Alumnus’ work in Japan to impact sustainable future

Miwa Nakai Griffith University
Dr Miwa Nakai.

Dr Craig Cameron, Senior Lecturer with Griffith Business School, recently caught up with former student and GBS alumnus Dr Miwa Nakai in Tokyo, Japan. Miwa talked about her time at Griffith, postgraduate study and her groundbreaking research at the University of Tokyo.

After completing high school in 2004, Miwa worked for two years to save enough money to study abroad. But she had to make two critical decisions about her proposed international study: Australia or the United States? And which university? Miwa chose Australia and Queensland Institute of Business and Technology (QIBT, now Griffith College), impressed by the small class sizes and extensive study support. During this time, Dr John Fan (now a lecturer in Finance at Griffith University) was part of Miwa’s study group at QIBT. As Miwa reflected, having two eventual PhDs from a study group of four was quite an achievement!

Miwa initially intended to study for a Bachelor of Journalism at Griffith, but an introductory Economics course delivered by Dr Tommy Soesmanto at QIBT (now lecturer in Economics at Griffith University) inspired Miwa to pursue an undergraduate degree majoring in Economics. She explains, “Tommy was fantastic and was so interesting … I told him many times he changed my life.” Two highlights of Miwa’s degree at Griffith were the group work activities, which equipped Miwa with the ability to motivate students to engage in teamwork, and the wise words of Professor Tom Nguyen, who encouraged Miwa to pursue a Masters in Economics without sacrificing her other personal goals.

While the transition from Economics in the English language to Japanese was initially difficult, Miwa says she quickly adapted and completed her Masters degree from Kobe University. Her thesis examined the performance of Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) funds in Japan compared to conventional investment funds in response to the Global Financial Crisis. She then commenced a PhD at Kobe University, focusing on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and SRI in the financial market. During her PhD studies, Miwa was employed by the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) for a half year as a visiting researcher, conducting analysis of CSR firms in Japan, Germany and England.

Prior to completing her PhD in 2016, Miwa was offered a research position at the prestigious University of Tokyo, the top ranked university in Japan for Economics, and ranked in the Top 50 universities in the world (37th according to Times Higher Education World University rankings). Miwa is the economist as part of a multi-disciplinary team of engineering, government and health experts collaborating on three national projects addressing public health, renewable energy and eco-tourism, with Miwa’s research focus on behavioural economics.

One of the projects looked at consumer motivation to use renewable energy sources. As Miwa notes: “Our electricity marked was deregulated in 2016, so understanding the preferences of consumers towards electricity attributes is very important.”

Another related to the hot topic of ecotourism, which Miwa explains “has been getting greater attention as a potential strategy for regional revitalisation in Japan.

The third project she was involved in looked at the motivation to undertake basic health check ups and doctor examinations. With Japan’s aging population, Miwa’s work centred on the public reluctance to access free medical checks, along with rising government health care costs associated with preventable diseases. Miwa’s research into factors that can increase medical participation rates could potentially have a significant impact on the Japanese economy.

So what does the future hold for Miwa? “I can’t decide whether I want to be a professor or lecturer at university or a researcher at the National Research Centre, but what I do want to do in the future is continue to challenge myself by researching abroad as a professional. Australia is of course one of my choices because I love the living and work environments, and Australia and Japan have a strong economic relationship,” she explains. And she has definitely not ruled out a return to Griffith University in the future.

Story by Dr Craig Cameron.