Miwa SASAI, Assistant Professor, Research Institute for Microbial Diseases
Assistant Professor Miwa SASAI specializes in immunology. She ascertained that "the toxoplasma protozoa, which also infects humans, infiltrates the body like a Trojan horse and proliferates from there."
When she was in elementary school, Asst. Prof. SASAI loved independent science research, researching mold formation and how to preserve cut flowers. Her impetus for becoming a researcher began with her questions on autoimmune diseases that were diagnosed while she was a high school student. "My inherent passion for research really came out when met with the mechanisms which make the immune system attack a body it should be protecting."
But it wasn't a smooth road to becoming a researcher. The biochemistry department that she enrolled in was not an environment in which to study immunology, and in her graduate research, she underwent strict guidance of cell culturing from her instructors. "Having such strict education everyday was rough, but looking back, I'm grateful for it."
Asst. Prof. Sasai gave some advice to those who choose to move forward along the path of research: "Get an image of yourself 10 years from now, and really pursue what you like. Looking back, there were quite a few crossroads, but I've always lived by pursuing the research that I love, which made me what I am today."
Asst. Prof. Sasai has varied hobbies, including cooking and running. "I want to eat well but also stay healthy. I put an emphasis on practical benefits," she laughed. "The other women researchers and I talk about these kinds of day-to-day practical benefits over motsunabe (a hotpot dish made with beef or pork offal) or some yakitori (grilled chicken)," she told us. "Perhaps these are what make up the core of female scientific researchers," she said with a playful laugh.
In the future, Asst. Prof. Sasai will perform research to enhance immune activation through the development of vaccines for preventing toxoplasmosis infection to fetuses during early pregnancy and using Toxoplasma gondii, which spreads through the body by hijacking cells of the immune system, as a biological medium.
"I want to perform research that will serve people in the future," she told us with a smile.
Asst. Prof. Sasai graduated from the Biological Sciences Course, Department of Chemistry, Biology, and Environmental Science, Nara Women's University in 2002. In 2007, she received her doctorate in Science from the Graduate School of Biological Sciences, Nara Institute of Science and Technology. From that same year, she served as a Postdoctoral Fellow for Research Abroad of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science at Yale University for 5 years. She then became an assistant professor in the Immunoparasitology Department in the Research Institute for Microbial Diseases, Osaka University in 2012.