In ‘Conahana-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.
This is the sequel of the interview with Dr. Misa Otoguro, an assistant professor at the Faculty of Life and Environment Sciences.
She is one of our alumnae, a mother of two children who utilizes the Female Researchers Supporting System, and a researcher who deeply loves microorganisms.
◎Introduction of Dr. Sayaka Yamashita
Organizations: Local Food Science Course, Faculty of Life and Environmental Sciences, Domain of Life and Environmental Sciences (Local Food Science), Interdisciplinary Graduate School of Medicine and Engineering at the University of Yamanashi
Specialized field: Applied Microbiology
●You told me that you determined to complete a master’s degree when you decided to enter the University of Yamanashi. At that time you didn’t think about going on to a doctoral course, but did you think about becoming a researcher then?
No, I hadn’t thought about it. I was totally absorbed in research and went on to the doctoral course then I found myself being a researcher.
●Being absorbed in something brought you to a destination…it sounds great. What do you think of where you are, your job of research and teaching at university? How worthwhile is it?
The main merit is that I can continue research in what I’m interested in. I’ve got many researcher friends in and out of this country, and I’m inspired by new students I meet every year. I’ve been teaching for two and a half years, and I always have a fresh feeling with classes and experiments thanks to them. I feel happy when many students show genuine interest in my lectures.
The photos of microorganisms she let us display at the third Conohana Week. They had a strange charm in them to capture the viewers for a while.
I am studying microorganisms. The microorganisms which have been discovered so far are said to be only about 1% of the overall number existing on the earth. The other 99% have not been revealed and their usage is unknown. My research is to seek these undiscovered microorganisms effectively, aiming at applying them in the fields of food, especially wine brewery and food fermentation.
●I thought there were scores of microorganisms, yet they are only 1%! Surprising!
Isn’t that something? Many people may associate the name “microorganisms” with bacteria or germs. But we are receiving benefits from them in environmental purification, the development of medicines and foods, etc.
●Microorganisms suddenly seem really something to me! Your classes must be so enjoyable filled with your love for microorganisms! May I observe your class some time?
Dr. Otoguro explaining microorganisms.
●That’s a problem!! Well, changing to another topic (^^;), You are having a fairly busy research activity, but how do you manage to make a balance between that research and your private life?
As my time at the laboratory is limited, I simulate a day schedule while commuting every morning. Those schedules are often interrupted by unexpected things, but I make short-term plans to make work-life balance possible. In specific, I put sticky notes on a white board, writing tasks for a week, a month, and a half year, grouped by color. I get myself in shape by checking it every day.
●It’s a good idea to use sticky notes! It’s easy to make changes, and having a half years plans in sight, you’ll get more motivation to achieve the goal!
I am motivated, but time is limited. Research requires not only experiments but also writing to organize the results. Writing tends to proceed slowly in the beginning and then accelerates, and strangely, in the late afternoon a lot of appropriate sentences appear. I think I can make it finally but time runs out and I have to pick up my children. I often have to leave unfinished writing there and head for home.
●It’s important to be with your attractive microorganisms, but the time with your children is more precious. I’ve enjoyed this interview very much, and lastly, I would like you to give advice to your future juniors, the would-be students of the University of Yamanashi!
I want students to enter this university to live their life being proud of the course they chose, whether it was their first option or not. You must be very busy for study, part-time job and play-time, but I want you to make priorities for yourself, and obtain a sense of responsibility for what you are assigned to do.
She has a deep insight, and is such a delightful person that the time for the interview flew by!
You must have many more interesting episodes from your student life and the modern history of Kofu area (lol). I hope to have this opportunity again…
Dr. Otoguro, thank you very much for this interview!