Dr. Miki Ebisuya Receives the First Jun Ashida Award for Remarkable Women Researchers Updated in December 2019

On October 17, Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST) announced the first recipient of the June Ashida Award, Dr. Miki Ebisuya, group leader at EMBL-European Institute for Molecular Biology. Additionally, JST awarded Kyushu University for its administrative HR system that paves the career of remarkable women researchers. JST President's Award went to Prof. Aiko Fukazawa of Kyoto University, Institute for Integrated Cell-Material Sciences (iCeMS). The award ceremony and talk-session were held during Science Agora 2019 in Miraikan (National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation) on November 17.

JST is working to promote active participation of female researchers in view of diversity. In April, JST established the Jun Ashida Award which recognizes women who are conducting excellent research. Another award was designed to shed light on organizations that promote careers of women researchers. From April to June, there was an open call for candidates. There were 104 entries for the female researcher award and 12 entries for the promotion achievement award given to organizations.

The selection committee (Chaired by Keiko Torii, Professor - University of Texas at Austin) reviewed and selected recipients for both awards. Prof. Fukazawa, who was also highly evaluated, received a special JST President Award. The prize for the Jun Ashida Award was 1 million yen. The prize money will be provided by the Ashida Fund, founded in 1994 by the late Jun Ashida, the internationally acclaimed Japanese designer. The fund was initially established to promote education of youths.

Dr. Ebisuya moved from RIKEN to EMBL Barcelona. So far, she has been successful in the field of synthetic biology to artificially create spontaneous cell differentiation and pattern formation. In recent years, this field has been attracting attention worldwide. Researchers are working to elucidate the essential mechanism of organisms, whose time scales differ according to the organism’s body size. In addition to research, she contributes to society through activities promoting exchange between European and Japanese researchers.

Kyushu University established the first female recruitment and training program in 2009, and established the “Kyushu University Method” to recruit and nurture excellent female researchers through a highly transparent two-stage screening. In 2017, Kyushu University established the spouse employment system. The significance of the women-only recruitment system is demonstrated by analyzing the performance of women faculty papers, and serves to rectify unconscious bias regarding research capabilities of women researchers. The system is disseminated at international conferences and is attracting attention both in and outside of Japan.

Dr. Fukazawa's outstanding achievements in the creation of functional organic materials led to the commercialization of ultra-light-resistant fluorescent dyes that do not fade under high-intensity light irradiation, and the development of application to coated organic semiconductors that maintain stability in the atmosphere. She also has an impressive track record of social contribution. In the field of chemistry, she carries out activities for young researchers regardless of gender by continuously disseminating information to society through various media.

By utilizing the prize, Dr. Ebisuya said she wanted to invite one Japanese university student to Barcelona. Prof. Eriko Jotaki at Kyushu University Gender Equality Promotion Office said “It is clear how female researchers are engaging in high-quality work. I hope other universities will make similar reforms.”

Recipient of the Jun Ashida Prize: Dr. Miki Ebisuya greets the press

Recipient of JST President Award: Dr. Aiko Fukazawa