The personal and professional benefits of exchanges
Materials scientist Prof. Dr. Ken-ichi Kakimoto from NITech in Japan is the new FAU Ambassador and also the vice president of the Nagoya Institute of Technology (NITech) in Japan. He has maintained close ties to FAU for more than 10 years now. In 2020, he was awarded the title of FAU Ambassador in recognition of his work.
Ken-ichi Kakimoto has been fascinated by engineering ever since he was a little boy. He came into contact with the profession at an early age, as his father worked in the aircraft manufacturing industry. But a popular television series that he watched when he was at school also influenced the development of his career. ‘The main character in one of the television series I enjoyed watching was a teacher,’ Ken-ichi Kakimoto explains. He wanted to do the same thing. Today he has combined both his professional aspirations, working as a materials scientist and as an academic at a faculty of engineering. Professor Dr. Ken-ichi Kakimoto also has a close connection to FAU. For more than ten years now, the Japanese researcher has maintained research and teaching contacts at FAU in materials science. This has been part of his role as director of the ‘NITech Europe Liaison Office’ since 2013. His aim is to intensify and expand the collaboration between FAU and NITech in research and teaching. ‘Our collaboration is very successful’, says Ken-ichi Kakimoto. ‘We can look back on roughly 300 faculty exchanges to date, involving both researchers and students.’ In recognition of his efforts to boost FAU’s international reputation and visibility in research and teaching, Ken-ichi Kakimoto was made an FAU Ambassador in 2020. FAU grants this honour to outstanding researchers who have a glowing reputation in their research area, have been awarded international prizes or honours for their work and who have a particular connection to FAU.
‘It is a great honour for me to be the first FAU Ambassador from an Asian country’, emphasises Ken-ichi Kakimoto. He intends to merge ideas from both perspectives through his position, linking the Western and Eastern ways of thinking. He hopes that this international collaboration will also benefit research. An engineer at heart, Kakimoto explains, ‘I will do all I possibly can to promote an international network linking science and industry, including exchange programmes for students at both universities.’ Ken-ichi Kakimoto values the atmosphere on campus and the people who work at FAU, recognising them as ‘extraordinarily talented and qualified scientists and students, who are dedicated to working hard every single day to drive innovation in research’. He is also impressed by the ‘excellent equal opportunities for all and support for international researchers at FAU’.
For Ken-ichi Kakimoto, the exchange between Japan and the Nuremberg Metropolitan Region in Germany is beneficial to both sides and goes beyond purely professional aspects. ‘Working together like this has many more benefits than simply sharing knowledge and methods in our research field,’ says Kakimoto, whose research into lead-free piezoelectric ceramics has met with considerable acclaim in both science and industry. He has also received awards from the Japanese government in recognition of his innovative approach to research. ‘Students can learn, for example, that good scientific practice depends less on the quality and strengths of each individual and more on teamwork and a willingness to open your mind to new ideas,’ he explains, ‘Working in an international team of researchers allows students to develop their scientific skills whilst broadening their own horizons.’
Reunion at FAU
Ken-ichi Kakimoto knows this from experience. He worked as a postdoctoral researcher for three years between 1986 and 1989 at the powder metallurgy laboratory at the former Max Planck Institute (MPI) for Metals Research in Stuttgart. His time in Germany left a lasting impression, not only from a scientific point of view. ‘I have been fascinated by German cars ever since I was a young boy. The topic of my doctoral thesis was also connected to the research conducted by Peter Greil, who was working at that time at MPI Stuttgart, and whom I greatly admired even then,’ reports the FAU Ambassador. Ten years after returning from Stuttgart, Ken-ichi Kakimoto met his admired colleague again. Not just anywhere, however, but at FAU. Professor Dr. Peter Greil held the Chair of Glass and Ceramics at FAU for many years. The two collaborated on a number of joint research projects. For Ken-ichi Kakimoto this is nothing less than ‘fate’ and a ‘miracle’. His many years of collaboration in research with Peter Greil laid the foundations for what he is now doing today as an FAU Ambassador: representing the University in his home country and reporting back to the scientific community on his experiences at FAU.