DSC_3298Aiming to develop leaders in science for global safety, in response to demands for a safe and secure society


Program Coordinator
Graduate School of Engineering, Tohoku University
Prof. Hiroo Yugami


Leaders capable of acting globally are needed

 The Great East Japan Earthquake was an unprecedented disaster with global impact. The earthquake, which was the greatest on record, and the subsequent tsunamis caused enormous damage to the Tohoku area. Now two years have passed, but the social and industrial infrastructures in the affected areas have not been fully restored yet. The accidents at the nuclear power plants that occurred in association with the great earthquake urge a dynamic change in Japan’s energy policies, including discussions on the restarting of the nuclear power plants.
 The Great East Japan Earthquake is a disaster with a prolonged impact, causing continuous instability in social, industrial, and economic activities, including infrastructures and supply chains. It is not an exaggeration to say that we are at a turning point that will determine the future of Japan. In this critical situation, Japan needs true leaders.

 So, what qualities should the new leaders of Japan have? While the globalization of economies and the informalization of society are accelerating, leaders who can play active roles in the world have not truly been developed in Japan. Doctoral personnel who are ready to work in industry with a broad perspective and humane abilities are in demand today. Traditionally, in Japan, the abilities to coordinate well with others and keep harmony in an organization have been highly valued. But as social structures have been changing, such abilities alone are not enough to make these new structures function appropriately. This was revealed by the Great East Japan Earthquake and the accident at the Tokyo Electric Power Company’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. As the world is becoming increasingly globalized, what we crucially need are leaders who are capable of elucidating a vision and direction for the future, and showing us the paths to achieve them.

To enable students to have a vision for the future

 In conventional doctoral courses in Japan, students are allocated to a laboratory, where they engage in their research under the instruction of a single professor. Although this system has many advantages, there is also a concern that students may be strongly influenced by the instructing professor, which may narrow their range of interest. This project, therefore, creates an environment in which students and professors can influence each other in multidisciplinary teams comprising professors in different fields. By having the students actively learn about fields other than their own specialized field, the program aims to cultivate their ability to see things from a panoramic perspective.

 Before screening for admission to this program, there is a Selection Program. The purpose of the Selection Program is to have the applicants understand the core concepts and ideas of the Leading Program in advance. What is a global leader like? What kind of person are you? And what do you want yourself to be like five years or ten years from now? This program aims to help students draw a clear vision for the future and confirm their intention to work globally.

Curriculum focusing on 3 viewpoints: “Understanding,” “Creating,” “Living in”

 Our “science for global safety” is an academic attempt to systematically organize various studies regarding safety, which have developed within different specialized domains, according to their space, time and social aspects from a global perspective, placing disaster prevention/mitigation for natural disasters and other risks as the central pillars.
 This program is constructed based on the three viewpoints of “Understanding safety and security,” “Creating safety and security,” and “Living in safety and security,” supported by collaborations among researchers in science, engineering and humanities & social sciences. These three viewpoints are crucial to build a safe society. What happened? Why did it happen? How can we prevent or control it? For example, how does the safety system in the Shinkansen bullet trains function? The Shinkansen is equipped with a system that detects seismic waves in advance and stops the train automatically. This is a result of “understanding” the mechanism of an earthquake and “creating” the technology to halt operations. Then can the presence of this system alone ensure its smooth operation and make people feel secure? Whether a person feels secure or not depends on the judgment of that person. Technologies developed by engineers alone cannot make people feel secure. The knowledge to make use of such technologies in human living is necessary. Focusing the three viewpoints of “Understanding,” “Creating,” and “Living in,” this project aims to develop human resources that will contribute to establishing a safe and secure society.

 Specifically, in the three core domains of natural science (earth and planetary science, environmental studies, etc.), engineering (civil engineering, architecture and building science, mechanical engineering, etc.) and the fields of philosophy, psychology, and ethics, as well as the fields covering different core domains, we are promoting multidisciplinary education integrating science and technology centered around human beings. It is a unique advantage of the Leading Program students that they are able to take courses in different fields while having a core specialized field. The curriculum is designed to allow even students with non-science majors to comfortably study scientific subjects.

Education with involvement of the International Research Institute of Disaster Science (IRIDeS)

 The International Research Institute of Disaster Science (IRIDeS) conducts the world’s leading edge research on tsunami prevention, tsunami engineering, volcanic eruption prevention, eruption prediction, earthquake observation, earthquake prediction, active faults, abnormal weather, hazard-resistant construction, etc. Jointly with the researchers engaging in these research activities, lectures/seminars regarding disaster prevention and field studies concerning natural disasters are offered, to provide students with opportunities to obtain in-depth knowledge and experience about natural disasters and disaster prevention. This program enables students specializing in mechanical engineering or social science to have experience in the fields of natural disasters or disaster prevention, which is impossible in their regular curriculums.
 Experiencing the Great East Japan Earthquake, it is the mission of Tohoku University to build a safe and secure society. We believe that developing human resources to become global leaders working for restoration from the disaster will result in a great contribution to the region.
 This program invites students who are interested not only in academia but also in various businesses and international organizations, who are willing to learn about different fields, and who want to have exchanges with students in diverse fields. Join us to become a global leader capable of working for building a safe and secure society.