Congratulations to all students entering the Nara Institute of Science and Technology (NAIST), and to their family and colleagues who have supported them to this day.
More than a year has passed since COVID-19 spread throughout the world. Although more people in Japan and around the globe are getting vaccinated against the virus, it is still wreaking havoc around the world. As of March 2021, the total number of COVID-19 cases in the world reached 120.69 million, and over 2.67 million people have lost their lives to this pandemic. As you may have felt yourselves, as more people feared the virus, the higher the expectations were for us scientists. Even while physically separated from each other, scientists around the world made full use of virtual communication and worked hard towards the same goal, developing vaccines and new drugs, and simulating airborne droplet dispersions.
How can we put an end to this pandemic? How will we organize our society afterwards? These and other difficult questions are what we are facing. As the world goes through a whirlwind of change, should we be conducting research in the same fashion as before? When we, scientists, who have locked ourselves up in laboratories in pursuit of mastering a narrow segment of science, are confronted with such a catastrophe as the COVID-19 pandemic, the world is bound to ask us to produce results that will contribute to the betterment of society. We must consider what kinds of research can be added to the research being conducted around the world so as to bring about overall research progress and benefit all citizens. To those present at today's entrance ceremony, I would like to ask you to envision the ideal future, and ask yourself throughout your student life, what you can do or should do to realize it.
Dr. Shinya Yamanaka, winner of the Nobel Prize in 2012 for his work on induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), is a researcher who also pursued research at NAIST. Even to this day, Dr. Yamanaka maintains his strong passion towards applying iPSCs in order to ensure the survival of humankind and improve the quality of life through combating disease. He has made rejuvenating cells that can make different body tissues--a phenomenon that sounds like a mythological tale--into reality. There are still many unknown areas in science. I am repeating myself when I say this, but I feel that when pursuing research at the foundations of science, it is of key importance to think how the results of this can help people and society.
In our lives, we always can depend on the knowledge, experience, and thoughts that we have gained through our hard work. Think not to avoid, but face and overcome challenges, seeing them as opportunities for self-growth. I would like to leave you with the phrase jitan jiji, which expresses my own personal philosophy that the difficulties you experience in your youth will nurture your growth. Strengthen yourself and strive for self-reliance.
To those entering NAIST this spring, I wish you a wonderful student life. Pave the way for your own future and lead the way to the future of NAIST, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. Improve yourself, draw on your experiences that help you thrive and bloom, year after year. Repeating this process shall bring you success. With these words, I conclude my congratulatory message.
April 5, 2021
International Institute for Advanced Studies