Frontier Research Institute for Interdisciplinary Sciences
Tohoku University

FRIS Interviews #07

FRIS Interviews#07

  • 金子 沙永Sae Kaneko

    視覚心理学Visual Perception, Experimental Psychology

High flexibility that allows us to challenge beyond the borders of academic disciplines and affiliations

What was the reason why you chose FRIS?

I sympathize with the concept of FRIS that promotes free and independent researches.

I used to carry out research as a research fellow of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science in Tohoku University. Just by chance I heard about the concept of FRIS from the president at a meeting. I sympathized with the idea of "interdisciplinary sciences" which develops beyond the existing frames of the academic disciplines. My academic background is so-called humanities, but in FRIS I can easily collaborate with people in the different fields of other sciences such as neuroscience and conduct independent researches.

Please tell us about your current research.

I study the human visual system from various angles.

We humans collect enormous amount of information through our eyes. However, not all of it is processed. For example, even if you stay in a room for a long time, the information such as the colors of the floor or of the wall will not be noticed or remembered unlike the information such as the face of the person you were talking to. Our visual system is extremely good at selectively processing important parts of information efficiently. I believe that visual illusions, where things look differently from what they really are, can reveal the characteristics of such efficiency of our visual system. Even if illusory figures are photographed with a camera, it cannot "be deceived" like our eyes. In fact, it is a very human thing to experience visual illusions. I believe that we can understand how human visual system usually functions by examining when and how such illusions occur. So far, I have conducted researches using psychophysical methods. At FRIS, I hope to further expand my research, combining neuroscientific and engineering approaches beyond the academic disciplines.
金子 沙永Sae Kaneko

Assistant professor, Frontier Research Institute for Interdisciplinary Sciences
Before joining FRIS, Dr Kaneko was working in Tohoku University as a Research Fellow of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science. She became a FRIS researcher in 2018. She has also conducted her research in research facilities in the United States and the United Kingdom.

Please tell us about the features and attractiveness of FRIS.

Independent and free research is possible. This position allows me to focus on my own research, which is not always true for assistant professors.

I think the greatest thing about FRIS is that we can do our research freely. Generally speaking, assistant professors’ responsibilities include things as managing the overall lab activities, adjusting everyone’s schedule, etc. However, in the case of FRIS researchers, we have sufficient time to focus on our own researches free from such duties. In addition, we can approach potential collaborators beyond the framework without being tied by laboratory, field of study or academic discipline. FRIS guarantees the independency of each researcher and provides an environment where researchers can act as principal investigators.

What has become possible because you are in FRIS?

It is easy to talk to researchers in other fields, and starting collaborative research is smooth.

FRIS provides many opportunities to talk with researchers in different academic disciplines. The exchange among researchers is very active at FRIS. We also have seminars and colloquiums regularly. I participated in one of such events previously, and I was impressed that a free and open discussion was possible. Each had an idea how to approach to the main theme from their own research field. New topics were born one after another and some of them later developed into new researches. In addition, consortium is organized in FRIS, and I feel it is very easy to ask researchers in different academic disciplines and in laboratories or research institutes outside the university for collaborative research. It is very easy to go not only beyond the borders of field or disciplines but also beyond the borders of universities or institutes so I never feel restricted.

What kind of person do you think can be active in FRIS?

Challengers who are not afraid of taking risks.

I feel FRIS is a great place for people who think that they can try something new without the fear of failures. Those who have the power to overcome such fear and to move forward should do perfectly at FRIS.

What is the reason why you recommend FRIS?

Because the environment to create new things has been already arranged.

This research institute was made to produce new things so your research should be always creating something new. FRIS has programs to promote such innovative works such as an overseas collaborative research system and you can apply for them freely. I myself was staying at the university in the U.K. for three months with such a program until just yesterday. Because it is also expected to build an interdisciplinary network with local young researchers during the overseas stay, I would like to expand such circle of research beyond academic disciplines. Since researchers have high flexibility, their motivation for learning may be increasing.

About your life and environment in Sendai.

This is my first time living in a rural area, however I like it more than I thought.

I’m from Kanto area, and Sendai is the first place I have lived in a rural area. Before coming here I was not sure about living in Tohoku, but it turned out to be more comfortable and pleasant and I like it very much. There are not too many people, so it cannot be crowded too much. But you can get everything you need. The city is small enough so I can go anywhere on foot. I hardly notice any inconveniences. I also like the fact that once you go a little outside the central area there are lots of green typical of the country side. I renewed my interests in the Japanese culture when I came back to Japan and have been trying to expose myself to the local culture such as kokeshi dolls and other crafts.