Increasing the visibility of female researchers at our university.

#4: NJ's Experience

IMG-6022 - 中島 やえ子..jpg

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

A. Ibaraki Prefecture. I belong to the Institute of Medical Science.

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

A. I obtained my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees at Tsukuba University, majoring in biology, and I obtained my doctor’s degree in medical science as a JSPS DC1 researcher. After that, I worked as a postdoctoral fellow (Project Appointed Researcher, JSPS RPD) and then as Project Assistant Professor at Chiba University. I moved to the Institute of Medical Science, University of Tokyo, in 2018.

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

A. Yes. The laboratory where I started my research and earned my doctorate was a place with a very high percentage of women. The female researchers I met there were my first role models. I was inspired by the way they conducted diligent research while having a family. As there were several of them in that lab, I was lucky enough to have access to multiple role models, and to be able to imagine my own future as I saw how they dealt with different situations.

Q. Where is your favourite spot on campus?

A. Places with large ginkgo trees or cherry blossom trees. These trees are beautiful in every season, and they make me feel relaxed.

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

A. Learning, people, environment.

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

A. Currently, I am raising three children aged 14, 10, and 0, while conducting my research. After childbirth, I find it more and more difficult to find a balance between life and research.

I gave birth to my first child during my PhD, which means that my first training period as a researcher overlapped with my first parenting experience. So I was very anxious about how to manage my time. During this period, my parents supported me a lot and I received great advice from a male researcher who had a good understanding of how to balance child-rearing and research. I also consulted with female researchers who I viewed as role models.

During the births of my second and third children, I moved further away from my parents, so it became difficult to get help from them. Coordination between myself and my partner has become very important to balance my work and child-rearing. Looking back now, I feel I didn't do it very well with my second child. I think I should have relied on my partner more at that time. Last year I gave birth to my third child, and now not only my partner but also my older children are helping to raise the newcomer. I think it is important for families to work together.

However, it is true that I have less time for my work. I wish I could do more work from home, but this would be a match against my physical strength.

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. First of all, I hope she can experience the enjoyment of research. Also, I hope she can network with many people to expand her research environment (which I am not doing enough of). I believe she will learn a lot from doing these things.