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Do you remember taking apart clocks and radios as a child because you were curious about how they work? (It was easy to take these apart, but we were scolded and cried because we could not put them back together again.) Like that child, we are interested in knowing what goes on inside a cell. The driving force of our research is an extremely individualistic “curiosity,” one that you would in children. Some may question whether research based on such child-like motives and far from noble objectives such as those for humanity, society, or people suffering from disease is valuable.

We believe that research conducted through curiosity is just as important as research conducted for human society. Newton’s discovery of the laws of universal gravitation has its origins in curiosity. In my research field, Mendel’s laws of genetics were probably based on a simple question such as “why do children look like their parents?” Research results based on such curiosity have significantly contributed to the development of fields such as engineering and medicine.

There are many faculties of science in a university. For example, Hokkaido University is comprised of the Schools of Science, Engineering, Agriculture, Pharmaceutical Sciences, Medicine, and Veterinary Medicine. Among these, the School of Science engages in curiosity-driven research. As the names suggest, other Schools conduct research that “is useful to people”. However, recently, students of the School of Science have spoken of “research that is useful to society.” Of course, such motives are important. However, these same motives can constrain research ideas and only when we are free from these restrictions can we find a truly novel and astounding discovery. Furthermore, discoveries and knowledge that at first glance are not useful have eventually to lead scientists to uncover “useful” new technologies. “Basics” and “practicality” are the pairs of wheels that propel science forward. For this reason, I am concerned about the driving force that currently fuels research activities at the School of Science, because it resemble that of the School of Engineering. Therefore, I hope to continue research by focusing on each member’s “curiosity” in the laboratories of the School of Science.

My laboratory is associated with the Chemistry Department of the School of Science. Of all the laboratories in the Chemistry Department, my laboratory conducts research studies that are the strongly linked to biology. (The name of the laboratory is historical, and we do not conduct research related to organic chemistry.) However, chemistry pertains to the study of molecules, which aligns well with our objective of “understanding life at a molecular level.” It is no surprise then, that we are members of the Chemistry Department. We hope to attract people who are enchanted by the mysteries of life or have an interest in it to try and tackle these mysteries, regardless of whether they like chemistry or have a background in it. We believe that individuals of different backgrounds can be united by a common and strong “curiosity” toward the mysteries of life.

Compared to watches and radios, even simple bacteria are more elaborate and complex than any machine that humans could construct, without a designer and plans. More research leads to greater mysteries. In addition, solving these mysteries can tell us a little about ourselves. Once you realize the joys of uncovering even a portion of the mysteries of life, you will be addicted. Our hope is to spread this addiction to at least one other person.