Message from the Dean

Takeo Horiguchi, PhD
Dean, Faculty of Science
Hokkaido University

The Faculty of Science was originally established as the School of Science within Hokkaido Imperial University in 1930. That school was the fourth to be founded within the university, following the Schools of Agriculture, Medicine, and Engineering. Establishing a school that was orientated toward basic science was strongly desired at that time, and the School of Science was expected to play a key role in supporting the active development of applied science, alongside the existing schools. The School of Science started with six departments: Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Geology/Mineralogy, Botany, and Zoology. The building constructed for the school was the first modern reinforced concrete building in Sapporo at that time, and its striking architecture is still remarkable. The staircase area of the building has a dome-shaped ceiling with four traditional reliefs displaying “fruits,” “sunflowers,” “bats,” and “owls,” signifying “morning,” “noon,” “evening,” and “night,” respectively. These reliefs express the determination of the people at the time of the establishment to undertake unprecedented, cutting-edge research and high-standards education at any time, day or night.

That pioneering spirit of determination has been maintained throughout the history of the Faculty of Science, and has led to numerous significant research outputs. These include the first-ever artificial snow, created by Dr. Ukichiro Nakaya, and the development of the coupling reaction by Dr. Akira Suzuki, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2010. In 2018, a new innovative 10-year program, the “Institute for Chemical Reaction Design and Discovery (ICReDD),” was accepted as a World Premier International Research Center Initiative. The ICReDD is expected to revolutionize traditional approaches in developing chemical reactions through integrating the fields of computational science, information science, and experimental science.

Today, the Faculty of Science is one of the largest divisions in the university, with more than 300 faculty and staff members. It is composed of five departments: Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Biological Sciences, and Earth and Planetary Sciences. Affiliated institutes include the Institute of Seismology and Volcanology, the Genome Dynamics Research Center, and the Nuclear Reaction Data Centre. The faculty’s research activities have been maintained at an advanced level, with more than 10% of the faculty members listed as authors in the top 1% of the most-cited scientific papers published between 2008 and 2017. The acquisition of competitive research funding has also been maintained at a high level. Since supporting basic science education throughout Hokkaido University is the faculty’s responsibility, considerable efforts have been made to promote educational activities and, at the same time, to devise new teaching systems. These include establishing a Leading Program Promotion Office in 2014 to implement a reform plan, the “Ambitious Leaders’ Program: Fostering Future Leaders to Open New Frontiers in Materials Science.” An Active Learning Promotion Office was also established in 2015. Furthermore, in 2012, an Office for International Academic Support was established to support internationalization of the faculty and its related schools. Their work includes providing daily assistance to students and researchers from overseas and conducting overseas public relations activities.

Research activities in the Faculty of Science are based on each researcher’s scientific interests, which means that research subject areas are extremely diverse. This diversity is a significant strength of the faculty. With the increasing importance of the role of universities within ever-changing societies, and with the global community seeking means to address the challenges listed in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, our faculty needs to always be asking, “what can we do?” The diverse research conducted by the faculty is likely to contribute to resolving issues facing the world in various ways. Our faculty is determined to continue to move forward and contribute to society through promoting cutting-edge research activities and providing high-standards educational programs.