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 and continues developing on the Kashiwa Campus. The GSFS guiding principle is creating new fields of study through transdisciplinary approaches that facilitate the fusion of different disciplines. GSFS has identified transdisciplinary challenges in complexity science, energy, environment, healthcare, information, international relations, life, materials, nanotechnology, sustainability, among others. To confront these key issues today, discipline-oriented approaches no longer suffice. GSFS brings together highly motivated faculty from diverse disciplines and provides students with opportunities to interact with these faculty so that both faculty and students can stimulate one another intellectually. Such interaction inspires discovery of new methodologies capable of resolving society’s challenges, and toward reforming the paradigms of science.
GSFS is the fourth largest graduate school within The University of Tokyo and is composed of more than 200 faculty members and some 1,300 students (as of 2014), but we are still growing. Eleven departments are grouped into three divisions: Division of Transdisciplinary Sciences, Division of Biosciences, and Division of Environmental Studies. 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, which is not only an area designated as a future-oriented experimental city with highly advanced urban functions, but also an area that provides an open atmosphere created by the suburban setting. This environmental setting helps enable GSFS to pursue its profound goals and to facilitate the transdisciplinary challenges.
The distinctiveness of our education and research lies in the fusion of highly specialized expertise with far-ranging and holistic perspectives. One educational mission of GSFS is providing a training ground for cultivating “T-shaped” professionals—those who have comprehensive knowledge and strong expertise in tandem with an intellectual and physical ability. This concept is often described as having “horizontal breadth, and vertical depth”. On a departmental level, we are strengthening our efforts to nurture strong expertise and research skills. At the school-wide level, we are also building a common platform for developing internationally minded professionals who have the resilience to respond to the numerous changes in society today.
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 grow future leaders who contribute to developing a more sustainable society. English is the lingua franca of the program and is characterized by interdisciplinary field exercises. Though the Division of Environmental Studies is the home to this program, firm support in fundamental areas from the divisions of Transdisciplinary Sciences and Biosciences is provided, making the program a prime example of the unique style of education that GSFS offers.
In 2014, the previously independent Department of Computational Biology and the Department of Medical Genome Sciences that used to be in the Division of Biosciences w integrated into a unique new department, the “Department of Computational Biology and Medical Sciences” within the Division of Biosciences. This new department involves not only informatics and medical sciences, but also includes agriculture, biotechnology, environmental science, pharmaceutical science, and numerous other applied sciences. Primary goals include leading information-oriented trends in biosciences, contributing to what the Japanese government refers to as life innovation—creating a healthy, sustainable aging society through creation of innovative drugs and medical devices.
The Kashiwa Campus is an unequivocally research-oriented campus. Ample space allows for large-sized experimental equipment for energy studies, nuclear fusion, plasma physics as well as for area-extensive facilities such as a world-famous collection of killifish and an electric car test field. Such a unique research environment is fully utilized for postgraduate education. What is more, all this is complemented by world-class research institutes including “Institute for Solid State Physics”, “Atmosphere and Ocean Research Institute”, “Institute for Cosmic Ray Research”, “the Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe”, “Center for Spatial Information Science”, “Research into Artifact, Center for Engineering”, among others including “the Institute of Medical Science” located on the Shirokanedai Campus. 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 GSFS curricula.
Internationalizing UTokyo is a critical issue, and the GSFS International Liaison Office (ILO) is part of the solution. ILO promotes 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 providing 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 come together, live together, and learn together. Without a doubt, our campus plays a leading role in internationalizing The University of Tokyo. In 2014, MEXT scheme recognized The University of Tokyo as a “Super-global University” and GSFS has since started developing a strategic partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) under this scheme. Moreover, we have created partnerships in research and education, and in student exchange with numerous universities including Seoul National University, Singapore National University, Imperial College London, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich, Vienna Technical University, University of Lyon, University of Cape Town, University of Nairobi, Tongji University, and Zhejiang University among others.
More than fifteen years have passed since GSFS was founded. It is becoming more and more important for us to develop unique and innovative academic disciplines, and also to grow professionals who can work in different international arenas by using highly specialized expertise together with comprehensive general knowledge. The University of Tokyo is expected to produce outstanding research outcomes, but also at the same time, to produce genuine educational reforms. Thus, the Kashiwa Campus is gradually taking the form of an experimental showcase where such innovative and challenging ideas thrive. GSFS, 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” as I mentioned earlier.
I would like all GSFS faculty, staff, and students to be conscious and proud of being a member of GSFS, and to make unrelenting efforts towards our goals. I would like to ask those who are considering taking an entrance examination for GSFS to be strongly motivated to join the process of pursuing such profound goals. I would like 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