September 26, 2022

Linking Chemical and Biological Science – iCeMS Retreat 2022

On September 14, iCeMS assembled at Kyoto University’s Clock Tower Centennial Hall for its first in person retreat in three years. Although it was not a study camp with an overnight stay as it was before COVID, they spent a whole day in academic exchange.

This year’s retreat, organized by Professors Yuichi Taniguchi, was themed “Linking Chemical and Biological Science” with the aim to deepen connections between biology and chemistry researchers working at iCeMS. Everyone was encouraged to present their work with their colleagues, who may have a very different background, in mind. Chemistry and biology at iCeMS are often visualized as two converging islands. Taniguchi hoped that iCeMS members would take this opportunity to cross the island.

Director Kitagawa gave the keynote address to open the retreat. “In 2007 (when iCeMS was established), materials science and biology were two completely separate fields at Kyoto University. Now iCeMS stands at the center of the biomaterials galaxy,” he said, while showing an illustration of the vast global network of collaborations that have sprung up around iCeMS since its creation. He went on to share some of his team’s recent research as well as his hopes for the near future at iCeMS – to increase the number of young PIs and to enhance the core facilities promoting independent research, so that researchers can continue to pursue discovery, wonder, and inspiration.

It was an honor to host Professor Takashi Yoshimura, Director of ITbM, Nagoya University, as the invited special lecturer. ITbM is a younger WPI institute also building links between chemistry and biology while working to create transformative biomolecules. Before his lecture, Yoshimura said he was “looking forward to learning a lot from you” referring to iCeMS as the older brother/sister to ITbM. He gave a delightful talk highlighting his research on biological clocks which focused on circadian rhythms and estrous/lunar cycles in various animal species and humans.

Professor Kunhisa Sugimoto joined the event as a recent iCeMS alumni. He shared his current work on cutting edge supra-ceramics materials at Kindai University.
After lunch, a quiz challenged participants to show their trivia knowledge, solve logic puzzles and discover some lesser-known campus landmarks such as the original iCeMS administrative office location, giving them a chance to get to know some new faces. Three teams tied for the most correct answers and as is Japanese tradition the winner was decided by Janken (Rock-Paper-Scissors).

iCeMS Professors Jun Suzuki and Shuhei Furakawa paired up to perform “Fusion”, a hip-hop approach to the synthesis that happens at iCeMS. The pair then further exemplified crossing boundaries by attempting to give each other’s presentations.

Some of the International connections with iCeMS were illuminated by Professor Justin Hodgkiss (MacDiarmid Institute and Victoria University of Wellington) and Assistant Professor Thidarat Imyen (iCeMS Kyoto Junior Fellow) who are both involved with different On-site Laboratories developed in collaboration with iCeMS.

Perhaps the most boisterous event of the day was the poster session. Thirty iCeMS chemists produced posters of their current research and presented them to iCeMS biologists. After a great deal of animated discussion between the presenters and their audience the biologists then voted for their favorites, before switching roles and presenting their own research to the chemists. Awards were given to those who received the most votes.

The final round of biology research talks to chemists were given by Drs Takumi Kawaue, Sooyeon Kim, and the final chemistry talks for biologists were given by Drs Behnam Ghalei, Masahiko Yoshimura.

Before the closing of the event, Assistant Professor Kotaro Matsumoto from Tamanoi Group, the co-organizing group of the retreat, announced the winners of the group activity and poster sessions, and Director Kitagawa handed out the prize to the winners.

Research Administrative Director Kazumitsu Ueda gave closing remarks, thanking everyone for their contributions and a successful return to in-person events.

Poster award winners


  • Detao Qin (Sivaniah Group) “Organized Microfibrillation As a New Platform for Printing Microfluidic Devices”

  • Zaoming Wang (Furukawa Group) “Evaluation of Metal-Organic Framework Membranes for Water Pollutant Testing”

  • Kosuke Yasui (Fukazawa Group) ”Concise Synthesis of Novel Electron-Accepting Small-Molecule Organic Materials Composed of Nitrogen-Containing Cross-Conjugated π-Conjugated Skeleton”


  • Rebecca Jimenez (Kengaku Group) “Surface Topography Affects Neuronal Process Orientation and Morphology”

  • Jin Shuyu (Uesugi Group) “Self-assembling small-molecule adjuvants as antigen nano-carriers“

  • Yuki Yamato (Suzuki Group) “Establish of unwanted cell removal system”

  • Mahima Kumar (Namasivayam Group) “Repurposing nucleic acid-based tools for cellular rejuvenation”

  • Olivier Kaakeh (Kamei Group) “Microfluidic system mimicking the interaction between endometrium and HG-Blastoid tissues for study of mechanisms of fertilization at the implantation stage”

Taniguchi giving his opening remarks
Kitagawa delivering the keynote lecture
Yoshimura delivering the special lecture
Furukawa (right) and Suzuki rapping together
The poster session
Group activity winning team
Chemistry poster award winners
Biology poster award winners
Ueda delivering his closing remarks