Message from the Dean

Koichiro Ishimori, Dean, Faculty of Science, Hokkaido University
Koichiro Ishimori / Dean, Faculty of Science, Hokkaido University

The School of Science, which is the origin of the Faculty of Science, Hokkaido University, was established as the fourth School of the Hokkaido Imperial University in 1930. Of the five imperial universities at that time (Tokyo, Kyoto, Tohoku, Kyushu, and Hokkaido), Hokkaido and Kyushu, which were practical learning-based universities originating from Sapporo Agricultural College and Fukuoka Hospital respectively, did not have the School of Science. It is said that there were many pioneers who desired to pursue basic scientific research and therefore put much effort and enthusiasm into the establishment of the School of Science in Hokkaido University. To accommodate 11 courses across six departments (mathematics, physics, chemistry, geology/mineralogy, botany, and zoology) in the newly established School of Science, a modern building was constructed as the main faculty building, which was the first genuine concrete modern structure in Sapporo (currently hosting the University Museum). The staircase room at the main entrance of the main science building, which utilized much of the latest construction technology at the time, has a dome-shaped ceiling with vintage reliefs displaying “fruits”, “sunflowers”, “bats”, and “owls” on the four walls, which signify “morning”, “noon”, “evening”, and “night” respectively. These reliefs express the determination of the people at the time of the establishment of the School of Science: Their devotion to unprecedented, cutting-edge research, regardless day or night, and determination that new scientific discoveries originating at Hokkaido University should be conveyed from this northern land to the entire world.

Since its establishment in 1930, the determination and traditions of the pioneers at the time of establishment have been visible in the creative research conducted at the School of Science, Hokkaido Imperial University, and its successive the School of Science and the Graduate School of Science, Hokkaido University. These include the first-ever artificial snow created by Dr. Ukichiro Nakaya and the development of the coupling reaction by Dr. Akira Suzuki, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2010, through to Dr. Mamoru Mori, Japan’s first space shuttle astronaut, who spent his student days in the School of Science. In 2006, the Graduate School of Science was divided and reorganized into the Faculty of Science, a research organization for teaching staff, and the Graduate School of Science, an educational organization for graduate students. In 2010, the Graduate School of Chemical Sciences and Engineering and the Graduate School of Life Science were established and reorganized so that graduate students under the instruction of teaching staff from the Faculty of Science could also belong to the Graduate School of Chemical Sciences and Engineering and the Graduate School of Life Science, as well as the Graduate School of Science. Although the organizational structure resulting from this division and reorganization of research and teaching organizations may seem somewhat complicated, it has enabled us to continually conduct cutting-edge research, despite a wide array of changes in the environment around the university. Organizational flexibility is also required to implement advanced teaching, and, by adopting this research faculty/academic system before other divisions in Hokkaido University, the Faculty of Science has maintained and further increased the advanced level of research and teaching. Although the name has changed from the School of Science to the Graduate School of Science and the Faculty of Science, we have retained the same young and energetic character that was present when the School was established.

Today, the Faculty of Science/School of Science is one of the largest divisions in the university with more than 300 staff members, consisting of more than 200 teaching staff and 50 researchers, including specially appointed professors and postdoctoral fellows, as well as affiliated technicians, office staff, and support staff. It is composed of five departments, namely Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Biological Sciences, and Earth and Planetary Sciences. Affiliated institutes include the Institute of Seismology and Volcanology, the Genome Dynamics Research Center, and the Nuclear Reaction Data Centre. Every member of the Faculty of Science is engaged in cutting-edge research activities, and more than 10% of the teaching staff were listed as authors in the top 1% of the most cited papers published between 2003 and 2014. Additionally, the amount of competitive research funding and external funding acquired in recent years has remained at a high level, and the Faculty of Science has continuously been in the top one or two university divisions in terms of selections for Grants-in-Aid for scientific research. Even more foreign students are joining the Faculty of Science every year being attracted by the high level of research in the faculty. The pioneering staff highly desired that the School of Science would become a hub of basic research in the northern area of Japan and would globally convey science originating at the university. This wish is currently being fulfilled by the Faculty of Science.

On the other hand, its excellence does not simply concern a high level of research. At the Faculty of Science and related graduate schools, we are trying out new teaching experiments. As the division responsible for supporting scientific education throughout Hokkaido University, we are applying considerable efforts into constructing new teaching systems, including establishing the Leading Program Promotion Office in the Faculty of Science in 2014 in order to implement the graduate school’s “Ambitious Leader’s Program: Fostering Future Leaders to Open New Frontiers in Materials Science,” which was taken up in 2013 as a new graduate education program. An Active Learning Promotion Office was also established with the goal of applying active learning, which is a new teaching method that has received much attention in recent years, to scientific courses in 2015 and the investigation of the implementation of scientific entrepreneurship education, etc.

Furthermore, in 2012, the Office for International Academic Support was established mainly to respond to internationalization as an organization that supports such research and education systems. The office structure includes specialized staff members who are responsible for various duties related to internationalization within the faculty, school and related graduate schools, including providing support to international students and foreign teaching staff, and the coordination of duties regarding the conclusion of agreements with overseas universities. These tasks were previously handled by researchers on a volunteer basis but are now more accurately and efficiently processed by this specialist group. From now on, while achievements in research and education activities will continue to be emphasized throughout the university, we will continue to construct more research and education support systems so that the Faculty of Science teaching staff can be more absorbed in such research and teaching activities.

As shown above, the Faculty of Science, Hokkaido University, originates with a determination and enthusiasm of pioneering staff members to create a hub for basic scientific research in the northern area of Japan, and such a determination and tradition have been passed down to successive researchers. We have also conducted various teaching experiments that target new expansion. In the future, as the importance of university research and education in society increases, there will be a greater demand placed on universities in terms of the duty to produce numerous individuals who can contribute to society by, for example, supporting global cutting-edge research and a variety of advanced industries. The Faculty of Science must continue moving forward to be at the forefront of research and education so that we can respond to this demand from society. We would like to ask each and every one of you for your continuing and increasing support.