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Campus Now

Early Spring Issue (Apr. 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 this edition, we speak with full-time instructor Reina Azuma.

Realizing a place of learning with mutual respect among faculty and students

Reina Azuma
Full-Time Instructor, Faculty of International Research and Education

People behave based on information gathered from the surrounding environment.

I first became interested in the academic field of psychology thanks to my social studies teacher in high school. I entered the Department of Psychology with the intention of studying clinical psychology. However, I was drawn to the field of cognitive psychology due to the influence of my father, a scientific researcher. The impetus for my desire to continue research at a university or corporation was the book related to ergonomics Dare no Tame no Dezain? (Design for Who?), which was recommended for reading during summer vacation from my professor in cognitive psychology. This book taught me that people naturally behave based on information gathered from the surrounding environment. For example, if we see a button, we push it; if we see a lever, we pull it; if we see an arrow pointing towards the right, we turn towards the right. I realized that human behavior becomes slower and less accurate when the behavior intended by a tool design is in conflict with natural behavior. What kind of environment enables people to take correct behavior? What kind of environment leads to incorrect behavior? Furthermore, within what cognitive process do differences in the speed and accuracy of behavior occur? During my time at university, I became engrossed in such questions and conducted repeated experiments.

Learning at overseas education/research institutions

Pembroke College’s library of the University of Cambridge where Azuma studied in the PhD program

However, at that time, psychological research in Japan was extremely systematic. Moreover, there was only access to old information which lagged one or two steps behind overseas research. My desire to encounter overseas advanced research led me to study abroad for one year. Just when other students were preparing to start their search for employment, I finished the procedures for foreign study. Soon, I had entered a graduate school in England. Before I realized it, I had spent 10 years conducting research overseas, including my post-doctoral research.

Overseas, a great deal of research is performed through cooperation among various fields. My research dealt with the relatively medically-related theme of intra-cerebral images and vision in development disorder children. While staying overseas, as a member of joint project formed mainly from psychiatrists, I was involved in research on development disorder children caused by difference in chromosome 22. Even though I lacked medical knowledge, I was asked for my opinions regarding the structure and progression of experiments, and other areas within my field of expertise. I was impressed by the attitude of researchers seeking to clarify a single theme. I worked at a multinational laboratory with male and female researchers from a variety of fields. I never felt like a minority due to my gender, nationality or research field.

Cultivating critical thinking through incisive academic comments

With her son on the bank of the Thames River during the London Olympics

In my seminar, I conduct presentation-based classes which focus on cultivating critical thinking. Students give English presentations on their findings in fields which catch their interest. In response to these presentations, I make incisive academic comments such as “Can’t you interpret your findings in another way?” and “Is the author’s opinion correct?” Instead of allowing students to believe that a single opinion is correct, I want them to acquire an academic perspective by considering a variety of interpretations. On the other hand, each student has a different area of interest and there are presentations on a variety of themes ranging from memory, learning and other fundamental research to consumer psychology, negotiation techniques and personal magnetism research. I truly enjoy my classes with students, as they sometimes provide an opportunity for me to learn about new viewpoints.

Treating all people with respect

My high school teacher taught me to treat all people with respect, an idea which I value greatly. I aspired to become like that teacher, who was able to tell selfish and impudent high school students, “I respect each of you as people.” Today, as an instructor of students at Waseda, I respect my students. They are more than people who simply pass in and out of my classroom. I have affection for all of my students from the naughty types to the reserved ones. Some students have problems which they try to hide within themselves. When I sense that students are troubled or worried, I encourage them to talk with me in my office. In such cases, I hope that I will be able to provide students with a new viewpoint. In the future, I will continue to give my utmost attention to everyone that I encounter in order to construct an environment based on mutual respect between students and faculty members.

Reina Azuma
Full-Time Instructor, Faculty of International Research and Education

Graduated from the Department of Psychology in the Faculty of Human Sciences, Sophia University. Obtained her Master of Science from University College London. Obtained her PhD in psychology from the University of Cambridge. Assumed her current position after conducting post doctorate research at the Max Planck Institute (Munich) and the Institute of Psychiatry of King’s College London.