Our goal is to be a university that is open and connected to society.
In order to realize a university that is open to society, we will work to raise awareness of this issue on campus.
Interviewer (referred to as ◆ below): Tell us about your responsibilities as a trustee.
Tomizawa: My responsibilities include university reform and evaluation. In this area, we create objectives and plans for the future of the university.
National universities must set mid-term objectives and plans for six years, and carry out specific tasks in accordance with them. Kumamoto University entered the Fourth Mid-term Objectives Period in April 2022, so last year we worked on creating mid-term objectives and plans for this period.
In addition, national universities undergo evaluations by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) on their progress in achieving their medium-term objectives and plans. It is also my job to prepare reports for these evaluations and figure out how to respond to the evaluation results.
◆: What are your plans for the university during the six years in the fourth period?
Tomizawa: Our aim is to make our university open to society. The slogans of the Fourth Mid-term Period are: “Always Communicating,” “Always transparent,” and “Always Improving.” In other words, our goal is to make our university open so as to communicate our initiatives to society and be accessible to people from all walks of life.
Our mission for the fourth period is to collaborate not only with university researchers, but also with companies and local governments. To this end, we must promote research that contributes to society and solves local issues, and educate individuals who can listen to the public and be highly valued by society. We are also thinking of various measures to attract citizens to the university. It would be great if Kumamoto University became a place of relaxation for the people of Kumamoto Prefecture and a place to visit for tourists.
It is also my job to raise awareness on campus of the need to realize such a university. All faculty and staff members are encouraged to think about what they can do for the community and society and act accordingly. Students are also encouraged to think about how they can become helpful members of society.
Research on RNA modification, which has received significant attention as a result of the development of the COVID-19 vaccines
◆: What kind of research do you usually do?
Tomizawa: I study RNA modification. It used to be a minor research field, but it is now attracting a huge amount attention due to the development of COVID-19 vaccines. The new coronavirus vaccines are the result of the development of basic research in RNA modification.
The research I am currently involved in is investigating RNA modifications in various diseases and developing treatments for these diseases. For example, it is known that certain RNA modifications are impaired in diabetes. We are thinking that controlling such modifications and will lead to the treatment of the disease.
Encountering new discoveries got me hooked on basic research
◆: What kind of student were you?
Tomizawa: I didn’t study much (laughs). Although I am often seen as an athletic person, I belonged to the Guitar and Mandolin Club and served as its president.
I decided to pursue a career in research after the director of the hospital where I did my clinical training told me, “If you want to go to graduate school, you should do a lot of basic research.” Basic research provides the foundation for clinical diagnosis and treatment in contact with patients. I followed the director’s words and became engrossed in research.
◆: What do you think is the appeal of research?
Tomizawa: It lies in discovering new things. When we start a research project, we formulate a hypothesis, but it rarely works out the way we expect. We start by asking “Why?” and that leads to new discoveries.
Students are also excited when they find something new. I no longer do experiments myself, but I enjoy discussing this and that with my students.
◆: Can you provide a message to all students?
Tomizawa: Kumamoto University is determined to become a “University open to society.” If you are interested in our university, you are always welcome to come and take a look around the campus. Kumamoto University is always open. It’s also a good idea to meet and talk to students and staff as you walk around campus.
We look forward to your visit to Kumamoto University.