Department of Mathematical and Life Sciences, Graduate School of Science, Hiroshima University


Overview Structure The First Decade

Department of Mathematical and Life Sciences: An Overview

The Department of Mathematical and Life Sciences was established in April 1999 as a pioneering department in Japan; it was designed to focus attention on life phenomena and with the specific objective of creating a new academic field, able to integrate Life Sciences, Molecular Chemistry and Mathematical Sciences into a unified whole. The Department comprises empirical groups, working in both biology and chemistry, and theoretical research groups focusing on mathematics. Through multi-faceted empirical research on life phenomena at the molecular and cellular level as well as on individual organisms, and through computer simulations and theoretical research, the Department aims to elucidate issues in life phenomena and related discipline through a multidisciplinary and comprehensive approach.

The Department comprises two fundamental courses: the Life Sciences Laboratory, to which biological and chemical research groups are affiliated, and the Mathematical and Computing Science Laboratory, to which mathematical research groups are affiliated. It also includes the complementary Applied Mathematics Laboratory. In total, the Department is home to 23 students on the first-term doctoral course (Master's) and 11 students on the second-term PhD course.

The Department recruits students from diverse fields, so enrolling students have educational backgrounds in, variously, mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, pharmaceutical science, agricultural chemistry, and more. This means that they all hold differing perspectives and research approaches when it comes to the elucidation of life phenomena.

For these reasons, the Master's Course comprises an introductory lecture course covering both the Life Sciences and Mathematical Sciences, in order that students appreciate the various issues faced in the Life Sciences, along with the importance of interdisciplinary research. For similar reasons, the course also conducts a lecture course designed to ensure that fundamental knowledge in the specialist disciplines of Molecular Biology, Chemistry and Mathematical Science is acquired systematically. Moreover, each research group also holds advanced lectures, covering fundamental through to specialist content. Each research group also holds advanced lectures covering fundamental through to specialist content in their relevant area of expertise.

In this way, students are able to be actively involved on the frontline of research group activities from the very outset of their Master's Course. In turn, this ensures that students can gain optimal understanding of ? and greater interest in ? new research fields. Students are therefore able to gain more than just profound yet limited expertise in a narrow field; instead, they can benefit from an educational structure designed to develop the ability to combine knowledge from multiple disciplines, and to strengthen the capacity to adopt different perspectives. The PhD Course is designed to allow students to undertake creative research activities from a multi-faceted approach. Our aim is to foster the development of confident, creative researchers, adapted to well-established social needs, as well as take on the responsibility of taking this new academic field into the future as independent researchers.

One of the principle objectives of the Department is to encourage the growth and development of young, talented researchers who are familiar with the approach and theories of diverse disciplines, as well as undertake the comprehensive research of life. We look forward to welcoming students who are eager to push the boundaries of current science, and broaden their perspectives, in order to uncover more of the mysteries of life.

Illustration of Department of Mathematical and Life Sciences

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Mathematical and Life Sciences Departmental Structure

Life Sciences Laboratory

Living organisms are formed on the basis of genetic information; they also process information in order to survive the diverse external environmental and internal cellular changes they will experience. Living organisms are equipped with sophisticated mechanisms to biosynthesize and metabolize materials, based again on the information they process. This Laboratory comprises two groups, one researching biology, the other chemistry. Both groups work to elucidate the structural and functional interrelations between biological molecules, which are the building blocks of life phenomena, carry out research on the supremely efficient manifestation and transmission of cellular information achieved by the formulation of hierarchical assemblies of biological molecules, the transformation and transportation of matter, plasma formation and environmental response, and research in other diverse disciplines.

Mathematical and Computing Science Laboratory

Complex natural phenomena, such as life phenomena, are expressed through mathematical modeling based on profound insight and recognition. These models are then used as the basis for numerical simulations. Results are analyzed systematically, and from these analyses new theoretical knowledge is gleaned. This course aims, through the iteration of these practices, to identify and delineate the mathematical structures and underlying fundamental laws of phenomena, and to deepen our understanding of them. To achieve these aims, the Laboratory adopts a multi-faceted, comprehensive approach, presenting a new framework for scientific research. In addition, the Laboratory will seek to develop a numerical calculation method that can guarantee the reliability and accuracy of large-scale computer simulations.

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The Department of Mathematical and Life Sciences: The First Decade

Established in April 1999, the Department of Mathematical and Life Sciences has now seen its first decade. This auspicious anniversary also represents an opportunity to look back over the achievements of the past ten years.

The 20th century witnessed great development in the methodology of the molecular life sciences; this led, in turn, to a much more fundamental understanding of the structure and functions of genes and proteins, which are the building blocks of all life. Over these 100 years, researchers were able to build up a true wealth of knowledge about life phenomena at the molecular level. However, life phenomena are complex; they tend to be intricate systems, built up from multiple advanced layers, both structurally and temporally. In order to understand life phenomena, then, we needed to develop a mathematical methodology that would allow the comprehensive organization and analysis of molecular-level information. Research into this borderline discipline began in the early 1990s, with just a few dedicated researchers. Any attempt to bring together the disparate disciplines of Life Sciences and Mathematical Sciences, however, could not succeed without the input of young, driven researchers; it was with tiis need for young talent in mind that the Department was established.

Plans to establish the Department can be traced back as early as April 1993, when the former Genetic Sciences Department (comprising three research groups from the Department of Biological Science, one research group from the former Solid State Sciences Department, the Marine Sciences Laboratory, and the Laboratory of Plant Chromosome and Gene Stock) was founded as an independent department. Later, the Department was subject to reorganization as the University sought to place greater emphasis on graduate level education; partly through the restructuring of the Graduate School of Science. This, together with the wider context of the development of the discipline of Life Sciences described above, led to the establishment of the Department of Life Sciences and Mathematical Sciences. From the outset, the Department's goals were clear; to foster a new generation of life scientists able to understand the philosophy behind mathematical sciences, and of mathematical scientists equally adept in understanding the philosophy behind the life sciences.

Initially, the Department comprised ten research groups in total: the Life Sciences Laboratory, made up of three biological and three chemical research groups, the Mathematical and Computing Science Laboratory, consisting of three research groups, and the complementary Applied Mathematics Laboratory, which is affiliated to the Faculty of Integrated Arts and Sciences and supplied one research group. Enrollment capacity stood at 23 Master's Course students, and 11 Doctoral Course students. Later, the complementary Applied Mathematics Laboratory was absorbed into the Nonlinear Sciences and Applied Mathematics section of the Department of Mathematical and Life Sciences, as a result of University-wide policy to create Faculty units at the graduate level.

In the decade that has passed, a number of the professors who headed up research groups have reached the age of retirement, and others have moved onto other posts. We are now seeing the second generation of Departmental leaders step up into their places. When the Department was first established, the very nature of the attempt ? the interdisciplinary union of distinct academic fields ? inevitably resulted in some hesitation over operational structure and curriculum. However, the tireless efforts of all staff have allowed the Department to grow and mature into its current form.

Since its inception, the Department has hosted three public symposia, in August 2003, August 2006 and September 2009, where it's educational and research achievements have been examined and evaluated. In 2005-2006, the Department was selected to participate in the Initiatives for Attractive Education in Graduate Schools, a validation of its success in constructing an effective system for interdisciplinary education. In 2007-2009, it was selected to take part in the Support Program for Improving Graduate School Education, and together with Meiji University embarked on the Formation of a Consortium for Education Integrating Mathematics and Life Sciences. The Department has also created consortium-based partnerships with Ryukoku University and Kyoto University, and further intends to extend such partnerships to overseas institutes in the future. The Department is also committed to cooperating with Meiji University in its Global Center of Excellence (GCOE) Program, which has been approved for funding 2008-2012: Formation and Development of Mathematical Sciences Based on Modeling and Analysis; the Department is looking forward to some excellent findings in this GCOE-related research in the near future.

For the past decade, the Department has been steadily working towards establishing itself as an internationally renowned center for research and education in the Mathematical and Life Sciences. Our achievements thus far must now form a foundation, upon which we can continue to build up the Department until it goes unrivalled in its output of young and talented life and mathematical scientists, able to take the discipline to the next generation.

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