Frontier Research Institute for Interdisciplinary Sciences
Tohoku University

FRIS Interviews #09

FRIS Interviews#09

  • 熊 可欣Kexin Xiong

    心理言語学、神経言語学、第二言語習得Psycholinguistics, Neurolinguistics, Second Language Acquisition

The ideal environment for collaborating with researchers at the top of their fields and achieving further personal growth

What is the reason why you chose FRIS?

Inspired by my conversations with young researchers at FRIS, I gradually felt like I wanted to join as well.

I first learned about FRIS when I came to Tohoku University on a JSPS postdoctoral fellowship for foreign researchers. At that time, my mentor, Prof. Sachiko Kiyama(Graduate School of Arts and Letters), had a project at FRIS, so I was able to do some work there. I was inspired by the conversations I had with the other assistant professors at FRIS, and I gradually felt like I wanted to join as well. FRIS allows you the freedom to dedicate yourself to your research, and there are few non-research duties. The research funding makes it an ideal environment for a young researcher. Additionally, the mentorship program, which offers the support of a mentor and the opportunity to gain teaching experience in your mentor’s department, provides an excellent steppingstone for becoming a full-fledged researcher with an independent laboratory.

Please describe the research you are currently working on.

I want to elucidate how kanji will be used in a digitalized society by approaching the subject from a variety of disciplines.

My research focuses on the social cohort effects on the understanding and production of kanji words among Japanese, considering physiological age-related changes. With the advent of digitalization, more and more Japanese can read but cannot write kanji. The question is whether modern Japanese, who no longer write by hand, will be able to maintain their current kanji-processing functions when they become elderly. We are trying to determine how the brain understands kanji and how the brain’s workload differs between when it understands a kanji and when it does not. We expect that this research will be useful for preserving language functions, including kanji, in the super-aged society of the digital generation and for developing kanji skills among foreign learners of Japanese.
熊 可欣Kexin Xiong

Assistant professor, Frontier Research Institute for Interdisciplinary Sciences
Originally from China, Kexin Xiong was appointed to Tohoku University as a JSPS Foreign Researcher in 2018 and has been an assistant professor at FRIS since February 2020.Her current research aims to clarify the social cohort effect along with the effect of physiological aging changes on the recognition and production of Japanese kanji while deepening knowledge in a wide range of fields such as linguistics, cognitive neuroscience, sociology, and gerontology.

What qualities do you think make FRIS unique?

FRIS has a great environment for coming up with ideas, with ample support in terms of equipment and research funding.

As the name suggests, FRIS is an interdisciplinary institute. It is not very often that researchers from different fields come together within a single research institution. FRIS holds regular meetings and seminars, which give us many opportunities to discuss our research with one another and foster an environment for generating ideas. Furthermore, FRIS provides the resources, such as funding and equipment, to turn those ideas into actual research results, which should be appealing to anyone interested in interdisciplinary research. The seminars and discussion opportunities at FRIS have allowed me to get glimpses at the cutting-edge of a variety of research disciplines, which, in turn, has broadened my own perspectives. In addition, I feel that the process of explaining my research to people from different fields in a way that is easy to understand and interesting helps me to deepen my understanding of my own research field.

How do you plan to make the most of your experience at FRIS, and what kind of future do you see for yourself?

I want to be open-minded in helping to develop the next generation of researchers as well as contribute to society through my research.

In the future, I would like to become a tenured researcher who can use the interdisciplinary and international network I have built at FRIS to conduct research activities and provide open-minded guidance to students. I would also like to conduct outreach activities so that I can share my research results, not only within the world of researchers but also with the public. This year, I was selected as a member of the second generation of participants in a project to build a consortium for human resource development in science and technology. I will actively participate in symposia and training camps organized by this consortium, which consists of Hokkaido, Nagoya and Tohoku Universities, and will visit research institutions in Japan and abroad to gain research experience and build my network. At FRIS, I have been fortunate to have constant opportunities to converse with leading researchers from other disciplines. I want to always keep in mind the insights I gained here and apply them to my research. In ’five- or ten-years’ time, the research I am doing now may merge with other fields to form a new field. This will be followed by the growth of new perspectives and, in turn, the development of new interdisciplinary research. Rather than staying within the limited range of their own field, I would like to encourage the next generation of researchers to always be curious and to think in an interdisciplinary way while also deepening their understanding of their own fields. I will continue my work while keeping in mind the ultimate goal of making meaningful contributions to society.

What kinds of people do you think would flourish at FRIS?

People who are curious and willing to take the initiative to break out of existing disciplines.

Because interdisciplinary collaboration is encouraged at FRIS, it is important to be interested in research from other fields and to keep in mind what kinds of contributions can be made between disciplines. Communication is important, not only to find research that is useful for your own research but also because your research may be useful for someone else’s research. I believe this is the basis for coming up with good ideas across disciplines.

Why would you recommend FRIS?

FRIS provides a streamlined environment, which is constantly updated, to allow researchers to dedicate themselves to their studies.

The most important factor is that we can focus on our research. I recommend FRIS because, even as research associates, we do not need to take on administrative tasks. Furthermore, we receive all kinds of support to conduct the research we want to do. Another thing I realized after coming here is that FRIS always wants to hear the opinions of its young researchers and uses those opinions as the basis for efforts to improve the institution. I was impressed by that.

How do you like living in Sendai?

The time I spend walking to work along streets abundant with nature soothes me.

Sendai is a very compact, livable city. I always walk 30 minutes to commute to the university, which I feel has had a positive impact on my health. With the lush greenery and clean air, it feels good to walk to work while gazing at the blue sky. It always soothes me. I like that I can get fresh seafood and fruits for affordable prices, and I have come to love gyutan and seri nabe. In Sendai, there are areas of the city that are lively, and other parts where you can enjoy some quiet. Most of the things one could want are available to buy right in front of the station, so it is quite convenient. As for inconveniences, the only thing I can think of is that I have not found my favorite Chinese restaurant yet. If you know a nice place, please tell me!