Research and education at the Graduate School of Science (GSS) of the University of Tokyo aim to create and develop new knowledge of the truths of the natural world and ensure that this knowledge is conveyed to students, peers, and the wider society. The GSS provides superb instruction in the concepts and methodologies for pursuing frontline research into the physical sciences to graduate students who will play leading roles in their future chosen fields. Todai graduate students finish their studies confident in their creativity and equipped with the knowledge and means to address and solve problems of the future.
The GSS comprises five departments: Physics, Astronomy, Earth and Planetary Science, Chemistry, and Biological Sciences. In addition, the GSS cooperates with a number of affiliated centers and research institutions, including the Misaki Marine Biological Station, the Koishikawa Botanical Gardens, the Research Centre for Spectrochemistry, the Geochemical Research Center, the Center for Nuclear Study, the Research Center for the Early Universe, the Center for Ultrafast Intense Laser Science, and the Molecular Genetics Research Laboratory. Because of this wide web of collaboration, the GSS has the human resources and institutional support to conduct frontier research in nearly every field of science.
The GSS offers master's and doctoral programs in each department. Courses are taught by a world-class faculty as well as by leading scientists and researchers affiliated with the above-mentioned research institutions. Research in a wide range of specialized fields and graduate school–level education of the highest quality are conducted in each course. This fact was made apparent when all six GSS departments were selected for inclusion in the Global COE (Centers of Excellence) Program established by the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.
In most cases, graduate students become a member of a laboratory and conduct research on a theme of their choosing under the guidance of a supervising faculty member. At the same time, they deepen their knowledge of specialized fields and related areas by attending various lectures and seminars. During the two years of the master's program and the subsequent three years of the doctoral course, students immerse themselves in research in order to understand and explain a part of the structure of nature. The results of this profound interaction with the research subject are brought together as a master's thesis or a doctoral dissertation, which is then rigorously examined and, if approved, results in the conferral of a master's or a doctoral degree.
Naturally, tackling a currently unknown aspect of nature — which is still full of unanswered questions — is immensely difficult. However, it is not rare for outstanding discoveries to be made from research conducted by graduate students. New ideas developed by young people unrestrained by past orthodoxies are indispensable for research of the physical sciences. At the GSS, approximately half of the students who complete their master's program proceed to enroll in a doctoral program. In turn, many of the students who then receive their doctoral degrees move on to start their active professional careers primarily as teaching staff at domestic or overseas universities or as postdoctoral staff at research institutions and elsewhere working at the forefront of research.
At its essence, science searches for the fundamental principles and laws in the natural world through a "dialogue with nature." Starting with simple questions like "Why?" and "How?" we approach the mysteries of nature. What motivates scientific research is the desire for wisdom, the defining characteristic of human beings. Sometimes our understanding of nature is immediately applied to the real world; other times it brings about deep-seated changes in our lives over a long span of time.
For example, consider quantum mechanics, which describes the micro world. This field derives from the search for understanding of the atomic structure, the true nature of light, and so on. The results of such quests have produced fruitful benefits. Through knowledge of the behavior of electrons in materials, semiconductor technologies and computer technologies have been created, leading to the development of the modern information-based society. Quantum mechanics also clarified the true nature of chemical bonds and prompted our understanding of molecular structures and chemical reactions, which contributed to the development of various functional materials. We are now surrounded by products that are the outcomes of such quests in quantum mechanics. Meanwhile, the study of molecular structures was extended to include organisms, and the discovery of the double helix structure of DNA triggered a technological explosion in biotechnology. Were it not for these studies in quantum mechanics, many of the conveniences we enjoy today would not be available.
The importance of science lies not only in our acquired knowledge of the basic phenomena of nature. Our understanding of nature forms the basis of our view of nature as well as of the universe. It teaches us the importance of living in harmony with nature and sometimes gives us the wisdom to cope with the powerful forces of nature, thus helping to ensure the safety of society as well as providing us with peace of mind. In these ways, science forms the deepest foundation of culture human beings have developed. In other words, the development of science enriches our view of nature and motivates us to carve out the future. Nature still harbors many mysteries. Those who intend to major in science and continue a career in it should share the dream all scientists have of wanting to solve one of these mysteries of nature. The undergraduate departments in the University of Tokyo's School of Science will help equip you with the knowledge and skills to start you on that path to the fulfillment of that dream.