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IGP - International Graduate Program

IGP - International Graduate Program

Tokyo Tech launched its International Graduate Program (IGP) in October 2007 to provide opportunities for qualified international students with little or no knowledge of the Japanese language to pursue advanced degrees at the Institute. IGP targets international students seeking a master's or doctoral degree with all courses taught entirely in English. Many of its curricular programs focus on global issues, and students are also given opportunities to attend general liberal arts courses. Japanese language courses are available for those who intend to pursue employment in Japan upon completing the programs.

Lkhamsuren Ganchimeg (Gana) from Mongolia

Lkhamsuren Ganchimeg (Gana)

1st-year doctoral degree student in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, School of Materials and Chemical Technology

  • Program: IGP (A), International Program for Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering (IPISE)
  • Prior affiliation: National University Mongolia

Why did you choose Tokyo Tech's IGP?

I used to hear about Japanese universities being good at science and engineering before I came here. A lot of discoveries and technologies have been made in Japan. When I decided I wanted to study abroad, I started looking for universities especially in Japan. One great thing about Tokyo Tech was its official website. There was plenty of information on applying from overseas for someone with no background knowledge, and lots of details on the offered programs were available.

IGP offers students who do not speak Japanese graduate courses in English. That was the deciding factor for me, as it is quite difficult to find graduate programs in English in Asian countries. What was particularly attractive for me was the Integrated Doctoral Education Program that Tokyo Tech offers.

What are some key attractions of the program and Tokyo Tech?

Tokyo Tech continuously shapes me. I have already learned new skills, broadened my vision regarding global issues I have worked on, rebuilt myself as a better person and scientist, and overcome many of my weaknesses since entering this program. There are plenty of benefits in studying abroad: a new environment, new friends, new opportunities, growing as a person, developing skills in my own way, and solving problems together with help from very friendly lab mates and professors.

Gana with lab members
Gana with lab members

Ookayama Ekiden relay race
Ookayama Ekiden relay race

It is great to be given the opportunity to do my own desired research on current global topics using excellent laboratory equipment. This is everything that I wanted. My supervisor is very supportive and active, helping and conversing with me every day. Japanese students, who are talented and hardworking, are also kind and helpful. Labs, libraries, cafeterias, and lecture rooms are well organized. I was also impressed by the fact that Japanese students, professors, and Tokyo Tech office staff members speak English.

In the beginning, I faced many challenges such as the language barrier, cultural differences, and a lack of personal knowledge and experience. But research pushes me forward. It has made me reach a higher level professionally and personally. Daily life is getting more enjoyable each month as I am understanding the culture and improving my Japanese, although slowly [smile].

What would you say to future IGP students?

For me, the decision to study here changed my entire life. I want to gain more knowledge and experience upon graduation and definitely want to keep my connection with Japan. My message to those who plan to enter a graduate course here is that you can learn anything you want to, and the people around you will help you a lot. The professors and lab mates will help you overcome any difficulties that you might run into in daily life, and Tokyo Tech will shape you to be a better scientist.

Thesis defense poster
Thesis defense poster

In the experiment room
In the experiment room

Materials Research Society conference
Materials Research Society conference

IGP presentation
IGP presentation

Tommi Kerola from Sweden

Tommi Kerola from Sweden

3rd-year doctoral degree student in the Department of Computer Science, Graduate School of Information Science and Engineering

  • Program: IGP (A), Education Program of Advanced Information Technology Leaders, and former ACAP student
  • Prior affiliation: Chalmers University of Technology

Why did you choose Tokyo Tech's IGP?

I initially came to Tokyo Tech in 2011 by participating in the ACAP exchange program. That year allowed me to be part of a research laboratory, and served as an introduction to the fascinating world of computer vision and statistical pattern recognition in images and videos. Through weekly seminars and discussions with other lab members, my stay in the laboratory enhanced my understanding of the field, which proved useful for future ambitions in my career.

A long-term career ambition of mine has been to aim for creating software that is helpful for reducing time spent doing monotonous practical tasks in daily life. Research in computer vision really fits that description nicely. Traditionally, computer vision has been a field with quite slow progress for practical purposes. Recently, however, advances in theory and hardware performance have resulted in the emergence of practical applications of computer vision for tasks such as automatic face recognition or image segmentation. Specifically, I became quite intrigued by research results in 2012 in the ImageNet Large Scale Visual Recognition Challenge, which evaluates the capability of computers to carry out autonomous understanding of images. Consequently, I developed a great interest in image-based machine learning, which led me to apply for the IGP doctoral program in order to continue my research in the laboratory towards this goal.

At Lake Kawaguchi with lab mates
At Lake Kawaguchi with lab mates

Visiting historic city of Kamakura with friends from Tokyo Tech
Visiting historic city of Kamakura with friends from Tokyo Tech

What are the attractions and challenges of being an IGP student?

The program allows me to conduct extensive research on computer vision tasks using a wide variety of tools, including TSUBAME, the Tokyo Tech supercomputer. Leveraging fast computing solutions such as TSUBAME is becoming increasingly important for speeding up research progress in my field, as the size of our datasets is increasing at an explosive rate. Indeed, having access to TSUBAME can be crucial for being able to get any sensible results at all. Experiments that would take three months to finish can be run on TSUBAME in a few days. Another attraction of the program is that my laboratory has been able to provide all the resources I need for conducting my research, which is really great.

Of course, in my spare time, an added benefit is that I can explore Japan, which is a fascinating place to live. As for challenges, there are plenty. Apart from the required coursework, the IGP program itself is challenging in another aspect, as I need to develop skills for becoming an independent researcher. This includes learning skills for planning how to successfully carry out my thesis topic from start to finish. Unlike coursework, there is typically no right or wrong answer when working on research. However, proceeding by trial and error for solving a task is not feasible, as there are too many possible approaches. Instead, I have to learn how to objectively analyze the problem and find out whether it is probable that my idea will work. Developing the skills for approaching problems without clear solutions is for me both the true attraction and challenge of the program.

How would you describe your future plans? Do you have a message for future IGP students?

In the future, I would like to continue doing computer vision research and engineering. Towards this end, it is fortunate that machine learning on visual data is currently trending not only in academic institutions, but also in the commercial market. My hope is to find a suitable environment for developing software products that extract useful information from visual data.

For prospective IGP applicants, I would encourage them to discuss closely with their academic supervisor their plans of study and carefully choose a research topic that they are very passionate about. Conducting novel research is a painstaking process, but it nevertheless becomes quite pleasant if you thoroughly enjoy what you are doing each day. Tokyo Tech has the right resources for conducting the research. If you are ambitious enough, anything is possible.

Chathumi Kavirathna from Sri Lanka

Chathumi Kavirathna from Sri Lanka

1st-year master's degree student in the Department of International Development Engineering, Graduate School of Engineering

  • Program: IGP (A), Sustainable Engineering Program
  • Prior affiliation: University of Moratuwa

Why did you choose Tokyo Tech's IGP?

It is a great privilege to be a student in Tokyo Tech's IGP Sustainable Engineering Program (SEP). IGP offers an excellent opportunity to accomplish both master and doctoral degrees with its Integrated Doctoral Education Program component. After completing my bachelor's degree, I decided to continue with further studies to realize higher academic achievements. I was always interested in Tokyo Tech as a well-reputed university in Japan and I was inspired by the presentation about SEP by Professor Shinya Hanaoka during a seminar in Sri Lanka. I was really encouraged by Tokyo Tech's IGP and its outstanding research environment and leading-edge facilities.

Entrance CeremonyEntrance Ceremony

As students, we have plentiful opportunities for participating in internships programs and international exchange programs while studying in IGP. Furthermore, after graduation, we are expected to join and lead major international projects. Most importantly, IGP is taught entirely in English, and we are given the chance to participate in Japanese language courses to help us pursue employment in Japan. Another competitive advantage offered by IGP is the group of outstanding academic supervisors who guide us towards great research achievements. We are encouraged to bring innovative ideas to the table while utilizing advanced technological facilities to stimulate our research interests. We also have opportunities to familiarize ourselves with diverse subject areas in addition to our specific majors due to the wide scope of the IGP curriculum.

Group work
Group work

Third best presentation at SEP Satellite seminar 2016
Third best presentation at SEP Satellite seminar 2016

What are some challenges of being an IGP student?

Tokyo Tech's IGP is the best choice for those who are willing to experience a challenging academic environment, since courses are very competitive with a series of assignments, exams, and group work to expand students' knowledge in the most effective way. Furthermore, since students are themselves expected to make decisions on how to proceed with their own research, great effort is required to achieve intended research outcomes. As IGP targets international students, we can experience an extremely competitive environment when interacting with others from all over the world. Additionally, since most of the course content focuses on global issues, we are provided with precise updated knowledge in an international context.

Bowling during lab party
Bowling during lab party

Hanaoka Lab party
Hanaoka Lab party

What are your goals in terms of your future career?

I deeply appreciate this opportunity at Tokyo Tech as it will definitely help me to achieve my dream of becoming a professional academic in the future. Meanwhile, I look forward to working as a consultant in international projects. I am certain that this program builds strong competency to achieve my personal goals.

Do you have a message for future IGP students?

If you are willing to experience the most challenging and competitive academic life in a leading-edge research environment to accomplish your master's and doctoral degrees, Tokyo Tech IGP provides you with a marvelous opportunity. I encourage you to effectively utilize the range of competitive advantages of the program to make your academic life remarkable while returning great value to society.

Ben Sitler from the USA

Ben Sitler from the USA

1st-year master's degree student in the Department of Architecture and Building Engineering, Graduate School of Engineering

  • Program: IGP (A), International Program on Earthquake Engineering (EEP)
  • Prior affiliation: Princeton University, Arup (engineering and design firm)

Why did you choose Tokyo Tech's IGP?

Though originally from California, I studied at Princeton University and subsequently joined Arup as a structural engineer, working in several countries including New Zealand. The aftermath of the 2010/2011 Christchurch earthquakes and decade-long rebuild made a particular impression on me, and when I decided to further my studies I sought a university specializing in low damage seismic design.

Stadium in Singapore designed while working at ArupStadium in Singapore designed while working at Arup

This is something that Japan, and in particular, Tokyo Tech, uniquely excels in, with a strong lineage of professors who have developed and promoted high-performance seismic design methods and systems. When choosing between the top universities in this field such as the University of Canterbury, University of California, Berkeley, and Tokyo Tech, Takeuchi Lab was recommended by my colleagues.

Professor Toru Takeuchi is unique; he worked as a young engineer under Peter Rice, made instrumental contributions to the development of the Buckling Restrained Brace (BRB) at Nippon Steel, and has designed a number of brilliant structures. Indeed, Tokyo Tech campus buildings such as the Ookayama Campus Library, Midorigaoka Building 1 retrofit, Materials Research Center for Element Strategy, and Earth-Life Science Institute feature some novel structural concepts. The opportunity to learn from such an esteemed engineer led me to Tokyo Tech.

Takeuchi lab members at Midorigaoka Bldg 1, with BRB retrofit and thin plate concrete entrance canopyTakeuchi lab members at Midorigaoka Bldg 1, with BRB retrofit and thin plate concrete entrance canopy

How is life here different compared to your past experiences?

Living in Tokyo is fascinating, and I am thoroughly enjoying the food! Occasionally I do miss my Melbournian flat whites, and as always when living abroad, customs and procedures can take some getting used to, but people are universally welcoming and helpful. As an earthquake engineer living in a high seismic zone, the odd wobble is something of an occupational hazard.

The graduate education system significantly differs from the US approach, bearing closer resemblance to the Oxbridge tutorial system. We are based in a lab with daily mentorship from our professor and hold weekly seminars to discuss our research as a group. In Japan, building structural engineers are part of the Architecture Department, and so I have the opportunity to take architecture courses as well.

Discussing our research at weekly seminar
Discussing our research at weekly seminar

Nabe (hot pot) dinner with lab mates
Nabe (hot pot) dinner with lab mates

What do you hope to achieve after Tokyo Tech?

I chose to return for graduate studies to broaden my knowledge of seismic design and hope to bring the tools that I am developing back into practice once I complete my doctorate. The Japanese structural design methods and philosophy are surprisingly different from those used in international practice, and a staggering number of novel damping systems are available domestically, popular even for ordinary buildings. Consequently, many Japanese office or apartment buildings are implicitly designed to higher seismic performance levels than their foreign counterparts. I hope to act as a conduit to internationalize some of these seismic design methods and systems.

Experiment with lab matesExperiment with lab mates

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Published: August 2016

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