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Campus Now

New Year Issue (Jan. 2014)

My study, My career

Introducing female researchers active at Waseda University.

Waseda 150 Vision defines the ideal form of our university as we move toward our 150th anniversary in 2032.
One aspect of the vision is “Waseda research which contributes to world peace and the happiness of mankind.” As we work to achieve this goal, we expect new perspectives and ideas to be introduced through the activities of female researchers. In the ninth edition of this series, we spoke with Professor Atsuko Takamatsu.

Seeking to expand research through active collaboration with experts in other fields

Atsuko Takamatsu
Professor, Faculty of Science and Engineering

Performing research fills me with energy.

During my 4th year at university, I first encountered the field of biophysics, which combines biology and physics. It was then that I began to focus on research as my career path. However, university is a special type of environment. Instead of performing research without any understanding of the world around me, I wanted to contribute to society. Therefore, after acquiring my Master’s Degree, I found employment as a system engineer handling public systems. After almost 3 years of employment, I found myself looking back over textbooks from my time at university. I recalled how energetic I was when conducting research and decided to return to the laboratory.

Biophysics seeks to use knowledge of physics in order to clarify the biological rhythms of human beings. For example, why do human beings exist in this shape? Why do we follow a life rhythm of sleeping at night and waking in the morning? My research seeks to develop numerical formulas for mechanisms shared among organisms, from humans to mice and single-celled organisms. Such formulas can be applied to a variety of fields.

My current research theme is the pipeline network of slime molds. Despite being single-celled organisms without a brain or heart, slime molds function as living organisms and even possess the ability to adapt to their environment. For example, in order to improve energy efficiency in hostile environments containing hazardous substances, they form an arboroid network composed of thick pipelines. On the other hand, in nutrient-rich friendly environments, they join closely to form a reticulated network and are very active. Similar networks exist in various places throughout the world. One example is power networks which vary depending on the environment of a country. By converting the rules of slime molds to numerical formulas and applying those formulas to technology, I believe that it will be possible to construct efficient power networks.

Learning from my interaction with students

Summer research camp (Kamogawa Seminar House)

My laboratory is an open environment accessed by passing through a space occupied by students. This location makes it easy to communicate with each other. I often interact with students, and students actively communicate with each other. For example, I am sometimes stopped by students on my way home and asked questions about research. Another time, after I had scolded a student, I had time to calmly think things over and realized that I made the same mistake when in university. I took the opportunity to reflect on my action. I learn many things by interacting with students.

Sciences courses are only enjoyable if you understand the material. When I was a student, instructors conducted class at their own pace. As a result, I often didn’t understand the material being taught in class. Today, students are busy with part-time jobs and club activities. Therefore, I focus on assigning practical exercises to help students understand material within a class timeframe.

Utilizing my experience in society to actively collaborate with other fields

When her research stalls, Takamatsu refreshes by playing with her cat Milk and Cafe Mocha.

Actually, conducting research is not always enjoyable. I frequently fail to achieve the desired results and find my research at a standstill. However, I am driven by my decision to stop working in society and pursue my passion of research.

My work as a system engineer gave me experience in collaborating with other fields in order to construct a single system. My own ability and knowledge are limited. Working together with others allows me to progress forward. For example, by performing joint research with other university laboratories which handle other organisms such as mice and drosophilidae, I will be able to expand my research to include a variety of biological mechanisms other than slime mold and microorganisms. Recently, this kind of multidisciplinary research is increasing. I believe that cooperating with researchers from other fields and exchanging opinions with various people will lead to a diversity of ideas. In the future, I will continue to actively participate in research meetings of other fields and to interact with a variety of researchers in an effort to further expand my research.

Atsuko Takamatsu
Professor, Faculty of Science and Engineering

Completed the Master’s Program in bioscience at the Department of Applied Physics, Tokyo Institute of Technology Graduate School. Afterwards, worked as a system engineer at a private corporation. 3 years later, entered the Doctoral Program at the Graduate School of Bioscience and Biotechnology, Tokyo Institute of Technology and began her biological research based on non-linear science. Obtained a PhD in science in 1997. In 1998, appointed as a researcher in fundamental science at RIKEN. In 2000, appointed as a researcher in the PRESTO21 program of the Japan Science and Technology Agency. Assumed the position of Assistant Professor at the Waseda University Faculty of Science and Engineering in 2004. After being promoted to Associate Professor, assumed her current position in 2009.