About Tokyo Tech

Interviews with 2015 graduates

Graduation Interviews

Three graduating students were interviewed prior to the doctoral graduation ceremony for the 2015 academic year. They spoke about their research and campus life at Tokyo Tech.

I will expand my horizons
by building on my experience
at Tokyo Tech.

Tomoya Sato

Tomoya Sato
Physics (Particle-, Nuclear- and Astro-Physics)

What brought you to Tokyo Tech's Graduate School?

Professor Asahi (second from right) and Sato (far right) with lab members

Professor Asahi (second from right) and Sato (far right) with lab members

I chose Tokyo Tech for its doctoral degree program. I had previously decided to continue my studies, and considered the options offered by labs at various universities as I wanted to broaden my perspective. What brought me to Tokyo Tech was the presentation given at a seminar by members of the Asahi Lab. I was interested in their research, visited the lab, and met with Professor Koichi Asahi. I thought his lab was the place for me to take on new challenges in research.

What was your most memorable experience during your time at Tokyo Tech?

Looking back on the days as a doctoral student, what impresses me is that I had a free hand in conducting research. In the Asahi lab, members use an active feedback nuclear spin maser, a unique device developed by the lab. As is so often the case with cutting-edge research, we ourselves make decisions on how to proceed with our research. Although the process was very challenging, it was a rewarding three years because what I did immediately led to outcomes.

Sato at the Physical Society of Japan Annual Meeting 2015

Sato at the Physical Society of Japan Annual Meeting 2015

Asahi lab's active feedback nuclear spin maser

Asahi lab's active feedback nuclear spin maser

Can you tell us about your doctoral dissertation?

The title of my dissertation is "Study of spin maser comagnetometry for the Xe atomic EDM experiment." An electric dipole moment (EDM) is the polarization of electric charge of the neutral atom. The existence of the EDM has not been confirmed yet, but if experimentally confirmed, will be a clear indication of a new physics (i.e. Supersymmetry) beyond the currently accepted theory (the so-called Standard Model). In order to search for the EDM, the spin precession frequency of the atom under the static electric and magnetic fields, is measured precisely. In order to improve the measurement sensitivity, we introduced a 131Xe atom to our active nuclear spin maser. The 131Xe maser was developed and its performance was evaluated. As a result, it was suggested that the 131Xe maser has potential for improving the current experimental limit of the Xe atomic EDM.

What are your post-graduation plans?

I will continue research on fundamental symmetry with atoms at RIKEN. Graduation is a starting point for new phase in my life, and I will expand my horizons by building on my experience at Tokyo Tech.

Do you have any message for younger students?

Tokyo Tech has a leading-edge research environment, not to mention great facilities. The research and discussion with leading faculty was stimulating. Tokyo Tech faculty members offered a great deal of support while giving me a free hand in doing research.

I would like to recommend Tokyo Tech to those who are considering master's and doctoral degree programs. The Institute's door is wide open if you have a will to explore things in depth.

Your own perspective
and vision will be
your lifelong strength.

Hisako Miyagi

Hisako Miyagi
Biological Sciences

Why did you go on to a doctoral degree program at Tokyo Tech?

I did so because I found research interesting. After completing a bachelor's degree program at Tokyo Tech, I advanced to a master's and then a doctoral degree program. I was affiliated with a lab for six years and conducted research on living creatures. Many things don't go as planned or as expected when you do the kind of research I do, and you often don't get immediate results. Even when you take time to prepare, research might not go smoothly due to the poor condition of the living beings on that particular day. But precisely for that reason, I feel an especially strong sense of accomplishment when my research goes well.

What was your most memorable experience during your time at Tokyo Tech?

The various lab events were truly memorable. As a doctoral student, life is naturally centered on research, but the lab I was affiliated with also organized lots of barbecues, excursions, and other outdoor activities. We went sightseeing, cherry blossom viewing, and even cooked a Baumkuchen cake using bamboo at a barbecue. Members got along very well in the lab and sometimes we went out for drinks. In my research I worked hard, and in my free time I played hard.

Lab's welcome party for new students (Miyagi far left)

Lab's welcome party for new students (Miyagi far left)

Lab's excursion to Kurobe Dam (Miyagi far left)

Lab's excursion to Kurobe Dam (Miyagi far left)

Can you tell us about your doctoral dissertation?

My doctoral dissertation is entitled "Analysis of regulatory mechanism of cardiac-specific expression of zebrafish cx36.7." In this study, to investigate the transcriptional regulation of cx36.7 gene expression, I characterized the cx36.7 promoter activity in zebrafish embryos. The results show that its early cardiac-restricted expression is regulated by promoter transactivation in the embryonic heart and suppresses promoter activity in skeletal muscles.

What are your post-graduation plans?

I obtained a job at a pharmaceutical company, and will engage in research on the development of ethical drugs. Frankly, I am a little anxious because I have never studied pharmaceutics or medicine, and my research at Tokyo Tech had little to do with drug development. Even so, I will do my utmost by taking advantage of what I learned through research at Tokyo Tech.

Do you have any message for younger students?

Expose yourselves to various knowledge and ideas beyond your specialty during your time at Tokyo Tech, and gain your own perspective and view to generate action. Your learning and research at university work as your strength to land jobs, but your own perspective and vision will be your lifelong strength. Tokyo Tech gives you a chance to exchange views with a variety of people with varying perspectives and ideas, which will be your strength for life.

Always keep your heart
and mind on your goals.

Aimee Theresa Avancena Fontanilla

Aimee Theresa Avancena Fontanilla
Human System Science

What led you to choose Japan and Tokyo Tech?

Nishihara Lab trip to Hakone (Avancena, second row far right)

Nishihara Lab trip to Hakone (Avancena, second row far right)

Before coming to Japan, I was a computer science (CS) teacher in a premier science and technology high school in the Philippines. As a youth educator, I knew I needed to do graduate studies. Luckily, I qualified for the Monbukagakusho scholarship so I searched extensively for a Japanese university that would accommodate the research I am interested in. Then I chanced upon the Department of Human System Science at Tokyo Tech, which aims to develop systems that integrate human factors with science and technology. As I am interested in how students learn computer science and how technology is utilized in education, I applied to this department in 2008 and have been a member of Professor Akinori Nishihara's lab since then. The last seven years have been a fulfillment of my long-time dream of living in Japan, a country which I admire for its nature, culture, and technological innovations.

During your time at Tokyo Tech, what experiences made the biggest impression on you?

Studying at Tokyo Tech provided me with opportunities to undergo a holistic personal growth. The seminars, conferences, and research activities deepened and widened my knowledge in my field of interest, which is computer science education. The friendships I made with people from various cultures, mainly through the international dormitories and friendship clubs, my classmates and labmates, are treasures I will always value.

Being the head of the Association of Filipino Students in Japan during the Great East Japan Earthquake also made a lasting mark on me because, with the help of other officers and volunteers, I had to coordinate a safety check on the Filipino scholars in Japan. Not to mention, I was six months pregnant at that time.

Most importantly, I am grateful to Nishihara-sensei, an advocate of women in engineering, whose encouragement allowed me to obtain recognition and scholarships and to participate in Google's Girls Leading in Development and Engineering and the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, the largest gathering of women in computer science. Moreover, his support made it possible for me to finish two degrees at Tokyo Tech while taking care of my two sons, who were both born here in Japan.

With other Filipino scholars during the ASEAN youth festival at Komaba dormitory (Avancena, second row, 4th from left)

With other Filipino scholars during the ASEAN youth festival at Komaba dormitory (Avancena, second row, 4th from left)

With other Anita Borg scholars at a Google retreat in Seoul, Korea (Avancena far right)

With other Anita Borg scholars at a Google retreat in Seoul, Korea (Avancena far right)

Avancena participating as a Google scholar at the Grace Hopper conference in Baltimore, Maryland

Avancena participating as a Google scholar at the Grace Hopper conference in Baltimore, Maryland

Can you tell me about your doctoral dissertation?

My doctoral dissertation entailed developing an algorithm learning tool which incorporates Algorithm Visualization (AV). The research is an attempt to address the issues of poor performance and low motivation among high school students of computer science. The learning tool presents lessons and animations that aim to facilitate teaching and learning of fundamental algorithms, which are included in the K-12 CS curriculum. Ultimately, the goal is to propose models consisting of AV features, learning objectives, motivation components, learning strategies, and actual student performance, which may be considered in the design and assessment of algorithm learning tools intended for novice programmers. The study is focused on high school students but it also has repercussions on university level CS.

What are your post-graduation plans?

Doing research in CS education and obtaining a PhD with this background is relevant to my plans of pursuing a teaching career in the university. Computer science is a popular course in my country but CS education has yet to be given its much needed attention. I, therefore, see myself working in this field, promoting CS education and doing research and advocacy in CS curriculum design and implementation, both in the secondary and tertiary levels. I would also like to get involved in teacher education in the field of CS and ICT, which I believe is a key to enhancing not only computer science but STEM education in general. In the Philippines, there is a pressing need to produce more scientists and engineers for the purpose of national development, so having competent teachers in computing and technology is a huge prerequisite. I would also like to help address the issues and challenges in CS, in particular, how to encourage more women to join and persevere in this field.

Do you have any message for younger international students?

Each person has a unique story, so my message for those who have come to Japan to pursue their studies, especially, here at Tokyo Tech, is that whatever situation you may find yourself in, always keep your heart and mind on your goals. The life of a foreign student can be both exciting and challenging, but it is always a personal decision to stay on track. Look for friends and groups that are good influences and will give you encouragement during hard times. Never hesitate to consult with your supervisor and those who can give you sound advice. Always find time to reflect, which is necessary when research work gets hectic. Make sure you have time for fun and relaxation. Experience Japan's beautiful nature and its rich culture and win many friends as you do so. Lastly, try to consider how you can give back to society after having finished your studies here in Japan.

Heartfelt congratulations to Sato, Miyagi, Avancena, and many other students graduating from Tokyo Tech this spring!

Heartfelt congratulations to Sato, Miyagi and Avancena

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Published: March 2016