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Message from the Dean

東北大学大学院生命科学研究科長 東谷 篤志

Atsushi Higashitani

Dean, Graduate School of Life Sciences,
Tohoku University

  The Tohoku University Graduate School of Life Sciences was inaugurated in 2001 as an independent graduate school that went beyond the traditional framework of faculty-based graduate programs and institutions, comprising 3 majors in a total of 36 different fields of research. The broad field of life sciences, ranging from molecules to cells, individuals, the environment to ecosystems, is integrated at a single location for research and education, with a diverse group of graduate students accepted from both Japanese and overseas universities. During this period, our research and education have been highly regarded and our students have excelled with achievements, with this graduate school forming the central focus of the adoption of two GCOE programs combining cross-sectoral subjects: the Tohoku Neuroscience GCOE Basic and Translational Research Center for Global Brain Science and the Tohoku Ecosystem Adaptability GCOE Research and Education for Ecosystem Adaptability. There are more than 1900 graduates, 359 of whom have received doctorates, who are highly active in both Japanese and overseas universities and research institutes, private enterprise, and government organizations.
Thus, the graduate school has grown as a central hub for life sciences in this university, and has generated significant results for research and education. However, simply continuing our previous activities will not enable us to adequately fulfill our responsibilities. Life science research has developed dramatically in recent years and has elucidated many new mysteries of life, but these subsequently present previously unknown issues require expertise in increasingly highly sophisticated research. Furthermore, issues that must be dealt with at a global level, including global warming, loss of biodiversity associated with environmental destruction, and rapid aging of the society came increasingly into sharp focus as we entered the 21st century. The human resources required in this situation need creative imaginations to work in the social conditions of the future.
However, the system formed from the framework when the school was first established consists of a configuration divided into 3 levels: molecular and cellular level, individual level, and environmental, ecosystem level, but this framework no longer adequately responds to the needs of the time. This is the reason this school was reorganized into the 3 major fields of study: Integrative Life Sciences, Ecological Developmental Adaptability Life Sciences, and Molecular and Chemical Life Science, aiming to achieve compatibility between “comprehensive and integrated understanding of life phenomena” and “contribution to the welfare of humans”. These 3 major fields of study are advancing fields centered around life sciences, while simultaneously responding to social and industrial needs, including health and medicine, building a sustainable society while facing global environmental issues, and agriculture, forestry, fishery, and food problems. The curriculum was reorganized into a system of education research aiming to resolve problems while acquiring advanced cutting-edge expertise based on the challenges set by the school, with thorough provision of ethics education relating to life, environment, information, and research. Tohoku University will continue to open its doors to a diverse range of young people from Japan and overseas, to engage in world-ranking research while studying life sciences, as part of the goal of Tohoku University to be a “community of knowledge open to the world where people gather to learn and create”.

April 1, 2018