Student Interview

From Overseas Students

Adrian Klein

2nd-year Ph.D. student

Introduction

I am Adrian from Germany, a member of the Honiden Lab, currently taking the Ph.D. course in Computer Science at The University of Tokyo. I am researching about Service Oriented Computing (SOC).

Experiences

I first came into contact with the lab during an internship at National Institute of Informatics (NII), where my lab is located. At that time I was still taking a master course in Germany. I came here for 6 month with the purpose of writing my final thesis. During the internship I worked on my thesis in close cooperation with my supervisor, Prof. Ishikawa, and learned many things about SOC. I also participated in many activities, like lab meetings, research (group) seminars, or get-togethers. Working on my thesis and interacting with students and professors made me realize that I like doing research in such an environment where everyone critically discusses about their research and encourages each other to improve their own work.

I decided to come back to the lab to do my entire Ph.D. here, because I thought I could do a good Ph.D. in such a good environment, and because I really felt like a part of the lab. So far I really enjoyed the first year of my Ph.D. and my research is progressing at a good pace.

Appeal points of the lab

  • Many common activities
  • Good working environment
  • Critical & constructive discussions about research
  • Support for all kind of daily matters

Message for prospective applicants

I can really recommend our lab to everyone who wants to come here as an intern, master or Ph.D. student, or a Postdoc. If you want to study as a master or Ph.D. student, I think it is a good idea to do an internship first. You will quickly find out if you like doing research in our lab. I think you will find a very good and constructive environment in our lab. If you are from overseas this might also be your first time in Japan, so you can get used to the country during that time, and I am sure, you will soon like it! While Japanese is not necessary in our lab or to get by in Tokyo, it is definitely very beneficial, so I recommend learning the basics of the language before coming in order to enjoy your stay more.

Christian Sommer

Completed Ph.D. course in 2010
Current potision: Postdoctoral Fellow, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

How did you choose the lab?

My first contact with the lab happened rather accidentally: during the final year of my studies at ETH Zurich I had been looking for an internship abroad. I was very lucky to get in touch with Cyrille Artho, then a postdoc at the Honiden lab, who accepted to supervise a semester project of mine. I spent three wonderful months in Tokyo and I got very fascinated by Japan, its language, and its culture. Even though I tried hard to learn Japanese, three months was by far not enough to achieve any level of fluency. I fortunately got an offer from Prof. Honiden to come back for a PhD. Due to the lab's connection with the University of Tokyo, I could get a PhD degree from an internationally recognized university, while learning more about Japan.

Your research topic at the lab

I worked on graph algorithms, in particular on shortest-path algorithms. Being one of the few researchers in the lab interested in theoretical computer science, I sometimes felt scientifically isolated but fortunately I was not socially isolated and I had many interesting interactions with other members of the lab.

What have you learned through your experience at the lab?

我慢 - communicating with students and professors from a different cultural background can be both very challenging and very rewarding. I spent a lot of time and energy on trying to convey a message, only to realize later that my message had been understood already but I hadn't understood the signals telling me so.

What is the appeal point of the lab?

The lab is rather large and, thanks to a successful professor, very well funded. Students with their own research plan and strong initiative can pursue their own research agenda enjoying generous support.

On the social side, there are two retreats, one in winter and one in summer, where I learned a lot about Japanese culture. While the preparation for these retreats could be stressful at times, the actual trips and the evening programs were always very enjoyable and I miss the great atmosphere a lot.

Message for prospective applicants

Think carefully about your research plan and objectives. Do they match with the current research of the lab? If there is a large potential for collaboration, you may have the chance to work with professors, researchers, and other students; otherwise, you may have to find collaborators on your own.  I had a wonderful time in Japan.

Johan Nyström-Persson

3rd-year Ph.D. student

I was born in Sweden, studied for my first degree at Imperial College in the U.K., and eventually came to Japan through my interest in the country. When I arrived here in 2008, I first worked as a software developer for a year, but eventually decided that at this point in my life, I wanted to try my hand at research activities, so I decided to study for a Ph.D. I made contact with a few professors in the Computer Science department at the University of Tokyo, to see if I could find a lab that would be suitable for me. Professor Honiden had a reputation for having many international students, which was a good sign in itself, and I also had an opportunity to discuss my situation with a Ph.D. student in the lab before I applied. I got a good impression from the lab and from the student I discussed with, which made me apply without hesitation.

In my research, I address what I see as one of the fundamental problems of programming, which is the problem of composing components. Component-based software engineering, where we make software by parts and then put them together and reuse them, is a well known ideal, but in practice the benefits are often difficult to obtain. By creating support for this kind of flexible composition at the level of the programming language itself, I am trying to address this problem. Specifically, I am trying to create a solution that is a dialect of Java, and that is based on a new kind of interface description language and code generation. If I am successful, programming on the Java platform should become more flexible and economical.

As would be expected for a Ph.D. student, I spend a lot of time reading and writing papers, thinking, and carrying out experiments. But the focal point of the lab's activity is the weekly seminar, in which students take turns presenting their work to the rest of the lab. During these seminars, both students and professors ask critical questions about the work, which is an essential part of the research process and of personal improvement. In addition, the lab contains several smaller research groups, which also meet frequently, and which help students to prepare for the main seminar through close interaction. Most of these research groups are headed by assistant professors in the lab, who have strong competencies in the various areas. I am a member of two such groups: the formal methods group, and the software engineering group. They have been very supportive towards my personal progress, and helped me identify many important issues.

I have found that the students of the Honiden laboratory are ambitious and work hard, and for this reason the lab can be a stimulating environment to work in. In addition, the language barrier, which always must be considered for international students in Japan, is not as much of a problem in this lab. The international students are making an effort to learn Japanese, and the Japanese students in the lab typically have a high level of English, and I believe that the barriers to communication are relatively small. In fact, the lab combines a Japanese research environment and an international environment in a positive way, and as a lab member I have gained new experience and understanding about both of these approaches, as well as about how they can be combined. Professor Honiden supports the students' research activities well, and discusses their personal progress during tutorial sessions which are held regularly. I have found my time in the lab so far to be highly stimulating and challenging.