Graduate School of Medicine, Hokkaido University

A day for Shunsuke Ohura (Doctoral Program)

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Arriving at school

Entering the campus from the Kita 13-jo gate, I am welcomed by about 70 ginkgo biloba tress. In late fall, this gingko avenue becomes one of the autumn beauty spots of Sapporo with beautiful yellow leaves, loved by citizens here. My day starts when I pass the entrance to the Northeast Research Building, where my lab is located.


Preparation for experiments and study meetings

After getting ready for experiments, I work at making mice hippocampal slices. As these slices soon lose freshness, I use them in experiments within half a day. I make the slices and read research reports before starting the experiments.

Every Wednesday, there is a study meeting starting at 9:30, and here every member of lab is given 20 minutes to report their own experimental data and work progress. At the meeting we also detail future plans of experiments and exchange ideas to improve on our research.


At the lab for experiments

It has been reported that in the axon of the central nervous system, such as in the brain. the action potential (the change of membrane potential that is generated in plasma membranes by a stimulus) follows the principle of an “all-or-none fashion” (the response is depolarized, emitting a complete response or no response at all, at the specific strength of the stimulus). This action potential is also reported to propagate by changing the form of the potential.

I have worked on experiments to elucidate details of the mechanism that controls this. I record the neuronal activity with stimulation and recording electrodes on neuronal cells. However, the recording procedure is difficult to do well, like that of the work of artisans. If I can obtain just one set of useable data from the trials over a whole day, it is a good day, but I am trying to improve my technique to be able to obtain data more efficiently.



Almost every day, I bring my home-made packed lunch, and have lunch with those of my colleges who are in the lab. Time flies talking with colleges, about the research and lectures, and problems in the experiments.


Resuming experiments

After lunch I return to the lab for experiments, and continue experiments until 18 p.m. The motivation of entering Hokkaido University was to become a research scientist. Therefore, soon after completing the undergraduate medical course, I went to the graduate course of medicine.

When I was still an undergraduate, I took the course of lectures of Professor Haruyuki Kamiya and became interested in research to elucidate the activities of neuron in more detail. I began to go to the lab in the third year of the undergraduate study, and started full-fledged study in 2015 when I entered the MD-PhD Program, in that program we are able to start studying the subjects of graduate school while we are still in the sixth grade in the faculty of medicine (the year before graduation).


At the professor’s office

Professor Kamiya provides us with all sorts of instructions including how to present research at research conferences as well as we hear advice on troubles or questions in the research. I have learned that I should adjust technical terms/expressions and tempo of talking depending on the audience at a presentation. However, I still tend to get self-conscious in front of people.

In the graduate school, I have the responsibility to carry out experiments on phenomena that have not been fully elucidated yet, and also evaluate the correctness and scientific value of research. This helps and encourages me to devote myself to research. I have been engaging in study hoping to contribute to the foundations of science that can lead to drug discovery and new therapies.

(Interviewed in May 2016)

Webpage of the Department of Neurobiology which this graduate school student belongs to