The sine qua non of the effective day-to-day management and hands-on tailored training for researchers in MIRI’s lab is Tomoko Kaneko-Tarui, MD, PhD, a physician-scientist herself. Dr. Kaneko-Tarui’s greatest gratification, she says, is when “MIRI’s researchers are able to solve the problems and experience the joys of research with my support.” Dr. Kaneko-Tarui is completely dedicated to all aspects of supporting MIRI Investigators and trainees, from ensuring that the laboratory is completely stocked and up to code, to helping with experimental design, and assisting researchers with equipment.“Tomoko has become the ‘go-to’ person in the lab!” says MIRI post-doc Dr. Austin Rosner. “If I ever have questions related to lab work or experiments she always has the answers. If I ever encounter any problems in the lab, she knows how to fix them or where to go for help.”
Dr. Kaneko-Tarui’s expertise in designing and conducting experiments, combined with her broad knowledge base of cutting edge equipment and protocols, is a result of her own rigorous science training in her native Japan. After receiving her MD and PhD degrees from Yamagata University School of Medicine and Yamagata University Graduate School of Medicine, respectively, Dr. Kaneko-Tarui worked in Japan as an infertility specialist at one of the country’s leading IVF centers. Her group handled 2,500 IVF cycles a year, providing her with extensive experience in reproductive biology research and in the clinical practice of reproductive endocrinology.Her main research focus was improving female fertility. She has contributed to studies demonstrating that ovaries of adult mice possess rare female germline or oogonial stem cells.
Medical research in Japan, she notes, is extremely different than in the United States. “Federal research funding amounts are much smaller (approximately 10% of the project) and usually do not support an individual’s salary. Given that there are a very limited number of research positions, scientists must work extremely hard to get their research done. Physician-scientists typically do experiments starting after 5pm and work until midnight. “The result is that sadly, not many scientists want to conduct research because it does not look like an attractive option anymore,” she says. However, the more robust, yet competitive, opportunities in the US make for a different attitude that energizes Dr. Kaneko-Tarui and serves as the inspiration for her continued dedication to obstetric and neonatal research.
Dr. Yali Zhang of MIRI summed up staff appreciation this way: “I give her the ‘Best Lab Manager’ Award for research at Tufts Medical Center.”