During this especially uncertain period in our society due to the COVID-19 situation, I took the office as the Dean of the Graduate School of Information Sciences (GSIS) at Tohoku University. While every effort for the prevention and spread of infection is being exerted, I wish from the bottom of my heart for a rapid resumption of an enjoyable normal daily life under which all members in our school feel safe to progress with their research and education.
GSIS was established in 1993 as one of the stand-alone graduate schools at Tohoku University. Advocating for the integration between natural sciences and liberal arts, GSIS is pursuing the goal of promoting fundamental sciences based on interdisciplinary, comprehensive, and advanced research to bring about age-defining contributions to society. Currently, GSIS is comprised of four departments: Computer and Mathematical Sciences, System Information Sciences, Human-Social Information Sciences and Applied Information Sciences. Since its inception, the three principles of 'Open Doors', 'Research First', and 'Practice Oriented Research and Education' that have been the spirit of foundation of Tohoku University are followed by our graduate school and all our members have been working together to achieve the goal of leading the world by excellent research and development results. I am proud to be able to witness that during the period of less than twenty years, GSIS has built up a strong reputation in the fields of natural sciences and liberal arts domestically and internationally. By the end of the fiscal year of 2020, 3,680 master’s course and 865 doctoral course students have graduated from GSIS, all of whom I believe with confidence are the important human resource to support the development of academia and industry.
In recent years, GSIS has accelerated various research activities. Some of them are introduced below. In 2019, the Tough Cyber Physical AI Research Center (TCPAI) was established based on the world class track record of its members to spearhead the effort foreseeing Society 5.0 and beyond. TCPAI features various joint projects through industry-government-academia collaboration. In 2020, the Learning Analytics Research Center (LARC) was established to promote the online education strategy which is the pillar of Tohoku University Vision 2030 looking ahead to the Post-COVID-19 Era. By facilitating the faster mobilization of various educational programs and introducing new sensing and big data analytical techniques, LARC is aiming at a top of the world class center with the all-out support from our university. Also in 2020, the Joint Research Course for Quantum Computing was established in the Department of Computer and Mathematical Sciences to combine the strengths of academia and industry to extract and solve the common problems beyond individual fields and to develop quantum-related basic and applied technologies. In our GSIS, the Collaborative Mathematics Research Unit (CMRU) was founded in 2011 aiming at promoting the development of a collaborative study of mathematics and other fields of science, e.g., information sciences, life sciences, social and environmental sciences, among others by riding on the strength of abstractness and versatility of mathematics. By this approach, eventually we are going to realize an interdisciplinary fusion ranging from fundamental research areas to new unexplored fields. From 2013, the Research Center for Pure and Applied Mathematics took over this role to promote further development.
Looking at the educational aspect, in 2012, as a core hub, GSIS took part in the enPiT program initiated by MEXT for fostering human resources to cover promising and growing areas. During this program, a so-called “Sendai Scheme” was developed to combine the strength of academia and industry to advance the cultivation of human resources for high technologies. Later in 2016, enPiT evolved into enPiT2 to include undergraduate education and in 2017 further into enPiT-Pro to contain engineer re-education. Those programs featured Problem-Based Learning to enrich its courses, something that received strong assistance from the industry and have contributed greatly to the fields of information technologies by sending out many skilled talents to society. In the same year of 2017, the Graduate Program in Data Science (GP-DS) was initiated under the collaboration of six departments in Tohoku University and overseas universities aiming at developing superior talents who will lead industry and academia in Japan, placing emphasis on interdisciplinary and international collaboration. Just this year in 2021, a new MEXT scholarship program for foreign students called “Development of Human Resource of Data Science and AI Promoting Digital Transformation” was adopted where GSIS functions as a leading organization in collaboration with several graduate schools of Tohoku University. This new program aims at nurturing high-quality global human resources for problem-finding and problem-solving skills in real world. As another strategy by GSIS to strengthen the collaboration among different institutions within Tohoku University, in 2019 the cooperative course “Fundamental Data Informatics” provided by the Center for Data-driven Science and Artificial Intelligence was established at the Department of Computer and Mathematical Sciences.
It has been more than one year since the pandemic hit the world. By the time of writing this message, most classes are still conducted remotely and thereby teachers cannot meet students in-person and web conferencing is dominating all kinds of congregations from international conferences to local faculty members meetings. The importance of intimate connectedness to others without social distancing have never been reaffirmed so strongly and missed so much during this pandemic. Subtlety of communication is the real joy of our daily life but it becomes sharply difficult when we can only sit in front a computer or operate a smart phone. Vaccination against COVID-19 started in Dec. 2020 in the US and is proceeding at a rapid pace globally, making 2021 absolutely a hope-filled year. Whereas it is difficult to predict the exact situation in the coming years, we can easily anticipate that there would be two phases, e.g., a With-Corona phase which is the period before the pandemic can be thoroughly contained and a Post-Corona phase. During the first phase, the biggest challenge would be to prevent the spread of infection while realizing subtle communication with the constraint of social distancing. In contrast, during the later phase, when we can revive face-to-face communication, how to implement an efficient hybrid way through modern DX to make a genuine connection among people would be the top priority. Given that GSIS covers the key technological elements to provide an integrated approach, the expectation on us is much greater than ever before. We need to take the advantage of this golden opportunity to face these unknown or unsolved challenges and make great contributions for the further evolution of information society. I am looking forward to working with you and know that with your help we will emerge from these trying times even stronger.
Thank you for your continued support.
1st April, 2021