Passion for bacteria, shochu leads to victory

The Yomiuri Shimbun

From left: Midori Goto, Tran Thi Dieu Hien and Aoi Koga celebrate at the award ceremony for the 6th All Japan Student English Presentation Contest in Tokyo on Saturday.

By Hiromu Namiki/Japan News Staff Writer Clad in white lab coats, three female researchers from Kumamoto channeled their passion for bacteria and shochu into a powerful presentation. Their efforts led them to victory at the 6th All Japan Student English Presentation Contest.

Aoi Koga, Tran Thi Dieu Hien and Midori Goto from Sojo University in Kumamoto Prefecture took home the grand prize at the annual contest held Saturday at the Yomiuri Otemachi Hall in Tokyo. The three women discussed the potential of photosynthetic bacteria — organisms that could be utilized as organic fertilizer — and how using distillation residue from shochu can reduce cultivation costs, which they are currently researching at university.

When the result was announced, the three covered their faces in surprise. “I thought, ‘Is it OK for us to win?’” said Koga, the team leader.

“We did terrible in the second round, so I thought we failed to make the final,” added Koga, who is in her first year at Sojo’s postgraduate school and a great fan of Kumamoto-produced shochu.

Judges praised the three for making a difficult topic easy to understand for the audience. “The winning team was incredibly poised and articulate,” said Michelle Segal, vice consul of the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo.

The Best Individual Award went to Sebastian Johnson, a junior at the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, while Mizuki Munakata and Sanako Mihashi — juniors at Akita International University — won the Best Group Award.

Other winners include Yuki Nishii, a senior at Chukyo University for the Impressive Individual Award, and Tsuru University juniors Kyoka Ike and Tomoko Yamada for the Impressive Group Award.

This year, 641 students from 127 universities, graduate schools, technical colleges and vocational schools took part in the contest, which was organized by the Kanda Gaigo Group and The Yomiuri Shimbun. Students who reached the final round gave presentations of up to 10 minutes in English with visual aids and answered questions from the judges.Speech

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