Frontiers of Science and Technology

Education reform at Tokyo Tech has ushered in fresh changes since April 2016, which students and faculty members alike have embraced. One change aims to expose all 1st-year undergraduate students, including those in the Global Scientists and Engineers Program (GSEP), to leaders from various fields early in their undergraduate lives, allowing them to experience how these leaders approach difficult problems. Students can use these experiences to chart a future vision of themselves and then work backward to construct a plan for how they will proceed academically. Several new courses follow this concept. One of these is the Tokyo Tech Visionary Project, initiated by the Institute for Liberal Arts. Another is the Frontiers of Science and Technology course.

Learning from front-line researchers and specialists

At the Tokyo Tech Lecture Theatre
At the Tokyo Tech Lecture Theatre

Traditionally, when students enter Tokyo Tech at the undergraduate level, they join an Academic Group based on their personal interests, and learn within that group for their first year before opting for a specialization. Throughout the Frontiers of Science and Technology course, however, faculty members from the seven Academic Groups invite world-leading scientists and engineers to provide lectures to all participants, regardless of the Academic Group to which they belong. This allows students to more directly observe the links between society and the wide spectrum of science and engineering, and to begin thinking about where they want to position themselves along this spectrum.

Influential talks at the Tokyo Tech Lecture Theatre

Since the beginning of the course, the Tokyo Tech Lecture Theatre has been the venue for all lectures making up the Frontiers of Science and Technology. In 2016, the 5th Academic Group invited two project leaders from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency to speak about Akatsuki and Hayabusa2, two of Japan's newest space probes. The guest speaker for the 7th Academic Group focused on green fluorescent protein, the research topic of 2008 Nobel Prize laureate Osamu Shimomura.

Based on surveys, many of these lectures had a lasting impact on students in terms of their future direction and goals. This feedback prompted some Academic Groups to repeat their 2016 lectures the following year.

Results of post-course surveys in AY 2017

Q1. How new was the contents of the lectures?
Q1 How new was the contents of the lectures?

Q2. Did your motivation to learn increase through these lectures?
Q2 Did your motivation to learn increase through these lectures?

Q3. Did these lectures help you determine the direction you want to take?
Q3 Did these lectures help you determine the direction you want to take?

Q4. How did you feel about taking lectures at the Tokyo Tech Lecture Theatre?
Q4 How did you feel about taking lectures at the Tokyo Tech Lecture Theatre?

2017 lectures

Academic Group
Lecture topic
Toshiaki Enoki
Program Officer
Japan Science and Technology Agency
The world of nanocarbons
Michikazu Hara
Tokyo Tech
Survival science
Ken Tanaka
Tokyo Tech
Assembling chrysanthemums to construct chiral compounds
Tetsuro Murahashi
The frontiers of complex chemistry — Technologies that make metals work within molecules
Taro Hitosugi
Atoms make up everything — see and touch them
Kotaro Tadano
Associate Professor
Tokyo Tech
Developing robot systems for laparoscopic surgery
Susumu Sato
Associate Professor
Tokyo Tech
Stirling engines
Yoshihiko Wajima
Operating Officer
Honda Motor Co., Ltd.
Jet engine development at Honda
Tohru Yagi
Associate Professor
Tokyo Tech
Machine tools
Yun Feng Wu
Manager, Robot Business Division
Fanuc Corporation
Advanced industrial robots at Fanuc
Masamichi Shimosaka
Associate Professor
Tokyo Tech
Opening up the future with big data and AI
Takashi Uehara
Head of Inonvation Lab
Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Inc.
Taiichi Hashimoto
Data Analysis Team Leader
Data Labs / Clova Center, Line Corporation
Mitsuo Hashiba
General Manager
Hiroshi Masuichi
Head of Communication Technology Laboratory
Fuji Xerox Co., Ltd.
Ryuji Fujimura
Associate Professor
Tokyo University of the Arts
Designing society through architecture
Takashi Imaishi
General Manager
Civil Engineering Department, Taisei Corporation
The Bosphorus railway tunnel — challenging severe marine environments
Kazunori Ito
Coastal and Hydraulic Team Leader
Technology Center, Taisei Corporation
Yasuaki Nouguchi
Principal Chief Researcher
National Research Institute for Earth Science and Disaster Resilience
Disaster mechanisms
Yuko Motai
Hideki Taguchi
Tokyo Tech
The science and application of green fluorescent proteins
Yuki Yamaguchi
Satoshi Murakami
Hiroshi Kimura
Masayuki Takahashi
Specially Appointed Professor
Special lecture
Hideki Shirakawa
Professor Emeritus
University of Tsukuba
The discovery and serendipity of conductive polymers

Survival science
Survival science

Prof. Hitosugi conducting experiment
Prof. Hitosugi conducting experiment

Robot system for laparoscopic surgery
Robot system for laparoscopic surgery

Disaster mechanisms lecture
Disaster mechanisms lecture

Special lecture

The discovery and serendipity of conductive polymers
Hideki Shirakawa, Professor Emeritus, University of Tsukuba

In both 2016 and 2017, the final lecture of the course was a rare moment with Tokyo Tech alumnus and 2000 Nobel laureate in Chemistry Dr. Hideki Shirakawa. During his talk entitled "The discovery and serendipity of conductive polymers," Shirakawa spoke not only about his award-winning research, but also shared his personal feelings concerning life as a university student and researcher.

Special lecture by Dr. Hideki Shirakawa at 70th Anniversary Hall

Backcasting the future — A strategic learning process

As expected, each lecture in 2017 was followed by a blitz of questions from the young audience. Enthusiasm was also clear in the post-course feedback, which was as positive as in the previous year. Many students felt that their live experiences with cutting-edge researchers boosted their motivation to learn.

The lectures, however, were only the beginning, and an important strategic learning process continues for each individual student during their undergraduate life. By encouraging participants to first consider a desired future and then backcast their path "from there to here," the Frontiers of Science and Technology course allows students to proactively set, establish commitment to, and — throughout their time at Tokyo Tech — explore a variety of incremental solutions to achieve their personal goals.


The Special Topics component of the Tokyo Tech Website shines a spotlight on recent developments in research and education, achievements of its community members, and special events and news from the Institute.

Past features can be viewed in the Special Topics Gallery.

Published: October 2017


Public Relations Division, Tokyo Institute of Technology