June 22, 2021

iCeMS Crossing Second Trial

iCeMS Crossing online retreat participants engaged in group discussions.

iCeMS held its second online retreat event on June 16, the first under its new nickname “iCeMS Crossing.” The event, hosted again by Daishi Fujita, began with an awards ceremony announcing the results of last month’s contest, then went on to establish a format that will continue throughout the series. Each month a different aspect of iCeMS will be introduced to give participants a broader understanding of all that goes on at iCeMS in Japan and throughout the world. After that, each meeting will showcase the freeform self-introduction of laboratory groups so that people in different groups get acquainted with the other groups within iCeMS. The event wrapped up with another foray into the online meeting space Gather.

This month highlighted the Smart Materials Research Center, an on-site laboratory established by iCeMS in partnership with the Vidyasirimedhi Institute of Science and Technology (VISTEC) in the Kingdom of Thailand. Satoshi Horike, an iCeMS PI whose focus is materials chemistry, presented the history of the collaboration and the goals of VISTEC, and highlighted the academic exchange that has brought young scientists to study in various iCeMS labs here in Japan. A tiny taste of Thai culture was provided through a video showing off the beautiful remote VISTEC campus and Thai snacks and beverages that were distributed for the event.

Kyoto University launched the on-site laboratory initiative in 2018 with the goal of strengthening its institutional infrastructure while promoting world-leading and creative research. The Smart Materials Research Center is one of four on-site laboratories started through iCeMS and one of eleven through Kyoto University.

Next up, the five researchers from the Fujita group, which focuses on “new style protein chemistry,” were the first to introduce themselves. Through a series of creative videos that showed at least as much personality as science, the chemists and biologists shared their “molecule of memory,” or perhaps something else entirely.

The second introduction was from the Jun Suzuki group, which studies medical and biochemical cell dynamics and specializes in a technique called unbiased screening, and aims to contribute “to the understanding, onset and treatment of human diseases.” After explaining their research and equating their leader with the King of Pop and displaying his dancing skills, the group led a series of humorous visual puzzles which showed how much they enjoy working together.

Finally, the event migrated over to Gather for some socializing. The iCeMS world map had been greatly expanded with the addition of the first-floor offices and garden as well as the research building. Previous communication problems were addressed by the creation of private conversation areas. Everyone was given a group to meet and begin to get to know, before being asked to freely explore and strike up a conversation with anyone they chose. Technical issues still cropped up, but iCeMS crossing organizers are constantly refining this experiment. The third Crossing is planned for July 21.