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Awarded "The L'Oreal-UNESCO Award for Women in Science (Japan Fellowship)"
By development of a new method to produce an anti-cancer drug element!

Ms. Natsumi Tanaka

"I never imagined I could win the award." Ms. Tanaka, upon receiving the third edition of "The L'Oreal-UNESCO Award for Women in Science (Japan Fellowship)", expressed her passion for science and also the perseverence that she exhibited along the way. This award is given to young female researchers to allow them to continue their studies. It was created in November 2005 by cooperation between UNESCO Japan and the cosmetics company L'Oreal Japan. From the fields of life science and physical science, two women are chosen from each for the total of four recipients. It was the first time for a candidate from a private university to receive this award and brought great honor to Waseda University.

Since 2003, from her days as an undergraduate student, Ms. Tanaka has been working with the Nakata Research Laboratory, conducting experiments on organic synthesis of natural substances. From the beginning, she devoted herself to this research and successfully developed a new process for chemical-synthesis of the substance produced by a micro-organism that could be used to combat cancer. It is a difficult process to clarify its complex structures, therefore only two research groups have previously succeeded. Ms. Tanaka's development is the third time in this field of study.

For five years upon joining the laboratory, she worked nearly 12 hours a day and conducted over 2,500 trial methods in the laboratory. "Many times I felt I wanted to quit. But in such times, Professor Nakata and my research mates encouraged me and offered support over and over again. And for these reasons, the award is not only my achievement, but also victory of our whole research team," she states modestly. However, "I was discouraged every time I saw other people succeeding in the same research field," as she could hardly hide her honest feelings. In each word she uttered, one can sense the two indispensable qualities of a researcher: "passion" and "perseverance."

Being a science fanatic, she spent her childhood looking through microscopes and telescopes. "Reading was my worst subject in school. What I learned from my chemistry teacher in high school became one of the triggers that led me to pursue this field."

With interests other than sciences, Ms. Tanaka says her mind is at ease when she is at an art gallery browsing through paintings. Ms. Tanaka herself has been associating with art since she was young. Painting landscapes and making careful observations of nature stimulated her interest in science. "What's important in science is 'to continue making progress by challenging nature.'" This motto expresses Tanaka's undefeatable and optimistic attitude as a scientist.

Beginning next April, she will start a new career at a major pharmaceutical company. "I'd like to help people suffering from diseases by new drugs," she says, with the hope of making good use of her achievements in the pharmaceutical field. "From now on I'd like to play a part in training more women to become researchers." She has now become an inspiration to her juniors, who strive to reach up to her achievements. We hope to see further accomplishments by the woman scientist born at Waseda.

(Offered by WASEDA WEEKLY)

Natsumi Tanaka

Born 1981 in Chiba Prefecture. Graduated from Ochanomizu University Senior High School. Graduated from School of Engineering and Sciences of Waseda University. Currently, she is in the third year of a doctoral program at the Graduate School of Advanced Science and Engineering. Majored in chemistry and life-science, currently working on a doctorate-degree under Nakata Masahisa Research Group. For the development of the production method of a substance that could combat cancer, awarded "The L'Oreal- UNESCO Award for Women in Science (Japan Fellowship)". Next year, she will be working as a researcher at a pharmaceutical company. Her hobbies include Japanese calligraphy and art (she herself paints).