SADA Kazuki
Graduate School of Chemical Sciences and Engineering

Saving the Earth through the Study of Chemical Sciences and Engineering in Hokkaido

As has been discussed in the context of the SDGs in recent years, today’s society faces global challenges, including the need for energy development toward sustainable societies, climate change, grave declines in biodiversity that are often called “Earth’s sixth mass extinction,” environmental pollution from microplastics, a scarcity of sustainable water and food supplies, and the spread of infectious diseases (e.g., COVID-19). Because of the close relations between these challenges and the prosperity of human beings (Homo sapiens), it’s been proposed that the current geological period be referred to as the Anthropocene: a period in which human activity has been the most significant influence on climate and the environment in Earth’s history. Many of the underlying causes of these problems derive from chemical processes performed by human beings. This means that achieving a mastery of chemical processes through the study of chemical sciences and engineering will lead to the resolution of many of these problems and to the protection of Earth and human beings alike. The Graduate School of Chemical Sciences and Engineering covers a wide range of research fields of chemistry, from theoretical chemistry to biochemistry or molecular biology. The school aims to foster the next generation of world-leading frontrunners by providing an opportunity for them to gain comprehensive cutting-edge education and research experiences in these fields.

The Graduate School of Chemical Sciences and Engineering is the first chemistry-oriented graduate school ever to open in Japan and was established through a fusion of the Department of Chemistry of the Faculty of Science, which focuses on the fundamentals of chemistry from the standpoint of elucidating phenomena, and the Department of Applied Chemistry of the Faculty of Engineering, which provides practical sciences from the standpoint of artificially designing chemical substances and their reactions. In our graduate school, we collaborate on education and research with the Institute for Catalysis (ICAT), the Research Institute for Electronic Science (RIES), the Institute for Genetic Medicine (IGM), and the Institute for Chemical Reaction Design and Discovery (ICReDD) in our university, and with the National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS), the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), and RIKEN outside the university. With the support of 51 laboratories covering a wide range of chemistry areas categorized into the following three courses, the school offers a curriculum that provides systematic education based on a panoramic perspective of all fields of chemistry in science and engineering.

  • Molecular Chemistry and Engineering Course
  • – Molecular-level control and analysis of reactions, catalyst development for efficient reactions, development of reaction chains toward related chemical process development and process design

  • Materials Chemistry and Engineering Course
  • – Development of organic polymers, inorganic materials, metallic materials, nanomaterials and other types of matter with novel functions stemming from a hierarchical assembly of molecules and atoms, and related composite materials

  • Biological Chemistry and Engineering Course
  • – Artificial control of biological systems based on chemical analysis of the structures and functions of cells and organisms, and the design of medical and medical-related materials with various biological functions

We at the Graduate School of Chemical Sciences and Engineering are proactive in internationalizing education through participation in HU initiatives such as the Hokkaido Summer Institute Program and the Learning Satellite Program, which enable students to learn together with overseas students at HU or its partner institutions abroad. Further, we collaborate with the Frontier Chemistry Center and other organizations in preparing students for global roles by enhancing their cross-cultural understanding and international communication skills through various initiatives. These include the Short Visit Program, where students do their research in the lab of their overseas collaborator for about two months, the Short Stay Program, intended to host graduate students from abroad, and various exchange programs involving international students, including the CSE’s Summer School, which are organized by doctoral students themselves

We help students obtain financial support by encouraging them to apply for various grant and scholarship programs offered by the government, HU and other private foundations. Our most important goal is the creation of an environment in which doctoral students can devote themselves to research, and a large number of graduate students are receiving financial support through various programs. These include the Hokkaido University Ambitious Doctoral Fellowship (IT), which was selected as a MEXT University Fellowship Creation Project for Innovation in Science and Technology; the Hokkaido University DX Doctoral Fellowship, which was selected for the Support for Pioneering Research Initiated by the Next Generation (SPRING) program of the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST); and the Japan Chemical Industry Association’s Human Resources Fostering Program in Chemistry, for which the Graduate School of Chemical Sciences and Engineering was selected as a graduate school offering a unique and significant doctoral curriculum considered desirable by the chemical industry. In our graduate school, many students have been awarded Research Fellowships for Young Scientists (DC1, DC2) by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS). Master’s course students planning to go on to a doctoral course are also encouraged to use these programs, as those students are eligible to apply as long as they meet certain requirements.

We also encourage students to participate in various graduate education programs in order to foster not only research skills, but also the global leadership skills that will be required of the next generation of global leaders when they rise to the challenge of solving global problems. The Ambitious Leader’s Program Fostering Future Leaders to Open New Frontiers in Materials Science (ALP) and the Ambitious Program – Smart Materials Science (SMatS), in particular, integrate experimental science with mathematical science, computational science, and data science in the field of materials science to enable students to acquire transferable skills.

We also work to create an environment in which students become more motivated to proceed to a doctoral course by envisioning their career paths and setting objectives for after they’ve received their Ph.D. In this regard, our graduate school joins the graduate education reform project Ph.Discover for further partnerships with industry, especially with many global companies, including chemical and materials companies and IT companies.

It’s my sincere hope that students at the Graduate School of Chemical Sciences and Engineering will pursue their studies to help address the aforementioned global challenges by acquiring basic and advanced knowledge in chemical sciences and engineering. In line with the four basic philosophies (frontier spirit, global perspectives, all-round education, and practical learning) that have been pursued by Hokkaido University since the founding of its forerunner, Sapporo Agricultural College, all the students will nurture their humanity and make many great friends on a vast campus that’s blessed with natural beauty. I can’t wait to see them develop into the next generation of leaders and blossom in society.

April 1, 2022