 1993. The total number of NAIST graduates, passing the 10,000 mark, has reached the milestone of 10,033.

NAIST's educational and research activities have been evaluated very highly both in objective rankings and in the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology's (MEXT) evaluation of national university educational and research results. For example, NAIST has been chosen for both the Program for Promoting the Enhancement of Research Universities, a MEXT program to strengthen research prowess of recognized institutions, and the Top Global University Project, a MEXT program designed to provide support for selected universities to lead Japan's international growth. NAIST was one of only 17 institutions in Japan chosen for both of these programs.

You should be proud of being members of one of the most prestigious universities in Japan in terms of both research and education, and I urge you to take full advantage of the valuable opportunities you will encounter at NAIST in furthering your academic career and workforce preparation. In doing so you will create part of NAIST's history.

Closely related to our educational and research mission I mentioned before, science and technology today is changing drastically and it can be said that we are in a revolutionary era of science and technology. Recent representative keywords in science, technology and industry are Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), and Data Science. Through improved computer, sensor and network efficiency, not only people but also houses, cars and all kinds of things are connected to the internet making the entire world interconnected in real time, and we are facing an era where integrated data use around the world is possible.

As a result, we can also see the rise of a 'Super Smart Society' which effectively and thoroughly responds to the various needs of society in offering the necessary materials or services to the necessary people at the necessary time in the necessary amount. This is called Society 5.0 in Japan. These changes in societal infrastructures through this kind of ICT technology development greatly influence research methodology and its applicable fields not only in the area of information science, but in all academic areas.

For example, related to NAIST in the field of biological sciences, revolutions in areas such as genome DNA sequence analysis technology and cellular activity imaging technology have brought forth an era where collecting huge amounts of data on the activities of various cells and living organisms within nature, including humans, is possible. The interdisciplinary field of big data biology which is closely related to information science, has been created.

Also, in the field of materials science, materials informatics, a new interdisciplinary field with information science, is emerging; and there are growing expectations towards pursuits for new material creation with effective molecular and material design using AI functions.

Furthermore, progress in cutting edge medical science is expected through the connection of developments in the construction of medical databases and remote operation technology utilizing virtual and augmented reality in information sciences, the development of embedded biodevices utilizing element microminiaturization and flexible biocompatible materials in materials science, and the advancements of developmental and cellular biology within biological science.

As demonstrated by this, within the revolutions of science and technology developments towards the interdisciplinary fields that span the 3 main advanced science and technology areas at NAIST, information, biological and materials sciences, are becoming very prominent. With this, of course, researchers and engineers in these interdisciplinary fields will come to be in great demand.

It is thought that revolutions in science and technology will not stop within research but bring about large changes to society and mankind. It is said that in the 2040's, many of the occupations that currently exist will disappear and new occupations will appear in their place, greatly changing the structures of both society and industry. At that time, you will be the generation leading society.

The organizational restructuring for a single graduate school system surrounding the Graduate School of Science and Technology was performed in 2018, considering these rapid changes in science and technology and societal evolution, to thoroughly strengthen interdisciplinary area Education Programs as a university to enable graduates to undertake pursuits in new fields and not only work in their current field of specialization.

All of you have left your previous places of study and I believe you are entering NAIST with high expectations for your future experiences here. After this you will be introduced to all the laboratories of the Graduate School of Science and Technology, be placed in a laboratory, and choose an Education Program. After this, you will proceed with your life and activities at NAIST, starting your studies and beginning your research.

Please do not limit yourself to your previous knowledge and experience, but instead take a "large step forward" and challenge yourself at NAIST to unlock new possibilities. Remember, our motto is 'Outgrow your Limits.' NAIST faculty and staff will support you in undertaking new challenges

Looking towards the future, at NAIST I hope you equip yourself with the basic tools that will allow you to not depend solely upon the knowledge and skills of only one area of specialization, but instead apply the methodologies of your respective fields to other fields to continually pursue new areas of research and lead our future society.

Your lives as students at NAIST have started in the dark mood of the disastrous new coronavirus infection, which we don't know when and where its spreading will end, but "Every night opens up to the dawn," and I wish that all of you lead healthy, active student lives. You will meet many new people here at NAIST and I hope that you will treasure these friendships. This network of friends and colleagues will not only widen your research and academic activities, but also become a priceless part of your entire life. I hope you will have a successful student life and have great expectations for your future activities.

Finally, in order to enjoy your life at NAIST, I have a request. This is about none other than the prevention of the spreading of the new coronavirus infection. Please practice the preventative measures that are commonly being suggested: "Avoid the 'three' Cs: closed spaces, crowded places and close-contact settings", Limit going outside to the minimum", and "Wash your hand when you return home". There is a considerable amount of people who become infected with the virus but do not develop any symptoms and, when you consider that the infection may be spread without showing any symptoms, these measures protect not only you, but your family and friends.

Congratulations once again on entering NAIST today.

President YOKOYA Naokazu,
Nara Institute of Science and Technology

April 6, 2020

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