What brought you to Gladstone?
When I was a graduate student, I read a research paper from Lennart Mucke’s lab and was impressed by the quality of the science. I contacted Lennart to ask about postdoctoral training in his lab, which led me to Gladstone.
People may think that I came here because Shinya Yamanaka, who is a Nobel laureate, trained at Gladstone, and we both came from Japan. However, I was not aware that Shinya trained at Gladstone until after I became interested in training here. I feel honored to train at the same place where Shinya did.
What do you like about Gladstone?
Gladstone is committed to the success of the trainees. The investigators are friendly and respectful, and they consider work-life balance for their trainees. In Japan, employees are valued for working harder and longer and sacrificing their personal life. My mentor at Gladstone encourages me to maintain work-life balance. Such kind words are very encouraging.
Gladstone is also a strong advocate for diversity. The organization comprises many women and men from all over the world, and it supports all of their talents and important contributions to Gladstone and its science.
Were you interested in science as a child?
When I was a child, I wasn’t exposed to science. I grew up on a small southern island of Japan, Amami-Oshima, where there wasn’t an education system beyond high school or any science-based companies. When I was eight years old, I read a book about Thomas Edison and learned of the word, scientist, even though he was actually an inventor rather than a scientist. Around that time, I also loved one of the most famous Japanese cartoons, Doraemon. In the cartoon, many amazing tools show up to help a boy. I wanted to make those tools in real life, and I thought that I could be a scientist who invented the Doraemon’s tools. I mentioned this desire in an interview for a scholarship award in high school, and I got the award!
Why did you decide to go to graduate school and study neuroscience?
When I was a high school student, I wondered why I question and imagine, and where imagination and creativity come from. When I was in undergraduate school, I theorized that creativity originates from forgetfulness. At that time, I was not sure how to study forgetfulness, but I knew that Alzheimer’s disease is the disease of forgetfulness. Some genes are known to cause familial Alzheimer’s disease, and I thought that they would be good start to studying the mechanisms behind forgetfulness. So, I decided to go to a graduate school to study Alzheimer’s disease.
What or who influenced your decision to work in science?
In addition to the Doraemon, my teachers in junior high school encouraged me to work in science. I asked many questions of my teachers, and one of my teachers told me that the school would close if there were more students like me. Because I thought of so many questions, my teachers told me that I would excel as a scientist. I then realized that being a scientist is a real job, even though I had not known any scientist in person.
What do you do when you are not working in the lab?
I enjoy playing basketball and watching the Warriors’ games. I am a big fan of the Warriors and am excited for all splashes they make.
I also enjoy fishing and the amazing views of corals on my home island. I have fished with my father since I was eight years old, and I always plan my visits to my home island based on the tide so that I can go fishing with my father or a friend. One of my dreams is to one day teach my sons to fish, like my father taught me.
If you could learn to do anything, what would it be?
I would learn how to create the next Apple, Google, and Space X.
Name one thing that not many people know about you.
I have six sisters, five older and one younger, but no brothers.
If you could meet any scientist from any point in time, who would it be and why?
Leonardo da Vinci. He was a genius, and his creativity and imagination are magnificent. I started working in neuroscience, because I wanted to understand the origin of creativity and imagination. I would like to know how his ideas came to his mind.