1. What made you want to be a chemist?
When people are asked, “What is your hobby?”, they would probably answer with things like stamp collecting, music, gardening or sports. For me, chemistry is my hobby. I am not fond of complicated mathematical formulae, electric circuits or biological systems. Chemistry is what remains and I feel like I have been brought up with it all around me.
2. If you weren’t a chemist and could do any other job, what would it be – and why?
A long-distance truck driver. I like to drive my car and make long journeys. In particular, I am filled with a sense of achievement when I work out the best way to my destination on a road map before driving – although nowadays car navigation systems would direct me automatically!
3. How can chemists best contribute to the world at large?
When considering the contribution that chemistry can make to society, industry and human beings, I hope it involves secure and safe goods. Take, for example, organic materials that are produced by the self-assembly of molecules and then decompose after they have played their role – these should be safely adsorbed into a living body or by the environment, without damaging effects. We are now earnestly developing the industrialization of organic nanotubes with this in mind.
4. Which historical figure would you most like to have dinner with – and why?
If possible, I would not like to have dinner with any historical figure since we, who are living now, create history by ourselves. There would be no hot topics for conversation between me and the historical figure since our times would be so different.
5. When was the last time you did an experiment in the lab – and what was it?
Looking back through my lab notebooks for my last experiment, I found it on October 23, 1995. I performed differential scanning calorimetry on various synthetic lipids with a peptide moiety. In those days, no matter what the outcome was, I wanted to polymerize functional lipids using molecular self-assemblies as a matrix without changing the morphology. However, the notebook ends for some reason or other.
6. if exiled on a desert island, what one book and one CD would you take with you?
If I could take one book, it would be a highly detailed world atlas. Even though I am exiled on a desert island, I would like to be able to look at the atlas so I could travel the world in my head. For the CD, I would take some American folksongs, like Brothers Four or Peter, Paul & Mary. I used to play folk guitar with sing American and Japanese folksongs in my student days.
Toshimi Shimizu is currently Director of the Nanoarchitectonics Research Center (NARC), National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) in Tsukuba, Japan. His research focuses on the non-covalent synthesis and structural analysis of high-axial-ratio nanostructures through the self-assembly of amphiphilic monomers. In particular, he is now engaged in developing organic nanotube materials.