Toshio Tsukiyama

Born: October 15, 1962 | Chiba, JP
Photograph of Toshio Tsukiyama

Toshio Tsukiyama was born in Chiba, Japan. Influenced by his sister, he attended veterinary school in Hokkaido and became interested in research. There, Toshio read an article by Ohtsura Niwa and he decided he wanted to study with him at Hiroshima University. Niwa had obtained his PhD from Stanford University and was familiar with American courses of study; he made Toshio read and present books and articles, something the Japanese did not do, and convinced Toshio to come to the United States. At the Whitehead Center for Biomedical Research, Toshio worked on chromatin remodeling in Carl Wu's lab. The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center then hired him as an associate member, where he continues research on the regulation of chromatin structure and its effect on cellular processes. 

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0604
No. of pages: 92
Minutes: 350

Interview Sessions

William Van Benschoten
24 and 27 October 2003
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, Washington

Abstract of Interview

Toshio Tsukiyama was born in Chiba, a prefecture near Tokyo, Japan, the second of two children. His father began as an engineer in a company that built chemical factories, but he eventually became an executive. His company exported its factories, so Toshio's father travelled outside Japan a great deal. For that reason and because he was, as Toshio describes him, a typical Japanese male, the family did not interact much with him, and he did not discuss his work at home. Toshio's mother was a housewife and the children spent part of each summer visiting grandparents. Toshio's sister wanted to be a veterinarian and wanted to get away from home, so she enrolled at a vet school on Hokkaido, the northern-most island of Japan, Japan's last frontier. Influenced by her, Toshio also went to Hokkaido, but to a different school, Obihiro University. His sister's college turned out to be better in basic science, and she switched to biochemistry. Again influenced by her, Toshio decided to go into scientific research. Also, one of their aunts was a chemist and an uncle a physicist, so they had been exposed to science for a long time. While in vet school Tsukiyama met the woman who is still his girlfriend; she currently lives in California, and she and Toshio take turns visiting each other. While at vet school, Toshio read an article he found very interesting, and he decided he wanted to study with its author, Ohtsura Niwa, at Hiroshima University. He met Niwa and persuaded him to accept him as his student. Niwa had obtained his PhD from Stanford University, so he was familiar with the American course of study; he made Toshio read and present books and articles, something the Japanese did not do. He also influenced Toshio to come to the United States for his postdoc, which he did at Whitehead Center for Biomedical Research at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. There he worked on chromatin remodeling in Carl Wu's lab. The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington, hired him as an associate member. He also has an affiliate assistant professorship at the University of Washington. He continues his research in molecular biology on the regulation of chromatin structure and its effect on cellular processes. He likes to read, to do outdoor things with his girlfriend (currently gardening), to teach, and to think about—though to leave to others to adapt—the practical or clinical applications of his research. Upon hearing that Toshio was going to the United States to study, a friend told Toshio that he would not come back to Japan, and Toshio is still here. 

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
Obihiro University of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine DVM
Hiroshima University PhD

Professional Experience

National Institutes of Health

Postodoctoral Fellow in the laboratory of Carl Wu

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

Associate Member

University of Washington

Assistant Professor

Honors

Year(s) Award
1998

Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences

Table of Contents

Early Years
1

Growing up in Chiba, Japan. Family background. Parental expectations. Childhood interests and experiences. His sister's influence. Tsukiyama's interest in reading. Early schooling. Junior high and high school experiences. Influential teacher. The Japanese educational system

College Years
25

Decides to go to veterinary school. The Japanese college admission system. Obihiro University of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine. College experiences.

Graduate School Years
28

Becomes interested in research while studying microbiology for a master's degree in Tetsuhiko Shinagawa's laboratory. Attends graduate school at Hiroshima University in Ohtsura Niwa's laboratory. Niwa's mentoring style. Tsukiyama's graduate research on the repression of gene expression. A typical day in graduate school.

Postgraduate Years in the United States
40

His postdoctoral fellowship with Carl Wu at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. His first impression of the United States. The running of Carl Wu's laboratory. Tsukiyama's postdoctoral research on chromatin remodeling.

Faculty Years
53

Accepts a position at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Setting up his laboratory. His current research in molecular biology on the regulation of chromatin structure and its effect on cellular processes. The running of his laboratory. Tsukiyama's future research on chromatin assembly and its regulation. Practical applications of his research. His role in the lab. Teaching responsibilities. His girlfriend's career and her job choices. Administrative duties. Funding. Writing grant proposals and journal articles. Balancing his personal life and career. His professional and personal goals. Tenure at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Patents. Serendipity in science. Impact of technology on his research. Competition and collaboration in science. Gender and ethnic issues in science. Impact of the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences grant on his research.

Index
91

About the Interviewer

William Van Benschoten