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December 8, 2023

CiRA Research Internship Program Student Interview vol. 5
-An Aspiring Researcher Fueled by a Fulfilling Internship Experience-

Shoei Yamazaki
(Nagoya Institute of Technology)
at the Open Lab in CiRA.

Shoei Yamazaki is a third-year student in the Department of Life Science and Applied Chemistry at the Nagoya Institute of Technology. To fulfill his interest and curiosity in drug discovery research, he has been in contact with laboratories at his university since he was a first-year student and now performs research part-time there.

At the age of 9, watching the Nobel Prize ceremony during which Professor Shinya Yamanaka was honored inspired him to pursue a career in research and led him to study science. During two weeks from mid-September, Yamazaki was finally able to participate in the CiRA Research Internship Program, something he has been long looking forward to.

What did you do during your internship?

Under the guidance of Dr. Hirohide Saito (Professor, Department of Life Science Frontiers), I studied phase separation (also referred to as biomolecular condensates), a biological phenomenon in which macromolecules inside cells, such as proteins and nucleic acids, undergo self-assembly and -disassembly in cells. Phase separation plays vital cellular functions and has intricate connections to neurological diseases and memory. During my internship, I repeatedly conducted experiments in which I used circular DNA to produce the target protein I wanted to express and introduced it into human cells to observe whether phase separation would occur.

How was your experience at CiRA?

The research project I was given to work on was very interesting. I was able to observe phase separation happening inside cells and acquired a lot of promising results that I hope to develop further in the future. It was unbelievable how much I accomplished within only two weeks.

On the other hand, there were several times when I felt I still had so much more to learn. I participated in a journal club for the first time, and although I only listened to the presentations, I was impressed by the high level of knowledge the presenters had and felt this was the level I should aim to be at. To introduce a scientific paper during journal club, the presenters must understand the research background and be knowledgeable about related papers so they can discuss the science and answer questions about the work. I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of knowledge the presenters must have, so it made me want to do better as well.

Did this internship change your goals for your research or career?

Rather than changing them, this internship experience has strengthened my desire to become a researcher. As I was performing experiments, I came across more and more new words I had never seen before. While researching and learning about them, I felt like I was really becoming a researcher. This internship made me realize once again that research is fun and that I want to pursue a career as a researcher.

While I enjoyed my internship experience because the experiments all went well, I understand that being a researcher is usually much more challenging and filled with many obstacles and difficulties. Even considering that, I will never forget the excitement I felt when I was told by a researcher at Saito Lab during this internship that we may have been the first in the world to make these observations because they have not yet been published in a paper. It was a great experience to experience the thrill of being a researcher.

I am also very happy to have experienced the world-class research setting at CiRA. People I talked to were humble and treated me sincerely, even though everyone was much more experienced than I was. When I asked questions about their research or anything I did not understand, they taught me from the basics and offered much deeper explanations than I had asked for. I was also happy to feel that they were engaging with me sincerely, and it was a wonderful environment that inspired me to stay humble while performing top-level research. My internship ends tomorrow, but I feel there is still so much for me to learn. It is too bad I will be leaving after today.

  1. Interviewed and written by
    Chiaki Yoshino
    A CiRA technical staff and a freelance writer and editor with experience writing and editing over 200 articles, including on-demand media, press releases, and interviews. Her topics of interest are corporate mental health and science.

(Translation: Kelvin Hui Ph.D., Research Promoting Office, CiRA)

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