Increasing the visibility of female researchers at our university.
#13: Lian's Story
Q1. Where are you from? Which department are you in?
Philippines, GPSS-GLI (Global Leadership Initiative), Graduate School of Frontier Sciences
Q2. Why did you choose UTokyo?
I first chose UTokyo because it had a very attractive English program on top of other opportunities, such as an international exchange. Back when I was doing my masters, I was able to go on a summer exchange to Denmark because of UTokyo. It's also very prestigious, which could translate well in opening more doors in the future.
Q3. Do you have role models on campus, and how do they inspire you?
My friends, honestly. They inspire me in their own ways - especially because being a girl in UTokyois typically frowned upon in society. Seeing them go after their dreams despite some prejudice pushes me to do the same.
Q4. Where is your favorite spot on campus?
In Hongo, it's definitely Fukutake hall. It's right beside this yaezakura (cherry) tree and in front of all the beautiful golden ginkgo. On the Kashiwa campus, it's just the campus benches. I usually sit there in the shade in summer and feel the nice breeze.
Q5. What's your research topic? Would you mind sharing one exciting moment or one fascinating thing you like the most in your research?
My topic is education for sustainable development. I like my research because it's ever-evolving. I have a computer science background (bachelor's), and my master's was in interdisciplinary information studies. Now, I'm doing sustainability sciences. They all seem far apart on the surface level, but actually, they’re all pretty gradual and interconnected (longer story).
Q6. Have you faced any difficulties as a graduate student? How did or do you overcome them?
I suppose it's time management. When you're a graduate student, you suddenly have a lot of time as well as no time at all. You have freedom when to do everything as well as when not to do them. So it's important to place boundaries e.g. never working on weekends, just writing 4 hours/day. It depends on how you work, which is part of the grad school package.
Q7. If you have experience at overseas institutions, what are some of the differences with the campus culture at UTokyo?
I came from the Philippines which generally has a livelier culture. I can definitely say the same thing as I wrote in this article when I first came here. Having had two experiences in UTokyo, I can say that it really depends on your program and the lab. I was the first "English" student in my previous lab, so I was really able to experience what it was like the Japanese way. In Kashiwa, on the onset is already more diverse and "international," as they would like. So even within the university, there is a difference depending on where you land.
Q8. Do you want the male students or faculty members around you to improve themselves? Do you feel that your gender influences how you are considered by them?
Fortunately, in both of my experiences in Hongo and Kashiwa, I have not felt strong discrimination by male students or faculty members. There is good female representation in faculty in both the Graduate School of Interdisciplinary Information Studies and the Graduate School of Frontier Sciences so far. Similarly, plenty of my colleagues are female in ITASIA (International Master's/Doctoral Degree Program: Information, Technology, and Society in Asia ) and GPSS (The University of Tokyo Graduate Program in Sustainability Science Global Leadership Initiative). I have only heard otherwise in other graduate schools, so I am thankful to be in healthier situations. If anything, I would say to both women and men not to carry too much weight on outer appearances as I believe women are placed with higher expectations in this regard.
Q9. Imagine you have a little sister who is about to start a journey at UTokyo. What message or advice you would like to give to her?
Grab all the opportunities! UTokyo is extremely well-connected and offers a lot of help and interesting programs. Best to make the most of it.