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Noyori Academy Salon: The Fascination of Chemistry

  • 2015/03/10
  • presented by Institute for Advanced Research

Since January 2013, University Prof. Ryoji Noyori, President of RIKEN and a Nobel Laureate in Chemistry (2001), has contributed numerous articles to "Kamitsubute" in Chunichi Shimbun. Based on these articles, he holds regular academic talks with students at Nagoya University. At the Fourteenth Noyori Academy Salon, held on March 2, 2015, Prof. Noyori and five students from different academic fields openly discussed the topic of "The Fascination of Chemistry." In "Kamitsubute," Prof. Noyori described how chemists create materials by using their vast knowledge, and then supply them to the world. "Starting from almost zero, the things of value will be created," which is indicated as the most interesting part of chemistry.

Have a Strong Will to Achieve Goals

Takafumi Kondo, a first-year student at the Graduate School of Engineering

Is the purpose of chemistry to pursue truth or to bring about social benefit?

Prof. Noyori

The two are not mutually exclusive. Current fields of study are categorized in detail; however, learning is not just the pursuit of truth. By combining and constructing different knowledge bases, a new thing is created. Otherwise, chemistry cannot make a significant contribution.

Yusuke Ito, a junior at the School of Science

How do we execute a mission as a researcher?

Prof. Noyori

The answer may get to the question of what you live for. Because we are humans, we have instincts to inherit our DNA. Furthermore, the reason why I am trying to live even now with great enthusiasm is, as a human in society, because I want to maintain and develop the culture. I believe that this is a mission and a role to execute as a researcher. If any action violates this purpose and thought, such as wars and the destruction of spiritual culture, it will never be forgiven.

Ryoko Nagata, a junior at the School of Science

What do you think about the causes of environmental issues that are discussed all over the world today?

Prof. Noyori

World population explosion would be the primary cause. Because of developments in science and technology, the life expectancy for humans is now much longer, although the earth has limited resources. It is a pity that scientists are destroying the environment despite their benevolent motivation. The expansion of market economies is also one of the reasons; however, this is a result that humans desire. We cannot go back to the past but, with wisdom, we can change.

Cassio Amorim, a second year student at the Graduate School of Engineering

Is it acceptable for researchers to change their research field?

Prof. Noyori

Specialization is necessary but what you can do alone is limited. Gathering and using any knowledge has become significant for modern science. If you are knowledgeable of certain current affairs, what you have to do is naturally determined. Then, you will take responsibility as a leader for the research.

Yufei Wang, a senior at the School of Engineering

I have found the divide between chemistry and physics becoming less. How are chemistry and physics developing together for the future?

Prof. Noyori

The Nobel prize in Physics last year would be nothing surprising if it had been the one in Chemistry. The important thing is that you must maintain a strong will to create a new thing based on the principles. The action of applying the principles is more focused than just expanding knowledge over the subjects. Prof. Akasaki and Prof. Amano, the Nobel Laureates in Physics last year, actually had a strong will to create a blue light-emitting diode (LED). It is not enough only if you have knowledge to design applications. You should establish your goal in order to achieve it. Time is flying.

Original article published in Chunichi Shimbun on March 3, 2015.


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