Voice of a Researcher

Hear from our researchers about the type of research activities they participate in, and reasons why they work at the Computational Biology Research Center.

Paul Horton Paul Horton
Sequence Analysis Team Leader
Native of Washington State, USA, born 1966
UC Berkeley, Computational Biology Research Department
Martin Frith Martin Frith
Sequence Analysis Team
Native of London, England, born 1975
Boston University, Bioinformatics PhD Program
Katsuhisa HORIMOTO Michael Gromiha
Molecular Function Team Senior Researcher
Native of Tamil Nadu, India, born 1967
Bharathidasan University, Physics Research Department
Coming from diverse countries and research institutions, we chose CBRC.
- First, please explain what led to your participation in CBRC.

Frith: After graduating from Boston University in the USA, having chosen "mammalian genome sequence" as my research theme, I was living a rather unusual post-doctorate life. In order to conduct research along the lines of my theme, I was spending half of each year at the University of Queensland in Australia and half at RIKEN in Japan. At UQ I learned mainly theoretical ideas, from many useful discussions among researchers, and at RIKEN I was able to learn about analytical methods using huge amounts of data. I was extremely fortunate to live in multiple institutions with very different environments. And after my post-doctorate work I decided to join a Japanese research institution and have been working at the CBRC since this April.

Gromiha: Just like Mr. Frith, I too was researching at multiple institutions in different countries. After obtaining my Master's degree in Physics in my native country of India, I chose "structure and stability of protein" as my research theme for PhD and conducted research at Italy's ICGEB and Japan's RIKEN. After researching at RIKEN from 1997 to 2002, since 2002 I have been participating in CBRC.

The ability to conduct research freely is the largest reason for choosing CBRC.
- Having seen many research institutions, would both of you please explain your reason(s) for choosing CBRC?

Gromiha: I can point to three major reasons. One is that CBRC has the environment I need for my current research theme, "membrane protein sequence structural analysis." In addition to well-furnished facilities and equipment, one can conduct research in collaboration with diverse researchers. The second reason is the high degree of freedom that one has in advancing research. At CBRC, you can freely choose research conforming to one's theme of interest. There is a great degree of flexibility in the way of advancing research, and I was attracted by the ability to conduct research exactly as one desires. The third reason is that long-term research can be developed here and one can get thoroughly involved with one's research theme.

Frith: I chose CBRC for the same kinds of reasons. Actually, after finishing my post-doctorate work, I had almost decided to join a different research institution. However, I turned them down [laughter] and chose CBRC instead. With regard to the research environment and continuity, there were not big differences between the other institution and CBRC. However, as I heard more stories from surrounding researchers and looked into matters more, I came to perceive CBRC's high degree of freedom as powerfully attractive. The high degree of freedom and flexibility - those are the largest factors in my choice of CBRC.

Despite language problems, there are great merits to research in CBRC
- In what aspects do you perceive the merits of conducting research activities at CBRC?

Frith: The high degree of freedom that I just referred to is something that you feel strongly after joining. Also, I think the large number of researchers involved and the breadth of the research themes are merits of CBRC. While focusing on their respective themes, each researcher shares information for the benefit of others. The traffic in diverse information produces better research results and precision.

Gromiha: This can be said of Japanese research institutions in general, but the infrastructure necessary for research is well developed. Research in my native India focused primarily on discussion. In the case of CBRC, the infrastructure for gathering and analyzing large amounts of data is well developed, resulting in greater research efficiency.

Frith: Of course, research life in Japan has its difficult aspects. Language is especially a problem. When various types of research information are announced only in Japanese, there is the hassle of getting the material translated into English in order to be able to understand it. However, since almost all researchers at CBRC can communicate in English, the language barrier is not insurmountable.

If you're a good researcher, it does not matter where you come from.
- I expect that there must be many researchers around the world who would be interested in researching at CBRC. What sorts of people would you like to see come?

Frith: CBRC offers a great opportunity for someone who would like to live in and do research in Japan. The location, the facilities, the equipment - all are wonderful. Additionally, there is a high degree of freedom and flexibility in research and you can expect to be able to concentrate on your research theme. Many young researchers with bright futures are gathered here, and collaboration among them enhances the results of research.

Gromiha: Except for the large number of earthquakes in Japan [laughter], it is a safe country. It is easy to live in and you can obtain an environment that lets you focus on research. And among Japan's research institutions, CBRC is the greatest for bioinformatics. People with backgrounds in biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, etc. are gathered together to conduct research. I would especially like to be joined by researchers with backgrounds in Physics, Biology and Computer science. Both people from overseas and Japanese are welcome.

Frith: Yes, and in my team people with strengths in mathematics would be particularly welcome.

Horton: As a CBRC researcher, I am very happy that we have researchers such as Dr. Gromiha and Dr. Frith. In addition to being two outstanding researchers, they are wonderful human being as well. CBRC welcomes strong researchers both from Japan and from other countries.Regardless of nationality, CBRC aims to be a place where excellent researchers with something special to offer can work together.

ʮInterview : Sep.2007
page top