Emiko Hiyama, 42, a researcher on nuclear physics and recipient of this year’s Saruhashi Award for female scientists, said she will continue to work hard so as to become “the world’s No. 1” researcher in the field.
“It’s just incredible that I was able to receive so soon the award I had long dreamed of,” said the associate chief scientist at Riken’s Nishina Center for Accelerator-Based Science. “It’s like I am in a dream.”
In late April, the Association for the Bright Future of Women Scientists announced that it will give her the 2013 Saruhashi Award for female researchers who have made remarkable achievements in the field of natural sciences.
The Tokyo-based association commended Hiyama highly for having successfully developed computational methods for precisely determining nucleus structure, including hypernuclei.
Her research results have also contributed to the understanding of neutron stars that are extremely small and heavy, it said.
A native of Fukuoka, Hiyama received low grades in most classes at school until she entered the third grade. “I didn’t really like schools,” she said.
Her mother, Kinuko, 69, helped change her attitude and offered to tutor Hiyama after a teacher said her daughter was struggling.
Hiyama’s mother told her to pursue sciences when she was not able to decide on a major.
When Hiyama was studying for college entrance exams during her senior year in high school, she learned about atomic nuclei and was fascinated by the thought that mathematical formulas could represent even invisible matter, prompting her to major in physics at Kyushu University.
She served as assistant at the High Energy Accelerator Research Organization in Ibaraki Prefecture and associate professor at Nara Women’s University before taking up her current post.
She has recently become concerned about the future development of the sciences.
“It is a problem that physics per se has become a less popular subject than before,” Hiyama said.
She said she is also hoping to advance her research in the field of nuclear fusion to help generate energy.
Hiyama lives with her husband, also a physicist, in Ibaraki Prefecture.
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