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Campus Now

Early Spring Issue (Apr.)

From the classroom window

Here we will introduce high quality education being practiced and fitting of the name "Educational Waseda"

At Waseda University, in order to promote Faculty Development (FD), the FD Promotion Center was established in 2008 and is working to improve quality of education. In this issue, we ask Professor Honma of the School of Advanced Science and Engineering, who was appointed head of the FD Promotion Center on January 14, about how he plans his lessons and his ambitions as FD Promotion Center head.

*Faculty Development..General term for the systematic approach of faculty to improve lesson content and delivery.

Holding discussions and research presentations in English Acquiring communication skills in order to be active in the global society

Takayuki Honma
Professor, Faculty of Science and Engineering

Giving students necessary communication skills of an international standard

In my laboratory we are researching materials with new functions to be sent out into the world using electrochemical nanotechnology. To be specific, by examining and controlling the reactions of atoms and molecules coming in contact with the surface of solids and liquids (interfaces), we can construct various device systems such as LSI (semiconductors), ultra high-density magnetic recorders, and batteries.

Different from companies that make and sell products, what a university sends out to the world is "ways of thinking" (research results and their approaches), and "personnel" who have acquired those methods. And in order to send out "ways of thinking" to the world, "communication" skills are essential in, of course thesis presentations, and conference presentations etc. Internationalization is advancing, especially in recent times, in science and technology, so practical communication skills using English in various circumstances such as international conferences, has become indispensable for students.

Creating an atmosphere of international communication in everyday classes

In the seminar. Presentations and question and answers sessions are conducted in English

I believe there are three skills necessary to have at international conference presentations. They are presentation skills, the ability to answer questions appropriately, and the ability to pose sharp questions. Especially in the case of question and answering skills, it is necessary to get accustomed to many different situations. An individual's influential power holds great weight in research itself and the actual presentation, but the ability to give questions and answers and communicate among a large number of participants cannot be acquired alone.

It is there that my laboratory conducts presentations and questions and answers in English in our weekly seminars. But, because having the students understand the content of the research itself is a priority, I also accept Japanese. Each student gives a ten minute presentation on the research content and has a half hour question and answer session. The presentation takes place with no notes. Each time, about four students give a presentation, and there is a rule that all students listening must make questions at their own initiative. I also have graduate school students preside over proceedings, create a lively question and answer atmosphere and prompt presenters who become stuck in order to give them skills in taking the lead in discussions. American postdoctoral fellows also participate in the seminars, commenting on pronunciation and grammar when necessary, and give guidance to the students to always be conscious of how to time suitable questions and opinions in the heat of lively discussion.

The secret to success is having the students manage themselves

I have fully realized the importance of communication skills in an international environment, especially from my time at an American university, and I have conducted this type of lesson since I started my own individual seminar as a professor in 2005. In the beginning I had my doubts as to whether it would be successful or not, but when I actually put it to the doctorate students on how it should progress, they came forward with many ideas. Proceedings, how to hold question and answer sessions, and how to follow up content that hasn't been fully completed, were all ideas of the students. Because the students acted independently, everything progressed well. Including those students, five seminar students have completed their doctorates (one this spring) and gone on to universities (UC Berkeley, Stanford, MIT) and companies(Hitachi and Toshiba research laboratories), becoming active in a global environment.

Scanning probe microscope. A pointed probe is traced along the surface of a substance, and the surface is magnified to a level where atoms can be observed

Hearing from graduates who are now working in various places, they say that their experiences from this seminar were truly useful. I believe learning skills to be active in an international context while you are a student, is useful for the future in any field.

On January 14, 2011, I was appointed as a head of the FD Promotion Center. While taking into account the activities this university has taken to improve quality of education, in the future I would like to investigate the ways of educational systems from the viewpoint of global standards, and actively promote, in and outside of the university, the areas of our university's education that we can be proud of. Not to be outshone by the students, I am going to put all my energy into my new role.

Takayuki Honma
Professor, Faculty of Science and Engineering

Graduated from the Department of Applied Chemistry at the School of Science and Engineering, Waseda University before going on to complete his doctorate (Doctor of Engineering). Majors in applied physical chemistry. Became a research associate in 1991, and after spending time as an assistant professor and associate professor, he became a professor of applied science at the School of Advanced Sciences and Engineering, Waseda University in 2005. Worked as a visiting associate professor in Stanford University in 1997-1998. Served concurrently as a researcher at the US National Science Foundation Industrial/University Cooperation Research Center's Silicon Wafer Engineering & Defect Science Center (NSF-I/UCRC-SiWEDS.) Winner of the Electrochemical Society Electrodeposition Division Research Award in 2010. Associate Dean of Academic Affairs from 2010. Appointed head of FD Promotion Center in January 2011.