Letters from HUAP

Dr. Charles S. Vairappan

Professor of Natural Products Chemistry, Institute for Tropical Biology and Conservation, Universiti Malaysia Sabah, Appointed as a Hokkaido University Ambassador in April 2019

I was excited when Prof. Tatsufumi Okino (Faculty of Environmental Earth Science) suggested me to be HU Ambassador, as I saw it a

s an opportunity to contribute to Hokkaido
University. It would also provide a platform for me to be a bridge between my country and Hokkaido University.

I am very impressed with the overall “Frontier Spirit” demonstrated in endeavors and initiatives taken by researchers in Hokkaido University to be engaged with their counterparts
in other Asian countries, especially Malaysia. Now, we are planning for a “Global Career Design”, where students in both Hokkaido University and Universiti Malaysia Sabah will be able to share experiences and learn from their counterpart in other countries. This is a very important approach for today’s generation that is facing a crisis in learning and sharing experiences due to the pandemic. The whole approach to teaching and learning has changed from face to face to virtual. Hence, new ideas that could tap into aspects of “virtual and online platform” aided teaching are important and much needed.

A trilateral Webinar between Hokkaido University, Universiti Malaysia Sabah, and Kagoshima University was just concluded on the 18th Nov 2021. A total of three researchers from each of these institutions, shared their research findings and it was joined by many post-graduate students and researchers from Malaysia and Japan. We initiated this meeting to keep each other informed of our respective group’s research progress and to explore new scope of research to complement each other.

I should say that the most striking features are the obvious differences between my home institution and Hokkaido University. The climate is totally different, Kota Kinabalu, where I live and teach, has a striking difference in climate from Sapporo. Sapporo has four distinct seasons whereas Kota Kinabalu has only sunny and rainy seasons. Also, the most unique feature is the difference in biodiversity. Most of my research collaborations with researchers in Hokkaido University involve different aspects of tropical biodiversity in Borneo. Kota Kinabalu is in the Sulu Sulawesi Coral Triangle region; the marine ecosystem is rich with
beautiful coral reefs, and these sustains a wide diversity of marine life. In the terrestrial ecosystem, we have tropical rainforest that is known as the hotspot for unique plants and animals. We have animals like the proboscis monkey and Bornean elephant that are unique to Borneo.

I have enjoyed my student years at Hokkaido University, and even more the experiences that I have had by collaborating with researchers from Hokkaido University. The aspirations and research directions projected by researchers in Hokkaido University are very refreshing and inspiring. We have been able to do interesting research projects and educate many students both from Hokkaido University and Universiti Malaysia Sabah. I would like to encourage readers and our students to understand the core values in the education and research culture of Hokkaido University, “Frontier Spirit.” This is an important value to live by and it has inspired many to be motivated and aspire for the best in one’s abilities.