Plaque unveiled in memory of Keele's first Japanese student
- A plaque has been unveiled at Keele University in memory of the University's first Japanese student;
- Fumiko Yonezawa studied at Keele from 1963-64 and later became the first female President of the Physical Society of Japan;
- Her daughter Rumiko, who attended the ceremony on the University’s campus, described it as a proud moment for the family.
A plaque honouring the first Japanese student at Keele has been unveiled on the University's campus by her daughter.
Professor Fumiko Yonezawa studied at Keele from 1963-64 and went on to become the first female President of the Physical Society of Japan.
A distinguished scientist, Fumiko received the L'Oreal-UNESCO Award for Women in Science for her pioneering theory and computer simulations on amorphous semiconductors and liquid metals in 2005. She passed away in 2019, aged 80.
Her daughter Rumiko, who unveiled the plaque on the University's Cherry Tree Walk, said: "It's quite an emotional moment, especially to think my mother was actually here almost 60 years ago. She loved being surrounded by people so this is a perfect place for a plaque to commemorate her, with lots of people walking past it every day and numerous beautiful cherry blossoms on either side. The plaque is not just a celebration for my mother and the family but the whole community of female scientists, and also the connection between Japan, Keele and the UK."
Fumiko's husband, Masaharu, was assigned by his employer to study abroad at the London School of Economics and Political Science from June 1963. Not wanting to live alone without him as they had just got married, Fumiko decided to study abroad to stay closer to him and wrote a letter to some 30 vice-chancellors of universities in the UK, begging for a scholarship to study physics in graduate school. Two universities replied – including Keele – which offered Fumiko an exemption from tuition fees, accommodation and meal expenses and even a monthly scholarship.
She arrived in Keele as a research student at the end of September 1963, and started her study in theoretical chemistry and physics – regularly studying in the campus library until the early hours of the morning.
Rumiko said: "She often spoke fondly of her time at Keele, and what a great opportunity and exciting time it was. At that time it wasn’t very common for Japanese students, particularly females, to be studying in the UK.
"She had lots of interesting and exciting memories she used to tell me about. One time her mother-in-law sent her a big box of dried instant ramen noodles and she cooked those for her friends in her halls and everybody loved them. They used to have big noodle parties every now and then which she used to tell me about and had fond memories of.
"This is my second visit to Keele and I think it’s a beautiful campus. The fact that Keele has lots of science and medical courses here is very exciting and I think the University has a huge future. I am really grateful that my mother had the opportunity to study here."
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