In December 2014, distinguished Professors Smithies and Maeda from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, gave a special lecture series at the Tohoku University Graduate School of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Medicine.
Dr. Oliver Smithies was jointly awarded the 2007 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for discoveries of principles for introducing specific gene modifications in mice by the use of embryonic stem cells.
Dr. Nobuyo Maeda has produced a paradigm-breaking mouse model of atherosclerosis which has since been used in cardiovascular research all over the world. Receiving a Ph.D. in Bio-Organic Chemistry from Tohoku University, Maeda moved on to do research at the at the University of Wisconsin.
It was here that Maeda met Smithies and their mutual passion for science brought them together as partners in marriage, as well as in research. On the subject of choosing a future partner, they elaborated at an opinion exchange with staff and students at the Tohoku University Center for Gender Equality Promotion. Smithies said it was important to have a partner where mutual respect existed.
Present at the exchange was Vice Director of the Tohoku University Center for Gender Equality Promotion Dr. Noriko Osumi, Center Assistant Kei Hashizume and nearly a dozen women researchers and 'Science Angels' or female science graduate students.
In response to a question about where ideas come from -- the topic of Smithies lectures -- Smithies said that getting decent sleep was essential for generating ideas. When one sleeps, ideas that wouldn't normally be formulated by the conscious mind often arise, but these need to be written down in the morning before they are forgotten. Maeda also chimed in to say that discussion with fellow researchers was essential for helping reconfirm ideas and deepen research knowledge.
While the percentage of women pursuing higher education in science in Japan is still low, Maeda reassured Tohoku University graduate students that more than half the students at the University of North Carolina are female.
Tohoku University Center for Gender Equality Promotion