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  • Consistent attention to detail paves the way for major breakthroughs

Reason for joining ZEON and the early years

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I chose a company with an open-minded atmosphere where I can achieve results.

Before joining the company, a career in technology was not the path I wanted to follow. I had been having a hard time achieving the results I expected from my research at university. Consequently, I felt there was no way I would ever want to do such grueling research as a career, and instead I tried to get interviews at trading firms and consulting companies. But then I took some time to reconsider my feelings, which is when I realized that my strong passion for achieving substantial results was the root cause for my anxiety at school. In fact, doing research was something that I really liked, and so I turned my focus toward the world of chemistry.
Of all the companies I visited, the people I met at ZEON came across as exceptionally frank.
I've always thought that a company is a place where people's futures are determined based on what they do there. I also believe that an open-minded atmosphere allows for cooperation that reaches beyond the limits of any single division, which in turn enables me to do a good job. Because I was determined to find the right atmosphere for me, I chose ZEON without any hesitation.
ZEON's Elastomer Laboratory conducts research and development in synthetic rubbers and synthetic latex. I was assigned to the division that develops synthetic rubbers – particularly polymers for automobile tires. Since my first year there, I've been primarily working on evaluating physical properties. In my second year, I became a leader of the team that evaluates abrasion resistance, a key requirement for tires.


Current work

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Observing the mechanism of abrasion at the molecular level
Tire evolution is based on evaluation and analysis from multiple angles.

If you were to visit a tire shop in Japan, you might notice that the tires have green evaluation labels indicating their rolling resistance and wet grip. However, some countries are on the verge of including abrasion resistance to the list. This new criterion is related to what I do in my job. Specifically, my objective is to improve tire performance through establishing a better understanding of the mechanism of abrasion at the molecular level.
Tire strength is enhanced when reinforcing materials such as silica and carbon are mixed with polymers. These substances, however, do not mix well, and the presence of solidified silica causes defects that can weaken the tire against friction. I produce evaluation samples and repeatedly take measurements to determine how polymers with different molecular compositions interact with silica, which polymer composition makes a good mixture, and how the compositions correlate with tire strength.
Another part of my job is figuring out what kinds of abrasion occur under a range of different conditions. Out of the huge number of possible conditions, I select the ones that can be used as indicators and provide information to the material development team. This is a low-key task that requires infinite patience, but I suppose that I'm suited to basic research, and I don't find the work too taxing. Besides, I enjoy seeking out the fundamental principles and uncovering the mechanisms behind phenomena.
Commercial tires are made by tire manufacturers, and so our job is limited to providing them with the materials. One way to look at this relationship is by viewing us as farmers and the tire makers as chefs. We strive to provide the best possible materials which the chef can turn into exquisite cuisine. In addition, we have many opportunities to receive their feedback on the kinds of materials they want. Development of a material is a long-term endeavor that typically takes five to ten years to accomplish, and the work I'm doing has yet to produce any tangible results. Nevertheless, I believe progress is being made one step at a time, and I hope to show the results soon.


Dreams of the future, life outside my job, and a message

The sensitivity required for research owes more to individual ability than gender.
I hope that more people will participate in women-only gatherings.

While the proportion of female employees at ZEON is still quite small, this means that people quickly remember our names and offer their support, which can serve as an advantage at times. (laughs) But when it comes to our actual jobs, no distinctions are made on the basis of gender. I think the sensitivity required for research owes more to individual ability than gender, and diversity is essential in any workplace that deals with product innovation. That's why I'd be happy to see more women join ZEON.
Many of my older female colleagues return to work after their children are born, as ZEON offers long-term career security. And we sometimes even hold women-only gatherings.
Even though I may soon get married, I hope to continue taking on the various challenges of my work and someday introduce something completely new and surprising to the world. With that goal in mind, I'm steadily deepening my commitment to the work at hand and getting involved in other areas as well. I still have a long way to go.
My advice for people deciding on a place to work is to look beyond the public image and name value of a company. You must also consider what you can achieve there, which is generally more important than the company's size and appearance.

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