Q&A with Dr. Jun Ogawa, winner of the Biotechnology Division Ching Hou Biotechnology Award
A brief bio: Jun Ogawa is a Professor at the Division of Applied Life Sciences, Graduate School of Agriculture, Kyoto University since 2009. He studied fermentation physiology and applied microbiology and completed his doctorate in 1995 at Kyoto University. Professor Ogawa has published over 250 papers on the subject of applied microbiology such as bioprocess development, microbial metabolism analysis, etc. In 2004, he was awarded a prize for Encouragement of Young Scientists from the Japan Society for Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Agrochemistry. In 2015 and 2020, he was awarded the “Oleoscience Award” by the Japan Oil Chemists' Society. He served as a Director of the Japan Society for Bioscience, Biotechnology (2016-2018), and Agrochemistry and Chair of the Biotechnology Division of the American Oil Chemists' Society (AOCS) (2016-2017).
1) How did it feel to win the Biotechnology Division Ching Hou Biotechnology Award?
I am very honored to receive this symbolic award, Ching Hou Biotechnology Award. I am grateful to the steering committee members of the Biotechnology division for giving me a chance. Special thanks to Dr. Ching Hou for introducing me to the world of AOCS. I greatly appreciate the support of my laboratory members. I hope I can continue to research and contribute to the further progress of the lipid biotechnology.
2) How did you get started in the field that you are studying or working in?
I studied fermentation physiology and applied microbiology and completed my doctorate in 1995 at Kyoto University under Prof. Sakayu Shimizu who was famous with discovery of an oleaginous fungus Mortierella alpina 1S-4. Under his supervision, I started researches on fermentative lipid production and lipid transformation by microorganisms/enzymes stemmed from screening of useful microorganisms. One of the interesting finding in the initial stage was lactic acid bacteria with conjugated linoleic acid forming activity via hydroxy fatty acid as an intermediate. Successive research on these microbial lipid metabolisms fascinated me very much and instilled a passion in me for further researches.
3) Can you tell us about your current research?
My current research interests are the screening and development of novel microbial functions useful for life sciences, food sciences, environmental sciences, and green chemistry, especially, fermentation physiology relating to functional lipid production.
4) What challenges have you overcome during your course of study or your career?
It was very important during my research to find potential microorganisms from nature to understand the scientific basis and to apply to industry. I did my best to meet unique microorganisms with unexpected talent. These wonderful microorganisms guided me to new fields of sciences. So, my way of research is to communicate with microorganisms to become friends with them. Analysis of these microorganisms has provided me many scientific treasures.
5) What advice can you share on how you have achieved success thus far in your career, whether that be entering a graduate program or a lengthy career in a prestigious position?
My advice is very simple, but difficult to do. That is, be honest with collaborators, friends, and, especially, nature.
6) How has AOCS helped you in your career?
I was able to get acquainted with many talented and active researchers known worldwide in the field of lipid biotechnology thanks to AOCS activities. My experiences in AOCS have cultivated my philosophy in research, academia-industry exchange, and scientist's society management.