National Taiwan University

After the cloud-enshrouded mountains of Fukushima, the raucous riot of sound, smell, and sight that is Taipei is a full-on assault of the senses. Street vendors line the narrow alleys of Shin Lih selling all manner of carnival-colored fruit, meat ranging from crispy chicken nuggests to readily identifiable body parts, bubble tea, hot cakes, giant stuffed pancakes, stinky tofu (true to its name) and thousands more morsels of exotica, each booth more daring in its gustatory appeal (or revulsion) than the last.

Here, we are visiting National Taiwan University, home of the Taiwan Veterinary School and one of the many partnerships CVMBS is working to build in the Far East. Of course, TU and CSU go way back to the 1950s when Dr. Isaac Newsom, an early dean of Colorado A&M’s Veterinary School, came to Taiwan to help establish its fledgling veterinary program. A  tour of the hospital reveals  a nine-floor facility, with nine clinical faculty members and a caseload of  about 25,000 patients per year. Each year, the veterinary school enrolls 60 students into a post-high school, five-year program. A morning research exchange reveals possible areas of collaboration including tuberculosis and MRSA.

NTU also would like to partner on educational opportunities and could offer American students a unique opportunity for clinical “rotations” particularly because patient records are kept in English. The patient caseload provides a look at how cultural differences in pet ownership are reflected in commonly seen medical problems. For example, the NTU Animal Cancer Treatment Center sees many more cases of advanced mammary gland tumors because of lower rates of spay and neuter.

After scientific meetings and an extended tour of the expansive NTU campus ( the university and it’s numerous campuses cover 1 percent of Taiwan’s land mass), including its elegant library, we enjoy a traditional Taiwanese dinner with the Taiwan Veterinary Medical Association, meeting many of its members and expanding our circle of veterinary colleagues on this beautiful island nation.

On Tuesday, we head back to Tokyo for meetings at the National Institute of Radiological Sciences in Chiba before heading home on Thursday.

Fukushima- Beauty and Tragedy

Fukushima is a land of mountains floating in clouds; flooded rice paddies densely punctuated with exclamation points of green; lazy coastal fishing villages; and, since March 11, 2011, the triple disaster of a change-the-earth’s axis earthquake, monster tsunami that peaked at 40.5 meters, and nuclear power plant accident that emptied villages, cleared highways, and returned damaged land to it’s original owner — nature.

Reminders of the tragedy are everywhere. On the mountain campus of Fukushima University, two large dosimeters show the current radiation reading. The dosimeters are meant to reassure but simultaneously, though perhaps not intentionally, serve as a reminder of the tragedy below. In the town of Iitate, a whimsical sculpture plays the songs of schoolchildren long since evacuated, while an adjacent dosimeter, placed with no sense of irony, provides a steady read-out of radiation levels deemed too high to ever return to the deserted town.

On the coast below, blocks of concrete foundations are all that remain of fishermen’s homes, a silent, solid, testimonial to the stability of rock and steel, and the inherent weakness of wood and flesh.

The CVMBS team arrived to this beautiful, haunted country to explore research and educational partnerships with Fukushima University. The first day was spent in scientific meetings to gain a better understanding of how the triple disaster changed the focus of discovery for researchers. Recent studies include the effects of zeolite and benthonite to reduce radiocesium assimilation in dairy cows; technology to reduce radiactive substances in livestock grazing lands; and the contamination of soil and water in Fukushima.

Day Two was a visit and series of research presentations at the Fukushima Livestock Industry Research Center, then on to the temporary location of the Prefectural Fisheries Experiment Station fisheries group, before a sobering trip to what remained of the agency’s  headquarters in the tsunami-devastated Soma.

Here, the skeletal remains of the largest fish market in the Fukushia Prefecture pay silent witness to what once was a raucous and vibrant community of fishermen, fish buyers, and the endless negotiations over price that filled the air. Yoshio Ichida, a local fisherman, relives the disaster, telling tales of how some residents left Soma within minutes of the earthquake knowing that a tsunami may follow. But they underestimated the ferocity of the wave and returned home only to be met with the full force of a seething wall of water, armed with lumber, cars and shards of metal roof.

As the prefecture recovers, CSU is exploring how to partner in new research programs that will not only help Fukushima, but extend the lessons of nuclear accidents — and two – or three-in-one catastrophes — to help over countries as they move forward in developing their responses. While the likelihood of another Fukushima is small, the lessons to be learned are large.

Today, the team heads to Taiwan to connect with colleagues of Taiwan University and visit the veterinary school, a partnership that was launched last year and we hope will continue to move forward. The goal here is similar to Gifu University, the University of Tokyo, and Fukushima University — the development of international partnerships to enhance the teaching, research and outreach missions of the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical sciences to benefit the global society.

Traveling to Gifu

Heading out from Colorado on Mother’s Day, the CVMBS team arrived at Narita Airport late Monday night, a little stiff in the legs, but ready to hop on the train to Tokyo. The relatively quick passage requires a bit of cognitive rebooting. Before international air travel, when trips to Japan required weeks on seafaring vessels, the human brain could slowly adjust to the time and cultural changes. Now, we drop in with our brains still rooted in Fort Collins, and confetti from graduation still in our hair.

After a few hours sleep, it was up early, off to breakfast, and then on to catch a bullet train to Gifu. Max Matsuura, our Japan liaison and resident travel expert, manages to shepard everyone through crowded train stations, across busy inner city streets, and around seemingly impassable throngs of commuters. Thankfully, in the chaos, no one was lost.

Once in Gifu, we made our way to the medical hospital at Gifu University for lunch. Following lunch, Drs. Lance Perryman and Mark Stetter made brief remarks, then Dr. Ric Slayden reviewed his research in Francisella tularensis virulence and pathogenesis, a joint project with collaborators at Gifu. Dr. Bill Hanneman also presented on future collaborations with Gifu, including computational biology and global connectivity.

In the evening, Gifu hosted a traditional Japanese dinner and that was followed by a special invitation to President Mori’s home where the team was treated to traditional Japanese matcha tea and a celebration for Dr. Lance Perryman, current CVMBS Dean, as this will be his farewell tour with colleagues in Japan, many of whom he’s worked with for more than five years in establishing research, teaching and outreach collaborations with the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

Tomorrow morning, it’s back on the bullet train headed to Tokyo and an evening wth NIRS President Yonekura.

Heading to Japan

On Sunday, May 13, representatives from the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences will be traveling to Japan to continue to build relationships, investigate new projects, and work with our partners in Tokyo, Gifu, Chiba, before heading to Taiwan. 

While there, we’ll be visiting the Fukashima Prefecture to survey damage and redevelopment in the area ravaged by last year’s tsunami and nuclear accident. The College’s new dean, Dr. Mark Stetter, will be joining the group so that he can meet our partners in Japan as well as gain a better understanding of the work in which the College is engaged.

I invite you to join us as I attempt to blog daily from Japan to report back on exciting new developments as well as the people, places, research, educational partnerships, and joint ventures in the Far East. 

Sayonara, Carol

Typhoon!

We’re currently in the middle of a Typhoon here in Japan!

Shows how dedicated we are, though, ’cause we’re still going to be running our experiments tonight!

We already brought all of our flasks over to the HIMAC facility where we will be irradiating our cells, so the only thing we really have to worry about is getting wet/blowing away walking over there.

NIRS — Japan

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Well since Chris wrote a lot, I figured I would post a bunch of pictures to along with his narrative =)

My name is Michelle, and I’m here with Chris & several other graduate students. We are conducting research at the NIRS institute in Chiba, Japan, which houses one of the premier cancer therapy centers in the world. One of the draws of this facility is the fact that they have a heavy ion medical accelerator (HIMAC). On our tour yesterday, we learned that the reason that heavy ions are the ‘next big thing’ in cancer treatment is because they are effective against hypoxic tumors. Japan is one of two facilities in the world to offer this cutting-edge technology.

Yesterday, we had the opportunity to go to dinner with several scientists from the NIRS institute. One of them – Dr. Okayasu – knows my mom! Crazy how small this world is.

Chris & I have only been here for two days now, and today marks the start of our experiments. Tonight the ion beam will be diverted to the ‘research’ side of the facility, and we’ll have the opportunity to utilize carbon ions for our experiments. It’s going to be a busy day! Hopefully the typhoon doesn’t cause us too many problems.

Japan Day 1

By the way my name is Chris in case any of you were wondering and I am in Japan to do research through the Toxicology department of ERHS and Dr. Hanneman’s lab. I am here with 3 of my peers who SHOULD be blogging too and 3 people from Dr. Nickoloff’s lab. I hope you enjoy the stories.

So I slept for 11 hours my first night here and believe it or not it wasn’t enough, guess I undersestimated how tired I’d be after my first trip abroad. Breakfast consisted of the yogurt and frosted flakes we bought at Aeon last night. By the way, all portions in Japan are much smaller, much smaller. After breakfast we all met and went to the lab for a meeting. Turns out the meeting is tomorrow instead so Team B (the three of us who came to Japan a week later) watched a radiation training video (snoresville). Oh, when we got to the lab we also met most of the people working in our lab and watched a video. It was the son of one of the ladies in the lab and his water polo team had choreographed a synchronized swimming “dance” (?) I know it sounds odd but it was very funny.

Then it was time for lunch. I feel like a lot of my posts will discuss my meals because they are sooo good. There is a cafeteria on campus and to order you put money i a vending machine, press a button, a ticket pops out and you hand it to the chefs. Most of the time the choices are written in Japanese so it can be a bit of gamble but there is usually pictures to accompany the choices. Today we had miso flavored ramen and it was absolutely delicious. Plus it’s good manners to slurp your ramen so that’s a bonus!

After that we went on a tour of the HIMAC facility and the medical center on the NIRS campus. A HUGE shoutout to Mr. Motoki Kumagai, Ms. Yuka Matsuzaki, Mr. Yasuhisa Fujibayashi, and Mr. Hiroshi Ishihara who presented different areas of the facilities to us. All of the technicians, scientists, professors, etc have been incredibly kind and helpful to us. All of these presenters were prepared and excited to teach us today and they were all very prepared. I must say that the facilities are absolutely beautiful and state of the art and everyone very courteous and knowledgeable. All the machines are state of the art and anyone would be lucky to be treated for cancer here. Again I will try to upload pictures.

After the tour we spent the rest of the afternoon working in lab and then it was time for dinner. Dr. Fujimori took us out to a local restaurant. It was funny because when he asked if another man wanted to join us he just said “what? that’s just a bar!” and we all laughed. Again the food was very good we even got to eat Mt. Fuji! After dinner we made a quick trip to Aeon for some snacks and then went back to the lab. We worked in the lab from about 10pm to 12:30 am plating our cells and getting prepared for our first beam time tomorrow. Because all of our beam times are in the middle of the night I think that we are going to be doing the majority of our work late at night, a blessing and a curse.

Also when we were walking to and from lab tonight it was raining very hard. Surprise there is a typhoon coming in tomorrow! Yay Japan is just full of surprises. S far all of them have been good. Lissa is borrowing the cord for my camera so I will try to upload pics ASAP. Peace

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