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Professor Toshie Kai, Graduate School of Frontier Biosciences

Professor Toshie Kai
Germline Biology Group, Graduate School of Frontier Biosciences

Dr. Toshie Kai, a full professor at the Graduate School of Frontier Biosciences (FBS), recently published an article entitled “Heterochromatin protein 1a functions for piRNA biogenesis predominantly from pericentric and telomeric regions in Drosophila” in Nature Communications, one of the most renowned science journals in the world.


Nowadays more and more research institutions around the world have been promoting publications with international co-authorship, which is by all means the case for Japan. Professor Kai has been actively working with overseas researchers. Indeed, the co-authors of this article are mostly from Temasek Lifesciences laboratory affiliated with National University of Singapore where Professor Kai started this research.


Professor Kai spent the majority of her career as a scientist in overseas laboratories, which leads us to believe that her experiences will benefit early-career researchers who wish to challenge joint research with overseas researchers and to get published in high-profile journals. According to Professor Kai, meeting people in conferences and meetings, as predictable as it is, is an efficient first step to finding research partners. An internal fund for young researchers to attend international conferences, for example, might help encourage them to start a joint research project. It is especially important to build a relationship of mutual trust. Otherwise handling problems remotely, which is inevitable during a joint research, would be very difficult and sometimes may lead to a breakup. “It’s not just about ‘benefit’,” she said.


Regarding her research themes, Professor Kai told us: “It seems to me that more and more people go to applied research, like iPS, immunology, and cancer, in life science. It is a good thing that researchers are becoming more aware of how important it is to contribute to society. But as a researcher of basic research, I want to convince people of the value of basic research and show how it can lead to social contribution.” In her own words, basic research is more like “treasure hunting,” and she has always been enjoying the pleasure of working out the puzzles given to mankind by the universe.


Apparently, “Passion” is the best motivation for researchers to keep moving. The question is, how can we provoke and hold onto our passion in finding undiscovered answers and joys in “treasure hunting”?


Interview & text: Yao Xin


* The publication of this research was partly funded by an internal fund, the Publication Support for English Research Papers program of Osaka University, operated under MEXT programs of: Program to Supporting Research Activities of Female Researchers and Program for Promoting the Enhancement of Research Universities.


For further information on her work:

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