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Alumni Interviews

Colégio Etapa (Etapa High School) Brazil ⇒ Department of Chemistry, School of Science

Connecting academia and industry

September 1, 2021

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What kind of work are you doing?

I am developing next-generation adhesives for automobiles in the corporate research laboratory division of 3M Japan Limited, which is a subsidiary of 3M, a global chemical company that was founded in America. By using adhesives instead of screws and bolts, the body of a car can be made lighter and more fuel-efficient. As we are now transitioning from gasoline cars to electric cars, the demand for adhesives is expected to increase.

I am usually at 3M Japan Limited’s Sagamihara office in Kanagawa Prefecture, where the research and development division is based, but at times go on customer visits and overseas business trips. In the three and a half years that I’ve been at this company, I’ve spent several months at the 3M headquarters in Saint Paul, Minnesota, United States, as well as the 3M branch in Germany.

What research did you do in undergraduate and graduate school?

I conducted research on nanocarbons in Professor Eiichi Nakamura’s* laboratory in the Department of Chemistry and had two main projects.

The first involved investigating individual organic molecules by using carbon nanotubes. I examined the movements of molecules and chemical reactions through an electron microscope and discovered that the molecules changed into more stable structures.

My other research project focused on fullerene, a spherical carbon molecule. Professor Nakamura was developing technology to create bilayer structures by joining many fullerenes together. Lipid bilayers are also found in cell membranes but a fullerene bilayer is 10,000 times less permeable to water than the lipid bilayer of a cell. By utilizing this property, I conducted research on the development of new materials and their applications to drug delivery.

Why did you decide to enter industry, specifically 3M, after completing your Ph.D.?

I decided to work in industry as I was looking for a change in my life. I wanted a job with a chemical company where I could be active globally while based in Japan. There were several reasons for this. I like chemistry so I wanted to remain involved in the field. Professor Nakamura’s laboratory also had people from various countries and it was very enjoyable to work with them, so I wanted to continue doing research in that kind of international environment. On the other hand, having lived in Japan for 10 years, I grew to love Japanese culture and enjoyed living in Japan.

3M had everything I was looking for. The company was also developing a wide range of businesses, which was a huge strength. Research in academia is difficult to apply directly to industry, but I felt that I could find opportunities at 3M.

Now that I am working on the research and development of next-generation technology, I can see the importance of basic research. It is essential to accumulate basic research in order to produce something new; however, companies are limited in terms of what they can do. Provided this, I want to eventually become a bridge to connect academia and industry.

What influenced your decision to study in Japan and at the University of Tokyo?

I wanted to study in Japan as it is a leading country in the field of chemistry. I have been interested in chemistry since I was a child and often played with chemistry sets. My grandparents are also Japanese so I had a strong interest in Japanese culture.

At the time, I could not speak any Japanese; however, under the Japanese Government (MEXT) Scholarship Program, students could receive preparatory education in the Japanese language and other subjects before entering a university in Japan. Therefore, I decided to study abroad in Japan after I received the scholarship.

I chose the University of Tokyo because another scholarship student from Brazil strongly recommended UTokyo, a top university in Japan, to study science. UTokyo also has an outstanding reputation and is recognized worldwide.

Could you please give a message to students who are thinking of studying abroad in Japan?

There is no reason to worry about living in Japan. Japanese people are kind and will look after you when it comes to your daily life. I’ve lived in Japan for 13 years and found that Japanese people always try to understand my situation whenever I’m in trouble. Their warmth has left a strong impression on me, especially in comparison to my short-term study abroad experiences in university and long-term international business trips after I started working.

When I was a student, I received thorough guidance from professors and senior students, and I was able to ask for advice from my laboratory members when I had trouble with my research or daily life. I also learned business etiquette, which was very useful when it came time to search for a job.

If there is any kind of research you want to do in Japan, you should come without hesitation.

*Molecular Technology Innovation Presidential Endowed Chair

Interview and text: Masatsugu Kayahara (Translation: Kristina Awatsu)
​Photography: Junichi Kaizuka

Originally published in The School of Science Brochure 2019

Ricardo Mizoguchi Gorgoll
Research & Development, Corporate Research Laboratory, 3M Japan Limited
Born in Brazil. After graduating high school in 2004, came to Japan in 2005 as a Japanese Government (MEXT) scholarship student and studied at the Center for Japanese Language and Culture at the Osaka University of Foreign Studies before entering the University of Tokyo’s College of Arts and Sciences in 2006. Entered the Department of Chemistry of the Faculty of Science in 2008. Graduated in March 2015 with a Ph.D. from the Department of Chemistry, Graduate School of Science, and assumed his current position at 3M Japan Limited in April that same year.
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