Nobel Prize winner announcements for 2014 started with the award in Physiology or Medicine on Oct. 6th. A British-American scientist and two Norwegian researchers, who are married, were awarded for discovering “an inner GPS in the brain.” On Oct. 7th the winners in physics were announced. Three Japanese researchers, Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano, and Shuji Nakamura, who is now a naturalized American, were awarded for their roles in developing LED lights, which are now ubiquitous in many everyday electronics, such as long-lasting light bulbs, flat TV screens, computer monitors, and smart phones.
As a naturalized American of Japanese origin, I am happy that Japanese researchers will receive Nobel Prize for Physics. While searching Japanese internet, I came upon an interesting story about Hiroshi Amano, which can be instructive to many students who are struggling in their studies due to lack of motivation. Here it is. According to Amano, he did not like to study when he was a middle-school student because he did not know why he had to study at all. However, he became motivated to study hard, when he was moved by a professor’s talk about the meaning of the kanji, kou, (meaning technology or construction) as a study to connection between people. For the first time, he realized that studying hard means to become useful for others, and the goal as such motivated him to work hard in his research. He is very proud of having become useful for others by developing LED which he accomplished as a graduate student under his professor Isamu Akasaki.
I find Prof. Amano’s motivation to study hard to be very Japanese in a good sense. I am not sure if most of contemporary young Japanese would respond to the meaning of life as being useful to others enthusiastically or not. But, I am certain many would. As for young American, I wonder if they would study harder when they are told that studying hard means to be useful to others. Perhaps. But, I feel they would study harder if they are told that studying harder means they can make more money.
Finally, I want to relay Prof. Amano’s message to high school students: There is a big difference between people who have goals and people who do not. If you have a dream, try to realize it without succumbing to the uncertainties of life.