29. Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Life and Environmental Sciences

Sayaka YAMASHITA       


Conohana-san of the Month March edition (Part 1)


In ‘Conohana-san of the Month’, we discuss the experiences of senior female researchers who have successfully managed to balance their research/work with life events such as childbirth, child care and family care.

This interview is with assistant professor Sayaka Yamashita from the Faculty of Life and Environmental Sciences at the University of Yamanashi. She also gives a great assistance to our Support Office.  

You are always helpful to us!!



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 U

niversity of Yamanashi (Division of Life and Environmental Sciences)

 Specialized field: Molecular Biology (Molecular biology of type 1 diabetes)



You are from the University of Yamanashi (commonly called “Na

shidai”), aren’t you?


 Yes, I am. I graduated from the Department of Materials Science and Biotechnology (Department of Applied Science as of now) 

at the Faculty of Engineering, and continued to stay at Nashidai to complete Master’s and Doctoral degrees. Then, I attended a

 course at the University of Yamanashi 

 Hospital as a research collaborator for six months. After that I lived in Sweden for two years for my post-doctoral research, and came back here to become a department of Life and Environment Science faculty member.


You seem to have always been at Nashidai…what makes you love Nashidai so much?


 It is not love that makes me stay here…well, I do actually love Nashidai (lol), I really love to be here, but I just got this job by chance. It so happened that Nashidai was recruiting faculty staff for a newly established department at the time of the expiration of my post-doctorial research contract. It was really a coincidence.



I hear that it is difficult for researchers to find a job when there is not a post available where they can continue research. Do you mean you were able to get your desired post in your home ground?


 I was lucky (lol). Also it was helpful that I did not cling too much to “continuing my research”. Naturally I wouldn’t get out of 

my course, but I am not afraid to change the subject within it. 

 Every post is important for a research project. My research topic in my undergraduate days was “creating pancreas beta cells from embryo stem cells (ES cells)”. It then shifted to exploring the cause of type-1 diabetes, and now, because I assumed a position in the Local Food Science course, the major subject of my research is relations between antioxidant biofactors, such as polyphenol, and lifestyle diseases.



Your research themes seem unrelated at a glance, but they are connected to one another, aren’t they? What do you think the charm of being a researcher is?

There are many factors required to continue research, but I think that the basic factor is just to keep on learning. I was not good at “forced study”, which we often had to do in our school days, but I’ve always loved to learn and to absorb new ideas. To study depending on one’s needs is fun and I cannot stop it. 


Research jobs seem to be good for those who are with deep intellectual curiosity. By the way, when did you become interested in the study of science?


I would say I chose my course when I was in middle school. I was a book worm, too, and good at writing essays, so humanities courses were still one of my options. I thought I would change my course if possible. Besides, I was not good at physics.




Well, not all students in scientific majors are good at every scientific subject.


 That’s right! I hope that the students in middle and high school understand that before deciding their courses. Also, for reference, I hope that they check the website “Rikejo”, a site to support students in science majors.




I attend the events there occasionally, and do counseling for middle and high school students. I enjoy this because I’m not just helping students, but I’m inspired by them, too.




Rike-jos draw attention these days, especially due to a success in cytology, but Dr. Yamashita has been supporting female students in the science major for some time.♪


Next time we will talk about our researcher support system (Career Assistant). Look forward to it!