Frontier sciences arise from new understandings of basic and applied scientific disciplines. Research at and beyond the frontier sciences is an intrinsically risky venture and is characterized by the absence of disciplinary boundaries. The Graduate School of Frontier Sciences (GSFS) was established in 1998 through discussion and collaboration among all schools and institutions in The University of Tokyo. The GSFS’ guiding principle is creating new fields of study through transdisciplinary approaches sharing a basic scientific foundation that facilitates the fusion of different disciplines. The GSFS has identified transdisciplinary challenges in complexity science, energy, environment, healthcare, information, international relations, life, materials, nanotechnology, sustainability, among others. To confront these key challenges today, discipline-oriented approaches no longer suffice. GSFS brings together highly motivated faculty from diverse disciplines and provides students with opportunities to interact closely with them so that both faculty and students can stimulate one another intellectually. Such interaction inspires the discovery of new methodologies capable of resolving society’s challenges and reforming the paradigms of science.
Eleven departments are grouped into three divisions: Division of Transdisciplinary Sciences, Division of Biosciences, and Division of Environmental Studies. The GSFS also has a specially designed cross-departmental educational program, GPSS-GLI, in addition to five independent research centers on campus. The Kashiwa Campus is located in the Kashiwa-no-ha region, an area that not only serves as a designated future-oriented experimental city with highly advanced urban functions, but also provides an open atmosphere created by the suburban setting. This environment helps enable the GSFS to pursue its profound goals and to facilitate the undertaking of transdisciplinary challenges.
Since 2012, we have operated the Graduate Program in Sustainability Science–Global Leadership Initiative (GPSS-GLI) as a MEXT-supported “Leading Graduate School.” This is a degree program that leads to Master’s and PhD degrees, and aims to nurture future leaders who will contribute to developing a more sustainable society. The program uses English as its lingua franca and is characterized by interdisciplinary field exercises. The Division of Environmental Studies is the home to this program, with firm support provided in fundamental areas from the divisions of Transdisciplinary Sciences and Biosciences, making the program a prime example of the unique style of education that GSFS offers. The University of Tokyo Summer Internship Program in Kashiwa (UTSIP Kashiwa) is a seven-week summer program for academically motivated undergraduate students. It provides hands-on research internship opportunities in the natural and social sciences. Participants will also experience Japanese culture and world-leading Japanese technology through weekend events and a field trip.
As the third campus after Hongo and Komaba, the Kashiwa Campus is undertaking construction with a view to new development in the 21st Century in accordance with the University of Tokyo’s “tripolar structure” concept. The Shirokanedai Campus is the location of world-class research institutes such as the Institute for Solid State Physics, the Atmosphere and Ocean Research Institute, the Institute for Cosmic Ray Research, the Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe, the Center for Spatial Information Science, Research into Artifacts, Center for Engineering, and the Institute of Medical Science. Close collaboration has been established among these institutions in innovative research and education.
Another GSFS challenge of particular interest is collaboration with regional and industry stakeholders. The Future Center (FC) of The University of Tokyo, built in 2014, is located just in front of Kashiwa-no-ha Campus Station, together with the Urban Design Center Kashiwa-no-ha (UDCK). Both FC and UDCK address the “Smart City” social experiment, develop collaboration with venture industries, and confront other new regional challenges. Many such social or business activities are integrated into a new style of field exercises in the GSFS curricula.
Internationalizing UTokyo is a critical issue in the exploration of frontier sciences, and the GSFS International Liaison Office (ILO) is part of the solution. The ILO promotes the GSFS abroad, handles student exchange programs, assists with some overseas student travel arrangements, and provides support for their everyday life in Kashiwa, in addition to offering Japanese language lessons and administrative support in English. Also, we have been developing a plan to construct a new international residential college as an integral part of the Kashiwa II Campus where both students and researchers from overseas and Japan will be able to come together, live together, and learn together.
It is becoming more and more important for us to develop unique and innovative academic disciplines, and to cultivate professionals who can work in different international arenas using highly specialized expertise together with comprehensive general knowledge. The University of Tokyo is being counted on to produce not only outstanding research outcomes, but also genuine educational reforms. Thus, the Kashiwa Campus is gradually taking the form of an experimental showcase where such innovative and challenging ideas thrive. The GSFS, as the educational institution element of the campus that can formally accept students, has been endeavoring to achieve its goals of “intellectual adventure,” “striving for transdisciplinarity,” and “future-oriented internationalization and collaboration with society.” We are eager to collaborate—as well as compete—with our partners within the university, in Japan, and all over the world so that we can truly contribute to developing a sustainable future from the aspects of both technological innovations and social reforms. The Graduate School of Frontier Sciences is always on a challenging journey pursuing new frontiers.
Graduate School of Frontier Sciences