Prof. Yasuko Iwakiri 專訪 | Yale School of Medicine

iwakiri本刊訪問到耶魯大學醫學院日裔美籍岩切泰子教授,從其大方分享自身追求學術的經歷、以及談論新進科學家面臨的種種挑戰,皆能激起我們的不斷反思。

簡歷 (Education & Positions)

Miyazaki University, Japan, Applied Microbiology (BS) (1988)
Oregon State University, Nutritional Sciences (MS) (1995)
Colorado State University, Nutritional Sciences (Ph.D.) (2000)
Yale University School of Medicine (Postdoc fellow) (2004)
Yale University School of Medicine (Assistant Professor) (2007)
Yale University School of Medicine (Associate Professor) (2012)


專長及研究興趣 (Researches)

Nitric oxide signaling in endothelial cells
Portal hypertension
Liver fibrosis / cirrhosis / regeneration

實驗室網址 (Lab Website)


http://tools.medicine.yale.edu/iwakiri/www/

泰子老師的學思歷程
(Thoughtsand Learning Pathway of Prof. Yasuko Iwakiri)

I received a bachelor’s degree from a national university in my home prefecture, Miyazaki. In my region at that time, it was not common that women advanced graduate school. However, I still wanted to learn more. Luckily to me, one of my teachers in the university, who graduated from Penn State University, encouraged me to go to the US for graduate school because she thought the higher education system in the US is excellent. I think it is true, actually.

I went to Oregon State University for a master’s degree. My parents were persuaded for me to go abroad, because one of our family friends worked at the Consulate General of Japan in Seattle, Washington, which is very close to Oregon.

冒險之旅與興趣的轉變
(Adventures and the Switch on Academic Interests)


In Oregon State University, I studied Nutrition and Biochemistry. Originally, I was going back to Japan after I received my master’s degree. However later on, I decided to move on to a Ph. D. program.
 Actually, when I started studying at the graduate school, I was more interested in

an area like restaurant management (Wow!). At that time, we had two majors in the program, Nutrition & Biochemistry and Restaurant Management. Unfortunately, I did not enjoy the management courses very much. On the other hand, a biochemistry class that I took as a requirement was fantastic. A professor who taught that class was one of the most popular professors. His lecture about the TCA cycle fascinated me a lot.. There was no hesitation. After taking his class, I decided to change my focus to nutrition and biochemistry.

In the US, graduate students can change their research fields very easily, unlike the case in Japan, where such a changes is much more difficult.

乘風前航 | 歸屬、邁向職涯
(Sailing On the Wind | Lifelong Partner and Career Progression)

At that time, I was particularly interested in how nutrients, in particular anti-oxidant nutrients, influence gene expression and cytokine production by controlling oxidative stress in cellular environments. After receiving MS degree, I decided to go to a Ph.D. program at Colorado State University.
During my Ph.D. study, I developed an interest in translational research, which applies knowledge of basic science to clinical settings or verse versa. To be more specific, I become interested in understanding the molecular mechanism underlying a disease process and thereby contributing to human health.
After finishing a Ph. D. study, I went to several universities for interview for post-doc training. Eventually, I chose a post-doc position at Yale under two mentors. One of them was a world-renowned physician scientist in the field of portal hypertension and liver cirrhosis and the other was a basic science researcher who is a world-leading expert in nitric oxide signaling, vascular biology and endothelial cell biology. Those two mentors had collaborative projects to understand the mechanisms of vascular abnormality observed in portal hypertension and liver cirrhosis. At that time, they discovered nitric oxide played a very important role in the pathophysiology of portal hypertension. This is how I started studying pathophysiology of portal hypertension and nitric oxide signaling.

耶魯的博士後研究生涯
(Being a Post-Doctorial Researcher in Yale)


Both mentors were very supportive from the beginning of my post-doc training, and research environment at Yale was excellent. Throughout my post-doc training, I supported my research projects with grants and fellowships that I acquired. Because of these funds and understanding of my mentors, from the very beginning, I was fortunately able to freely explore research that I wanted to do. Those research projects were mostly related to nitric oxide signaling in endothelial cells, liver cirrhosis and portal hypertension.

When I started studying portal hypertension, it was not a very popular field among the study of liver diseases. The reason was twofold. One lies in the fact that when people get portal hypertension, they are already in the very late stage of their diseases and therapy is limited. The other comes from the nature of the study of portal hypertension, which requires knowledge of vascular biology. To advance our understanding of pathophysiology of portal hypertension, it is critical to introduce knowledge of vascular biology.

Although many liver diseases such as hepatitis, liver cancer and cirrhosis results in the development of portal hypertension, leading to detrimental complications such as esophageal varices and ascites. Despite these serious consequences, the molecular mechanisms of portal hypertension remain to be fully elucidated. Understanding the mechanisms may allow us to develop effective therapies for portal hypertension.

After finishing my post-doc training, I was given an offer to become a faculty member in the Section of Digestive Diseases at Yale School of Medicine. Research in my lab has been funded by National Institute of Health (NIH).

年輕的獨立研究者 | 科學志業的挑戰性
(Being a Young and Independent Researcher | Challenges of my Career as a Scientist)

I think the most difficult time is now. Becoming an independent researcher is something like managing a small company. You need to have funds to support your salary, research, salary for post-docs and everything else. If you have funds, you can stay and conduct your research. Otherwise you have to leave. So, I have to be very productive, conducting experiments, writing papers and submitting grant applications.

As a principal investigator (PI) and mentor of my lab members, I also feel it is my responsibility to help them to be successful throughout their career. For this purpose too, I have to keep my lab moving forward.

是否鼓勵學生到美國從事研究?機會與視點
(Pieces of Encouragements for Students Coming to the US for Research Careers – On Opportunities and Perspectives)

I still very much recommend students to come to the US to do research. Many researchers around the world are attracted to the US, since the US is still the center of science.

If you work hard and dedicate yourself to the field of your interest, you will have an opportunity. At least that is what I feel. Somebody will come to you and give you a chance. In many countries, opportunities are often limited to their own citizens. However, what is great in the US is that such a chance is also open to people from other countries. I think, this is indeed where the strength of this country comes from.

One more thing. It is good that students study abroad because they can see their own country in a more objective way. (And I responded immediately: “That’s exactly what I feel in the mere one-month stay! ”)

對未來醫師科學家的期許
(Expectations on Future Physician-Scientists)

In order to contribute to your own country, in medicine or science in general, it is important to see your country from the outside. I mean to recognize how your country is situated in the world. In addition, networking with people all over the world will be a treasurous asset for your successful career, helping each other.

If you are successful, you can also help your friends.

Finally, I would like to say that physician scientists, like you, are essential for advancing our understanding of pathophysiology of diseases at molecular and genetic levels, since they can link their observations at bedside to basic science research. This is an indispensable asset they have, and they should not forget it.

撰文 | 蔡尚叡(陽明大學)
校對 | 李彥德(台灣大學)

Photo | Iwakiri Lab
From 臺灣醫學生研究通訊 No.19

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