Hello everyone. I’m Martin Robert and I just joined the Graduate School on September 1st, 2020. It’s a pleasure to join the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences and I look forward to new and exciting educational and research challenges.
I’m trained in biochemistry and I obtained both my B.Sc. (1990) and PhD. (1996) from McGill University in my hometown, Montreal, in Canada. During my time as a graduate student I collaborated with Japanese researchers who made it possible for me to enjoy a short research experience in Japan in the summer of 1993. That experience excited me so much that I wanted to come back to Japan after I obtained my doctoral degree. I thus came for postdoctoral training (1996-2001) in a private pharmaceutical research institute, part of the Chugai-Roche group near Tsukuba in Ibaraki. There, I worked on different topics including cellular aging and cytokine receptors. I was also a project manager at a biotech company in Brussels, Belgium (2001-2002). My strong interests in systems biology made me want to come back to Japan and join the, back then, recently opened Institute for Advanced Biosciences at Keio University and led by Masaru Tomita. The facilities and research were world-class and the unique location in more rural Yamagata was also full of non-academic discoveries. There, I gained great respect for the simpler model organism Escherichia. coli, trying to characterize the function of its unexplored genes, study its evolution and metabolism from various perspectives. In addition, the chance to meet local people and discover this beautiful place made the ten years I spent there as Assistant Professor a real delight. Interested in Education too, I then joined Tohoku University as Associate Professor at the Institute for Excellence in Higher Education. There, I was a member of the Future Global Leadership (FGL) program, a pioneering international undergraduate science and engineering program designed specifically for international students and that can be completed in English. I taught fundamental courses in biochemistry/cell biology and principles of physiology and systems biology and was also involved in student mobility experiences for Japanese students. It was also such a wonderful learning experience. One never keeps learning, even when teaching. Although Canada is the country I was born and brought up in, I now really consider the Tohoku area as my second home having spent over 17 years in that beautiful and more remote area.
As my profile shows I have been in Japan for quite some time, and although I visited Kyoto and the university on several occasions, there is so much I look forward to discover about the university and the ancient capital. It has been a long dream of mine to have a more in-depth chance to discover Kansai and its people and this opportunity has finally materialized.
I’m really excited to join Kyoto University and the Graduate School of Pharmaceutical Sciences. I really hope to contribute to the training of the next generation of young scientists at this leading institution. I will be teaching science communication, systems biology and biological data analysis related subjects while also pursuing my research interests in bacterial systems biology, metabolism and complex systems. Bacteria, like E. coli, have a social life too and it turns out it may be fancier than originally imagined. I hope to explore this topic here by studying how biofilms and other forms of collectives in E. coli develop and specialize into communities where like everywhere else, interactions rule, and make new things possible. Clarifying what some of these emerging phenomena are all about will be on our research agenda.
I look forward to interacting with you all. See you in class, in the laboratory, or on the streets of the beautiful city of Kyoto!
- Robert, M. Complexity and Possible Emergence of Intelligence in Bacterial Collectives. Journal of Cognitive Science 19, 283–284 (2018).
- Iuchi H., Tomita M. and Robert M. (2015) Amino acid acetylation by orphan enzyme YhhY in Escherichia coli. Keio SFC Journal, 15, 1, 402-413 (in Japanese)
- Cheng K.K., Lee B-S., Masuda T., Fujikura J., Ito T., Ikeda K., Deng L., Dong J., Shimizu K., Soga T., Tomita M., Palsson B., and Robert M. (2014) Global metabolic network reorganization by adaptive mutations allows fast growth of Escherichia coli on glycerol. Nat. Commun. 5:3233
- Robert M., Murray, D., Honma M., Nakahigashi K., Soga T., and Tomita M. (2012) Extracellular metabolite dynamics and temporal organization of metabolic function in E. coli. Proceedings of IEEE/ICME International Conference on Complex Medical Engineering (CME 2012), 197-202.
- Ishii, N., Nakahigashi, K., Baba, T., Robert, M., Soga, T., Kanai, A., Hirasawa, T., et al. (2007). Multiple High-Throughput Analyses Monitor the Response of E. coli to Perturbations. Science 316, 593-597.