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NIEHS Welcomes Japanese Students

By Eddy Ball
April 2009

Negishi oriented the students
Negishi oriented the students to their institutional and geographic setting before launching into gene-environment interactions and his work in pharmacogenetics. One of his examples involved individual differences in the rate of drug detoxification. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Although they didn't ask many questions, most of the students, like this young man, stayed attentive during the ninety minutes of classroom instruction. Listening to the presentations in Japanese meant they could pay attention to the topic without having to simultaneously translate the speaker's words. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Negishi provided a running translation of Scott's talk on the creation of knock-out and knock-in strains of mice
In the relaxed environment of the NIEHS Executive Conference Room, Negishi provided a running translation of Scott's talk on the creation of knock-out and knock-in strains of mice. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Sueyoshi used slides to illustrate the way the fluorescent protein GFP allows researchers to observe previously invisible processes, such as the development of nerve cells in the brain or the way cancer cells spread. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

On March 9, 16 high school students from the Mizusawa Super Science High School in Iwate, Japan visited NIEHS for an afternoon seminar as part of an ongoing exchange program with the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics (NCSSM). The half-day program featured an overview of environmental health science research at the Institute and hands-on learning in three of the Institute's laboratories.

The program, one of several outreach efforts for secondary school students conducted each year by NIEHS, was organized by NIEHS Public Information Officer John Peterson and Steve Warshaw, Ph.D., vice chancellor for academic affairs at NCSSM ( Exit NIEHS. NIEHS Pharmacogenetics Group ( Principal Investigator Masahiko Negishi, Ph.D., and Staff Scientist Tatsuya Sueyoshi, Ph.D., provided classroom instruction in Japanese on "Environment-Gene Interactions" and "Fluorescent Protein GFP and Biology."

Negishi also translated Peterson's introductory comments and a presentation by Greg Scott on "Genetically Engineered Mice to Study Diseases." Visiting Fellows Kosuke Saito, Ph.D., and Hisako Miyakawa, Ph.D., accompanied students on lab tours and translated for them.

Lab presentations included "Electron Microscopy, Histology and Immunohistochemistry" by Electron Microscopy Biologist Deloris Sutton, "See GFP in a Cell with Your Own Eyes" by Sueyoshi, and "See the Atomic Structure of Protein Through X-Ray" by Structure and Function Research Group Leader Lars Pedersen, Ph.D.

As the students prepared to return to Durham, Negishi said of the program, "If just one of these kids gets interested in research and decides to pursue a career in biomedical research, it will be a success."

The exchange program between NCSSM and schools in the Iwate Prefecture, a district in northern Japan, was started six years ago. The program is part of an initiative by schools in Iwate to expose students in the largely rural district to science and technology. During their visit to the Triangle, the students also visited Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and stayed on the NCSSM campus. Next year, according to Warshaw, NCSSM students will visit Japan as part of the exchange program.

With Saito, right, translating, Sutton, left
With Saito, right, translating, Sutton, left, and Biologist Mack Sobhany showed students the photo of a cell with its nucleus magnified 9,000 times. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Peterson, in the background
Peterson, in the background, seemed to enjoy the microscopy demonstration as much as his young colleagues did. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

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