Increasing the visibility of female researchers at our university.

#3: Akiko's Experience

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Q. Which Japanese prefecture are you from? Which department are you in?

A. Kanagawa Prefecture. Earthquake Research Institute.

Q. Could you tell us about your journey from enrolling as a university student to your current post?

A. Undergraduate Science Class 1 
→ Faculty of Science, Department of Earth and Planetary Physics 
→ Earthquake Research Institute (Graduate School of Science, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Gakushin DC1) 
→ Gakushin PD @ School of Science, Hokkaido University 
→ Assistant Professor, Earthquake Research Institute.

Q. Why did you choose UTokyo? What was the most attractive point to you? What do you think are the shortcomings - if any - of being a researcher at UTokyo? 

A. When joining UTokyo as an undergraduate, the starting point is a liberal arts course, and after learning the basics from experts, you can choose a specialisation such as in science or humanities. The entrance exam questions test basic high school skills. The English entrance exam emphasizes long reading comprehension and listening rather than vocabulary. If you decide to be a faculty member of a research institute at the University of Tokyo, education opportunities may be fewer because the number of students is small compared to the number of researchers. On the other hand, if you belong to such a research institute, you can concentrate on your own research. The graduate students can receive in-depth guidance in such an environment

Q. Do you have any role models? If so, how do they inspire you?

A. All women and men who are doing fieldwork while raising children with a burden of 50% or more taken up by husband and wife. They give me hope that this might be possible for me as well. In particular, I want to thank one male researcher who advised me not to seek the perfect timing for childbirth (otherwise you will never be able to have children).

Q. Where is your favourite spot on campus?

A. The passage from the Earthquake Research Institute to the Faculty of Agriculture, which is located to the east of the Faculty of Agriculture athletic ground in Yayoi Campus.

Q. Give us three keywords to describe your life as a researcher at UTokyo.

A. Freedom, abundant research funding, encounters.

Q. In one sentence, what is your research topic? Would you mind sharing one exciting moment or one fascinating thing about your research?

A. To capture and understand the breathing of the Earth, such as earthquakes, volcanoes, and plate movements, by using seismic observations. When I find unexpected results or phenomena from the data I observe.

 

Q. Have you faced (or are you facing) any difficulties as a researcher? How did (or do) you overcome them?

A. At Hokkaido University, I had few acquaintances and we had few hours of sunshine in winter, so it was lonely and difficult. I kept myself motivated by making a determined plan to return to Tokyo. I felt the limits of my adaptability to the environment.

Q. Have you faced any difficulties in balancing your private life and research?

A. I have bought a dishwasher and a drum-type washing machine and dryer to reduce the burden of housework. When I go on business trips, I frequently arrange for a babysitter to look after my child to aid my husband. Since we both work, we can accommodate this within our means. I would like to work a little more on weekends and at night, but it's quite difficult... Recently, I’ve started working on my PC early in the morning before my child wakes up, or after my child falls asleep at night if we don’t fall asleep together.

Q. Imagine you have a little sister who is about to start a journey as a researcher at UTokyo. What message or advice would you give to her? 

A. I can't answer this question because in my case this is not an imaginary scenario, but I would say please give importance to work-life balance and enjoy your research.

 

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