The Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST) has decided the winners of the 4th Brilliant Female Researchers Award (The Jun Ashida Award). The awards ceremony was held at Miraikan on November 6 (Sun), 2022.
At the awards ceremony JST presented a trophy and certificate to each winner, and the Ashida Fund* offered one million yen as a supplementary prize to the main winner.
*The Ashida Fund was established in 1994 by the late fashion designer Jun Ashida for the purpose of nurturing the younger generation. The Japan International Science and Technology Exchange Center (JISTEC) operates and manages the Ashida Fund on behalf of Jun Ashida Co. Ltd.
Senior Assistant Professor at the food functional chemistry laboratory at the Department of Agricultural Chemistry at the School of Agriculture, Meiji University
Dr. Toda has developed a highly sensitive method for evaluating the function of taste receptors, especially umami
receptors, and is a world leader in the molecular theory of taste. She is investigating the molecular evolution of umami
receptors in birds and primates. The originality and scale of her results deserve special mention. They include the
mechanism by which some birds, which have lost their sweet-taste receptor genes, have come to use umami receptors to
detect sweet foods such as nectar, the process by which primate umami receptors change their receptiveness during
evolution, and the special mechanism by which umami components contribute to human food preferences.
Aside from research, she has made societal contributions by actively giving lectures at numerous symposiums, collaborating in the production of foreign science documentary programs, and enthusiastically disseminating information both domestically and internationally.
Food Functional Chemistry
Tohoku University has been encouraging female junior and senior high school students to pursue science after they
graduate through the ‘Science Angel’ (currently ‘Science Ambassadors’) program. The university has also actively hired
female faculty members, promoted them to higher positions, supported the development of female researchers, and raised
awareness to remove unconscious bias, etc. from an early stage – all of which has resulted in an increase in the ratio
of female academic staff and doctoral students.
Tohoku University can also serve as a model for other institutions collaborating with domestic and international universities to promote the activities of female researchers and for releasing and disseminating data
Lecturer, Institute of Industrial Science, The University of Tokyo
As well as achieving remarkable results in the field of nanomaterials, particularly in the study of lipids, which
constitute cell membranes, Dr. Sugihara has recently expanded her research focus to include the study of peptides with
antimicrobial properties and nonwoven masks for medical use. She engages in a wide range of research activities that
involve many challenges, since she not only conducts basic research, but also initiates product development projects and
serves as the research leader for many external funding sources.
In terms of her societal contributions outside of research, she has been active in giving lectures on career paths, drawing on her own experience of managing a laboratory in Europe, and organizing events for female junior and senior high school students at her institution.