Award-winning research at Kyoto University

Kyoto University is acknowledged as the most accomplished research-oriented universities in Asia. The validity of that reputation is testified by the accolades conferred on our alumni and researchers, most notably nine Nobel Prize laureates who undertook vital research during their time at the university. In addition to those awards, several other Kyoto University faculty members have received respected accolades, including two Fields Medalists and one recipient of the Gauss Prize
The philosophical outlooks of Hideki Yukawa and Kenichi Fukui in particular have left enduring legacies at Kyoto University. Yukawa was the first Japanese national to be awarded the Nobel Prize, receiving his award in 1949, shortly after the end of WWII. An active peace campaigner, Yukawa has provided a great deal of inspiration for subsequent generations of researchers in Japan.
Fukui firmly advocated that students should be encouraged to undertake original research early in their academic careers.
This had a direct influence on Kyoto University’s education system, which allows for early specialization. The university’s encouragement of interdisciplinary collaboration was also influenced by Fukui, who famously held the belief that breakthroughs in science are produced by the unexpected fusion of remotely related fields.

Nobel Prize

1949    Physics    Hideki Yukawa
1965    Physics    Shinichiro Tomonaga
1981    Chemistry    Kenichi Fukui
1987    Physiology or Medicine    Susumu Tonegawa
2001    Chemistry    Ryoji Noyori
2008    Physics    Makoto Kobayashi
2008    Physics    Toshihide Maskawa
2012    Physiology or Medicine    Shinya Yamanaka
2014    Physics    Isamu Akasaki

Fields Medal

1970    Mathematics    Heisuke Hironaka
1990    Mathematics    Shigefumi Mori

Gauss Prize

2006    Mathematics    Kiyoshi Ito

Japan Prize

2005    Information and Media Technology    Makoto Nagao
2005    Cell Biology    Masatoshi Takeichi

Kyoto Prize

1995    Basic Sciences    Chushiro Hayashi
1998    Basic Sciences    Kiyoshi Ito
2004    Advanced Technology    Alan Curtis Kay
2010    Advanced Technology    Shinya Yamanaka
2016    Basic Sciences    Tasuku Honjo

Lasker Award

1987    Basic Medical Research    Susumu Tonegawa
1989    Basic Medical Research    Yasutomi Nishizuka
1998    Basic Medical Research    Yoshio Masui
2009    Basic Medical Research    Shinya Yamanaka
2014    Basic Medical Research    Kazutoshi Mori


Kyoto University Alumnus Awarded Nobel Prize in Physics

(c) Nobel Media AB Photo: Alexander Mahmoud

(c) Nobel Media AB
Photo: Alexander Mahmoud

Prof. Isamu Akasaki, a graduate of Kyoto University’s Faculty of Science; professor of Nagoya University; professor of Meijo University, has been jointly awarded the 2014 Noble Prize in Physics. The prize motivation is “for the invention of efficient blue light-emitting diodes which has enabled bright and energy-saving white light sources.”
The prize was jointly awarded to Prof. Akasaki together with Prof. Hiroshi Amano of Nagoya University, Japan and Prof. Shuji Nakamura of the University of California, Santa Barbara, USA.
Prof. Akasaki became interested in Kyoto University after hearing from a graduate of his high school who enrolled Kyoto University about the atmosphere of its laboratories, its culture of encouraging creativity, and its prominent researchers.1) After enrollment, he studied analytical chemistry under Prof. Masayoshi Ishibashi. As his student life progressed, he began to feel a desire to do or create something new, no matter how small. This aspiration, together with a level of dedication and persistence seldom found in other researchers, led to his groundbreaking discovery of gallium nitride (GaN).

Professor Kazutoshi Mori Shares Lasker Award

Photo courtesy of the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation

Photo courtesy of the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation

Prof. Kazutoshi Mori of the Graduate School of Science was awarded the Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award by the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation on 8 September 2014. Prof. Mori and Prof. Peter Walter of the University of California, San Francisco, shared the award for their discoveries concerning the unfolded protein response (UPR). Prof. Mori is the seventh Japanese Lasker laureate, following Dr. Shinya Yamanaka, director of Kyoto University’s Center for iPS Cell Research and Application (CiRA) and winner of the 2012 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.
Since the inception of the Lasker Award in 1945, there have been seven Japanese recipients, five of whom are Kyoto University alumni and/or faculty members. In addition to Prof. Mori (2014) and Dr. Yamanaka (2009), the award has also been conferred on Profs. Yoshio Masui (1998), Yasutomi Nishizuka (1989), and Susumu Tonegawa (1987).