Conohana-san of the Month June edition (Part 1)
In ‘Conohana-san of the Month’, we discuss the experiences of senior researchers who have successfully managed to balance their research/work with life events such as childbirth, child care and family care.
Today’s interview is with Professor Toshiyuki SUGIYAMA, the dean of the Faculty of Engineering, and a professor in the Faculty of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Yamanashi. He is also a nice husband who experienced hard times in childcare with his wife about twenty years ago!
◎Introduction of Professor Toshiyuki Sugiyama
Specialty: Structural Engineering; Earthquake Engineering; Maintenance Management Engineering (Bridge Engineering)
Organizations: Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, Domain of Social System Engineering (Civil and Environmental Engineering), Interdisciplinary Graduate School of Medicine and Engineering Science (Division of Engineering), University of Yamanashi
・Hello, Dr. Sugiyama! Our office coordinator was one of your students, and has told me many good things about “Professor Sugiyama of Civil Engineering”. For me, your name is associated with bridges. Am I right?
Yes, you are. My specialty is structural objects, and bridges in particular. Namely, they are bridge engineering and reliability-based structural design. Bridge engineering is… for example, when a bridge such as road bridge or railway bridge oscillates when cars and trains pass, it generates noise, doesn’t it? We study to clarify the source of the generation of such oscillation and noise, to provide countermeasures. Bridges cannot be easily rebuilt because of the noise measured after the completion. In order to calculate oscillation and noise before construction, we are developing a high-precision simulation system, making full use of 3D analysis programs.
Reliability-based structural design is the study of bridge designing. Does that make sense?
…….It doesn’t, I’m afraid.(^^;)
I am studying the method of design that ensures proper bridge function, and at the same time fully utilizes the bridge engineer’s ingenuity…. In addition to that, I am involved in the study of frequency, oscillation, and acoustic-related studies.
・I see…. Being from a different field (of mechanical engineering), I am not sure I am following you, but now I understand that bridges are built with a lot of consideration from various angles. (Dear readers: Please forgive my interview not covering the essence of his research contents because of my lack of knowledge. > <;)
Now you have told me the subject of your research, you and I may see a same bridge quite differently. What part of your research do you find most satisfying?
Well, structural objects including bridges are a part of social infrastructure, so I feel rewarded when my research is able to make people’s lives more comfortable. When I can contribute to the society through my research.
・In my last interview with Professor Okamura, who is also active in the civil engineering field, I was told that she also felt satisfied when being useful to society. I realize that our daily lives are supported by the considerations and activities of people in various fields. Well, aside from research, I hear that you’ve been enthusiastic about sports, especially volleyball since your student days.
Yes, I have. I devoted myself to volleyball in middle school and high school, as an attacker. One memory is still fresh in my mind. In a prefectural tournament, which was the last tournament of my middle school days, just before hitting a ball, I saw the hands of an opponent blocker, and that the receiver was behind him. So I instantly made up my mind to shoot the ball into the place that was not guarded, and it was successful. After this experience, my play greatly changed and I became higher ranked player. I think such an experience is a benefit of playing volleyball, especially for an attacker. I was a coach of a volleyball club in a women’s university when I was a university student, and I’ve been an advisor of Yamanashi University’s women’s volleyball club since I came here. Until I was 32, I had been a player on a team called “Yamanashi Kyoin”. I have judge and instructor licenses, too.
・Wow, great! The story of the prefectural tournament is a good example of the intoxicating experience of success!
For me, my research is a bit like this experience. That feeling of unraveling a problem and proceeding to the next stage. …Well, about sports, I am not so into it these years. I still exercise though, doing jogging, etc.
・I was surprised to hear that research and sports have something in common. It made me feel like research is more friendly.
Actually, it is friendly (lol). There is a similar sense of success in research activity, like the “I did it!” that I felt in that tournament, and an opposite feeling, a frustration of feeling “It doesn’t work well, it isn’t moving forward…”, like in child raising. No, maybe childcare is more difficult.
・Oh, I heard that Professor Sugiyama worked a lot at home for childcare. How about your experience?
It was almost twenty years ago, do you mind? We were working parents, and my wife was commuting a longer distance than mine. So picking up my children from their nursery home or primary school was basically my task. We have four children, and small children tend to cry at night or get sick, don’ they? The nursery home would call me saying “Your child caught a fever and needs you pick them up” on the day of my business trip of all days. The primary school would do the same thing on the day of important conferences. At such times, my wife and I used to have little arguments…and eventually I would go (lol). Hypotheses are not easy to prove in research, but I must realize that it is “far more difficult to prove them” in childcare. Looking back on those years, I think I had a precious experience. I was able to witness how my children grew up, and was able to learn how hard it was to balance one’s work with childcare.
・That experience of yours covers one of our keywords “Work-life balance”.
I read some column in a newspaper which said “So far in Japan, the short knowledge and skills in workplaces have been compensated for by ‘labor time (after-hours work)’. However these days, the time is becoming more limited for workers who are being unable to work overtime, due to childcare and nursing care. The future of a corporation may greatly change depending on whether or not they take a ‘benefit package’ or ‘managerial strategy’ as the countermeasure against this trend.” This was understandable. To think of “work-life balance” is to think of how to use your time, or even further, it is to think of your life plan…Well, I’m talking too much. Is it OK for your interview?
・Of course! (lol) You are so experienced and persuading.
Work-life balance is a keyword often talked about these days. I hope students too think about this, but the time is up now!
Next time you’ll read how passionate he is as the dean of the Faculty of Engineering!