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  • Writer's pictureHirokazu Kobayashi

Wear two hats in Japanese phrases, namely two pairs of straw sandals!

Updated: May 20

Hirokazu Kobayashi

CEO, Green Insight Japan, Inc.

Professor Emeritus and Visiting Professor, University of Shizuoka

When we experience getting stuck in a problem, we work on it. In that case, the answer would be three choices. (1) Give up. (2) Continue to worry. (3) Obtain information from a different perspective. In other words, learn from other fields. I recommend (3), which means easily searching the internet or asking people. Nowadays, AI is also worthy of use. Anyway, let's take a look at other fields. Many interesting things are out there, and you can usually find a solution. The number of methodological options that lead to solutions will increase by accumulating these efforts. Let's look at the academic system. Basic natural sciences can be broadly divided into mathematics, physics, chemistry, and biology. Such interdisciplinary fields include mathematical physics, physical chemistry, biochemistry, chemical biology, and biophysics. Current research areas are shifting to these fusion fields. In the applied field, medical-engineering collaboration is attracting attention. My workplaces were at universities, with two purposes: research and education. Society wants π-type human resources. A π-type person is someone who is well-versed in two academic fields, just like the letter π has two legs. Broadly speaking, “bunbu-ryodo” is the fusion of liberal and martial arts. Furthermore, the fusion of the liberal arts and the sciences becomes a fusion of the arts and sciences. At Nara Institute of Science and Technology (NAIST), where I served as director of the Division for Research Strategy. They integrated the three fields of biology, information, and materials into one graduate school and began interdisciplinary education between each field. At the University of Shizuoka, where I worked for nearly 30 years, we established the Graduate School of Integrated Pharmaceutical and Nutritional Sciences, which integrates pharmaceutical sciences and food and nutritional sciences. In this way, mastering the fusion field will expand the field of success, and the public has high expectations for these human resources and commercialization.

Looking back on my life as a researcher, I was interested in biological phenomena, especially in plants familiar to us. Therefore, I entered university into the Faculty of Agriculture. Then, I wondered why the resistance or susceptibility of plants to pathogens differs depending on plant variety. All life phenomena can be explained in chemical terms. Therefore, I studied biochemistry in graduate school. Life phenomena are governed by genetic information and its expression control mechanism. Hence, as a postdoctoral researcher, I wanted to study genes and molecular biology. Biochemistry focuses on chemical molecules, and molecular biology focuses on molecules that govern heredity. However, if we are to investigate the phenomenon of heredity, we will reach a dead end with methodologies that only target these molecules. Therefore, I adopted a methodology called molecular genetics. After I retired from university, I started my own business because I wanted to utilize the patent information I had accumulated during my time as a professor. I'm currently studying business management. Multiple pairs of straw sandals are quite fun. “Wearing two hats'' is called “wearing two pairs of straw sandals'' in Japan. The difference in this analogy is also interesting.

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