Falling Walls Lab Sendai 2021

The Falling Walls Lab Sendai 2021 international scientific communication event was held online August 31, 2021. Falling Walls Lab is a debate event for students and young researchers established by the Falling Walls Foundation in Berlin in 2009 on the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The event was co-sponsored by Tohoku University, the German Centre for Research and Innovation Tokyo (DWIH Tokyo), the Tohoku Forum for Creativity, and the Tohoku University Research Administration Center (URA Center).

A total of 26 participants introduced their groundbreaking research projects for 2 minutes and 30 seconds each using PowerPoint presentations. A one-minute question and answer session followed each presentation where participants answered questions from the judges. Despite the event being conducted in English, even non-native English speakers did an excellent job presenting their work in their own words. They used the short presentation time slots to the full, expressing the innovative ideas in their research and how they could contribute to the development of society. Participants were of varying nationalities and their research covered a wide range of disciplines. Although themes in the natural sciences were prominent, there were also presentations from the social sciences on themes such as “Academic Gender Imbalance” and “Cultural Biases.” Some presentations dealt with themes that have been topical in recent years such as infections and sustainable energy.

The incredibly diverse, idea-filled presentations were assessed by a panel of seven judges of various nationalities from both academia and industry, using a multifaceted approach. The scoring criteria consisted of “Breakthrough Factor (how innovative is the proposed idea?),” “Relevance/Impact (how relevant is the idea for the discipline and beyond?),” and “Structure/Performance (how convincing was the presentation?).” After all presentations were completed, the panel of judges talked for nearly 40 minutes, and Dr. Chia-Huei Tseng gave a presentation entitled “Science Communication in the COVID-19 Era.” At that time, a mini exercise was given to participants where they had one minute to give an impromptu presentation in a relaxed atmosphere, which helped improve skills in communicating their own ideas.

Toward the end of the event, the winners were announced with Saeka Uchino taking first place (Breaking the Wall of Milk Science and Immunology), Manjit Singh Grewal taking second place (Breaking the Wall of Clean Energy from Marine Biomass), and Aditya Saha taking third place (Breaking the Wall of Unaffordable Solar Energy). Uchino’s research took first place thanks to its innovative approach in utilizing mammary gland derived cells in classic antibody-producing cell line manufacturing techniques in order to enable the production of IgA antibodies, which are an immune substance found in breast milk. Event viewers also voted, with Li Xue (Breaking the Wall of Computer-assisted Prediction) and Joy Sambo (Breaking the Wall of Menstrual Hygiene Management Practices) both taking first place in the Audience Awards. Because she took first place, Uchino now has the right to appear in the Falling Walls Lab Finale 2021 on November 8 in Berlin, Germany, a privilege that also includes round-trip airfare.

The Falling Walls Lab preliminaries are held around the globe (in over 40 cities this year), with winners receiving a ticket to the finale in Berlin. The finale is held each year on November 8 to coincide with the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Participants are recruited each year in Japan as well.