UCL academic recognised as future leader of Japanese research

Kazuya Saito (Ioe, UCL’s Faculty of Education & Society) -   Kazuya Sa
Kazuya Saito (Ioe, UCL’s Faculty of Education & Society) - Kazuya Saito (Ioe, UCL’s Faculty of Education & Society)

Professor Kazuya Saito (Ioe, UCL’s Faculty of Education & Society) has been announced as one of 25 young academics to receive the 20th Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) Prize, recognising him as a future leader of scientific research in Japan.

The JSPS Prize supports Japanese academics in various fields of natural sciences, humanities and social sciences who are under the age of 45, providing a platform for enhanced research abilities at an earlier stage in their careers. First established in 2004, the award consists of a certificate of merit, a medal, and a purse of JPY 1.1 million (approximately £6,000). 

Upon receiving his award, Professor Saito will also have the honour of meeting Fumihito, the Crown Prince of Japan, at a ceremony in Tokyo in March 2024. 

Professor Saito’s research is focused on second language (L2) learning and its positive impact on job prospects, cultural understanding and overall well-being in today’s interconnected world. Findings show that individuals with high proficiency in L2 speech generally have very accurate auditory processing skills, and that a lack of such precision in auditory processing can impede the speed of learning. 

Furthermore, evidence suggests that combining training in both auditory and language skills can enhance L2 learning, particularly for those with weaker auditory processing abilities, a group often overlooked in both research and teaching methodologies. 

To qualify for the JSPS Prize, an academic must have published papers or articles in scientific journals and other publications in Japan or abroad and obtained excellent scientific research achievements. Professor Saito received a nomination from Professor Motoaki Sugiura of Tohoku University and is one of just two prize winners to conduct their research outside of Japan. 

Professor Saito said: "As someone who has been away from Japan for some time, this prize holds special significance as it represents recognition of my research in my homeland. It will be a great honour to have the opportunity to meet and share my story with Fumihito, Crown Prince of Japan." 

The award also demonstrates the successful partnership fostered between UCL and Tohoku University, through which Professor Saito’s team within UCL’s Institute of Education won funding on two occasions. 

The group has developed strong ties with the neuroscience team at the Institute of Development, Aging and Cancer, at Tohoku University, which is one aspect of UCL’s  160-year relationship with Japanese universities and businesses.  

Professor Saito continued: "Without the collaboration opportunities with Tohoku University, I would not have had this opportunity to reconnect and maximise the academic possibilities in Japan. With this recognition, I hope my story will inspire more young scholars to appreciate the value of international and interdisciplinary collaborations."

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