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David Evans Presents: Catching up with Reaxys PhD Prize winner Dr. Hiroyuki Miyamura

Posted on November 23rd, 2015 by in Chemistry

Dr Hiroyuki Miyamura

In a wide ranging interview, we find out what Reaxys PhD Prize Winner Dr. Hiroyuki Miyamura has been up to:

A potential lawyer or architect we should be thankful that Dr. Hiroyuki Miyamura recognized his love for chemistry at an early age. An early winner of the Reaxys PhD Prize, Dr. Miyamura has remained with his mentor at The University of Tokyo and now passes on his enthusiasm to other young chemists as an Assistant Professor. Determined to improve how we approach energy as a society, Dr. Miyamura provides us with some insight and tips on his personal approach to his chosen research career.

Dr. Hiroyuki Miyamura is one of the first winners of the Reaxys PhD Prize, having won during the 2010 inaugural year. Hiroyuki was a PhD student supervised by Professor Shū Kobayashi at The University of Tokyo and was awarded the prize for his work on catalyzed aerobic oxidation of alcohols at standard room conditions. We recently met with Hiroyuki to learn what he is doing now and get to know more about how he works.

Q: Describe your current research and what led you to your current position
Dr. Hiroyuki Miyamura: My current research involves the development of heterogeneous catalysts, including metal nanoparticles, with the application of these to creating more efficient reaction systems, such as continuous flow, and tandem reactions.
When I finished my PhD, I was lucky to have several options for positions to consider. I could get a fellowship for a postdoc in Stanford University and I also had an offer as assistant professor from one organization. However, Professor Shū Kobayashi offered me my current position and I decided to continue my career remaining within his group at The University of Tokyo.

Q: What attracted you to study chemistry and, if not chemistry, what do you think you would be doing?
Dr. Hiroyuki Miyamura: When I was child, I loved mixing substances to try and see the resulting changes. I think it was this character trait for experimentation that made me interested in chemistry, in that it enables creation of new substances and materials.
If I wasn’t working in chemistry, I’d have become a lawyer. In scientific research, we always make a hypothesis and try to verify it. Such a logical approach is similarly required in the work of a lawyer, which appeals to me. I also considered becoming an architect. I like to create and design new things and, even now, I enjoy creating the graphics and images for our publications and presentations.

Q: Which of your achievements makes you feel most proud?
Dr. Hiroyuki Miyamura: I am most proud of having revealed reaction mechanisms of various novel catalysis that were also developed by us here at The University of Tokyo.

Q: Who has influenced you and what inspires you in your work?
Dr. Hiroyuki Miyamura: Professor Kobayashi has influenced me greatly in my career. His vision on the kind of research we should do to create truly new ideas for the future is an inspiration to us all. He has a unique and different way of thinking and understanding and I believe this can open up new fields of research. I am inspired by our shared goal to change the energy system in our society, using chemistry.
Outside of my own research, I follow research in enzymatic chemistry and materials chemistry, as these include similarities to aspects of my own research and provide inspiration for a variety of imagined possibilities in my own research.

Q: How do you organize your research day and how do you plan your experiments?
Dr. Hiroyuki Miyamura: I begin my day by discussing with the students and postdocs I am managing and provide advice to them when required.
Personally, I prefer to do my experiments with much freedom rather than rigidly thinking through each and every specific detail. When a new idea comes to mind, I feel it is better to test this immediately, even if it may not seem the cleverest of ideas – and I am recommending students to also do so.

Q: What is your best tip for effective time management?
Dr. Hiroyuki Miyamura: I believe it is better and important to manage with a view over a long span, such as several weeks or even a few months.

Q: What strategies do you use to keep up with the literature?
Dr. Hiroyuki Miyamura: I check through the main journals at the earliest opportunity. I sometimes will also check papers that cite my previous publications, using Web of Science and similar sites.

Q: What advice would you give to other researchers, especially someone about to start a PhD in chemistry?
Dr. Hiroyuki Miyamura: The best piece of advice I’ve ever received is to do research with a “strong and deep root”, which Professor Kobayashi says often, though he says that he was told this by Professor Mukaiyama.
The best advice to PhD students I can think of is to keep thinking and imagining freely about what is occurring in your chemistry and maintain a focus on what will be possible with your chemistry.
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Dr. Hiroyuki Miyamura and 17 other young scientists have won the annual Reaxys PhD Prize since the award began in 2010. The Reaxys PhD Prize is the most recognized prize for Chemistry PhD Students across the globe. Entry to the 2016 Reaxys PhD Prize is open to students currently in or who will have completed their PhD program after January 1, 2015. Submissions open on December 7th 2015. Visit Inspiring Chemistry for more information.

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