Before moving to California, I spent a number of years here at Tokyo Tech to obtain my B.S. and M.S. degrees, so I am quite familiar with Tokyo Tech and the Ookayama area. I know many researchers working there, good restaurants, and good karaoke bars nearby. When I heard about ELSI for the first time, I thought it was an extension of our department (Dept. of Earth and Planetary Sciences). However, I was wrong!
When I first entered the ELSI building, I was quite impressed by the environment - a very nice tea room where you can relax, a stylish seminar space with artistic chairs, and tea/coffee you can have anytime. I can easily imagine that people would be happy to hang out here and come up with new research ideas. Scientists and staff with various backgrounds make ELSI's welcoming and international atmosphere. Furthermore, I really like ELSI's Friday happy hour "izakaya" - it is relaxing and also it is a good time to talk with people outside of your immediate research group. I wish it existed when I was a student.
I attended ELSI's 3rd international symposium "Life in the Universe" in mid-January. I was surprised by the diversity of the talks - one speaker talked about planet formation and another speaker discussed RNA. This would not happen at any other place. It must be challenging to connect these different research fields but it is indeed essential to tackle one of the most interdisciplinary subjects - origin of life. ELSI has world-leading scientists for this and I am looking forward to hearing about their progress over the years ahead.
I also find that ELSI and its conferences are great places for networking. Meeting many distinguished scientists at ELSI helped me a lot in many ways. For example, I received constructive comments on my research from conference attendees and was invited to give a talk at some of the attendee's institutions. I would highly encourage students to join these events and broaden their horizons.
Through the conference and a workshop on Saturday, I learned my own research subjects from new perspectives. I am working on Earth's interior from a theoretical point of view, but I learned a lot from the scientists who performed high-pressure experiments. It was very intriguing to hear about their new results and think about implications for theoretical models. It was unfortunate that I stayed at ELSI only for a week and did not have enough time for more discussions. I would love to stay longer next time and start collaborations with the scientists at ELSI.
I would like to thank the organizers again for inviting me to the great event. I really had a great time and I am looking forward to seeing them again. I would like to mention that I also enjoyed exploring Japan during the visit (as shown by the picture).
Shirakawago, Gifu where we enjoyed the relaxing atmosphere of the mountain village, under tons of snow.