Dean, Graduate School of Life Sciences, Tohoku University
The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed the world within the last one year. While the fight against the virus continues, contributions of life sciences from virus identification and analysis to the development of vaccines have been proved essential for containment of the pandemic.
The Graduate School of Life Sciences was established in 2001 to lay a strong foundation for fundamental research and education in life sciences at Tohoku University. To meet the rapid exponential developments in life sciences research in the recent years and to address the diversified social needs, in 2018, the school was reorganized into three departments— Integrative Life Sciences, Ecological Developmental Adaptability Life Sciences, and Molecular and Chemical Life Sciences. Research interests in the departments include the molecules, cells, tissues, organisms, biological communities, and ecosystems; these cover a wide range of life sciences disciplines including organic chemistry, structural biology, molecular biology, cell biology, developmental biology, plant science, neuroscience, genome informatics, ecology, and evolutionary biology. We also promote interdisciplinary research through collaboration with several other departments within the university.
American biologist and author Rachel Carson (1907–1964) warned of the destructive effect of synthetic chemicals on ecosystems in her book "Silent Spring", which led to the contemporary environmental movement. Having studied zoology and genetics in graduate school and having worked for the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries as a marine biologist before devoting herself to writing, she wrote about biology (life sciences) as follows:
I like to define biology as the history of the earth and all its life - past, present, and future. To understand biology is to understand that all life is linked to the earth from which it came; it is to understand that the stream of life, flowing out of the dim past into the uncertain future, is in reality a unified force, though composed of an infinite number and variety of separate lives. (Preface to "Humane Biology Projects" by the Animal Welfare Institute, 1961)
Scientific fields including life sciences, tend to be segmented. However, as Carson suggested, we need to have a broad perspective in these challenging times. I sincerely hope that the young people studying at the Graduate School of Life Sciences will implement what they have cultivated through their life sciences research and training, to build a society that is in harmony with nature.
April 1, 2021