Master's Program in Interdisciplinary Biodiplomacy

Diplomacy in the biotech era: Studying biodiplomacy at the University of Tsukuba will help students bring the skills of international negotiation to bear on global environmental, biological and biotechnological issues

The field of biodiplomacy is barely a decade old, but the demand for individuals skilled in this very modern area of expertise far exceeds supply. And that makes the University of Tsukuba’s Master’s Program in Interdisciplinary Biodiplomacy vitally important.

Biodiplomacy is about bringing environmental science to the diplomatic table; recognizing the need for governance of environmental issues with global implications, such as the use of biotechnology and the practice of bioprospecting ― the systematic search for and development of valuable new products from plants and animals. As governments, private industry and research organizations work globally to develop international cooperation and governance around environmental resources and their protection, people like Marino Morikawa are on the biodiplomacy frontline.

A 2010 graduate of Tsukuba University’s in-demand biodiplomacy master’s program, Morikawa has returned to his native Peru where he now works as an environmental advisor to several South American governments. He is helping to manage the restoration of natural habitats with shared borders, such as the Andes Lake Titicaca and the Chira River, as well as the development of two mega-ports on the South American coast. “It’s been great to be able to apply the skills I learned for projects for the good of my country,” Morikawa says.

The University of Tsukuba’s interdisciplinary biodiplomacy course aims to train students in skills that span the policy, regulatory and industrial aspects of biotechnology and biological resources. Graduates can expect to find opportunities in a diverse range of areas, such as advising international organizations, governments, NGOs and the private sector. In this developing field of expertise, there are also huge opportunities for graduates to set themselves up as private consultants.

The course is unique around the world, explains course coordinator Kazuo Watanabe, a genetics expert with professional experience in biotechnology and biodiplomacy. It offers a diverse mixture of course content that schools students in legal, political, social, economic and ethical aspects of environmental, biotechnology and life sciences.

“Our students gain exposure to active research and development, and industries within the precincts of the city of Tsukuba and explore negotiations at the national and international level,” he says.

Launched in 2010, the course is run by professors with experience in such diverse but relevant fields as diplomatic negotiations on international laws and regulatory inspection processes on biotechnology. Graduates are working in consultancy firms, NGOs, and some have continued on to PhDs at other institutions.

Morikawa was attracted to the masters’ course because of its leading reputation in the environmental sciences, particularly in the area of wastewater management. However, he was also impressed by its well-equipped laboratories and quality of its teaching staff who, he says, have become valued advisors as he develops his career.“The course really helped me with leadership, decision-making and being able to appreciate the viewpoints of others,” Morikawa says.