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Our mindset



A letter from an applicant:

Dear Sir Professor Dr. Hiroaki Wagatsuma,

I have a question.
 
I know few persons in my country who went to Japan for PhD degree and unable to get the awarded the degree. Why such cases are arisen?

How many hours in day should spent in your lab?
We know that Japanese people are hardworking. We used to work as our own system in my country.
I am asking all the matter so that everything is be transparent to us. After joining in your lab there should no negative thinking on us. We will only look forward and work to reach the goal.

Best regards,

A reply to the applicant:
Dear questioner,

I agree that those are natural questions.
Research activities in the PhD course are based on Basic policies as follows:
1) Freedom in selecting research topic,
2) Freedom in managing of time how to deal with the problem,
3) Freedom in belonging to which the laboratory and university.
I respect the freedom indeed, while I always think about individual career plan for each PhD student which fits for his/her dream for the future.
In the famous university not only in Japan, they tend to organize a big lab in which so many students belong. Naturally they organize the lab based on the freedom policy as a tradition. Indeed, it causes the competitive situation between students in the same lab under the condition of less discussion time with their supervisor. As usual, in those labs, there are staffs to support students like Postdoc researchers and young assistant professors, but the students seldom discuss directly with their own official supervisor, i.e. the professor as the responsible person.
In some cases, unfortunately it could be a reason why the so many talented PhD students cannot obtain their PhD within regular three years.
In this lab, we have a systematic solution to improve this traditional situation. I organize my own lab mainly with selected international PhD students and less than ten Japanese master students (including international internship students; a few numbers for half a year and tens for a month) according to the policy of the mutual benefit and effectiveness between the lab and students, in the style of the on-the-job training in the company. Since I had worked in the computer company, as the hardware engineer in the development section, the effectiveness is placed in the first place and the solution can be obtained to maximize benefits in both sides.
For students, the graduation in the regular period is crucial for the scholarship period, matching with company job recruitment and VISA issue. For this lab, accumulation of knowledge, sustainable publication and promised outcome in the limited time (especially in the collaboration with the company that provide us research budgets) are very important. The mission of the university such as the collection of the certain number of students is the second place in my lab.
With respect to the condition that we cooperatively provide necessary results in the limited time, fundamental rules of my laboratory are
1) Time schedule like a company
-> Effective time management by individuals.
The core time for working is 10:00am - 6:00pm (especially for Master Students).
All the members were required to stay and work in the lab during the core time in weekdays, except the lecture attendance, special events (conference, outside meeting and official events) and personal health problem. If you will be delay in the morning, you need to call or email to the supervisor to get the permission. If you have an accident or bad in your health, you will quickly report me as soon as possible all the time.
Almost all PhD students come to the lab earlier (because they are so serious to obtain PhD degree in three years) and return a little bit later. In cases of meeting appointments, paper submission deadline near at hand and emergency in academic record protocols, they take time more.
2) High concentration and sharing time and materials with others
-> Assignment of the research theme in the early stage.
To minimize the working time effectively, we share a lot of materials (codes, procedures and lab equipment) to use individual research project, such as computer programming language (2-1), implementation method into the hardware (2-2) and tools for experiments (2-3). The range of mathematics (2-4) too, as I explained.
For example,
2-1) MATLAB (main language especially for theoretical/data analysis), python (Deep Learning, NN), C++ (for hardware implementation), Java (rare but use for semantic web). We do not use NOT C## for instance.
2-2) Arduino, ChipKit32, ECU and CAN interface.
2-3) VICON and OptiTrack (motion capture), Tobii (eye-tracker), g.tec (EEG). We do not treat medical data by CT, fMRI, MEG currently.
2-4) Theory of non-linear dynamics, mathematical analysis and analytical mechanics/dynamics (to use differentials, integrals, geometry and so on)
linear algebra based on the uniform desecrate time step and machine learning based on probabilistic theory are not our main target of research.
3) Career plan coordination by serious discussion
Depending on the individual career plan, the research topic will be decided under the discussion of the supervisor and the student. If the proposed plan by the student is either outside of the laboratory mission, far from the range of my research field, or not suitable for the career after the graduation, I frequently interfere how to solve the problem that potentially exists in the proposed plan. I truly respect the freedom policy and try-and-error spirit by themselves but I manage PhD students by repetitive consultation and discussion to enhance the concentration to facing the specific problem to solve in the actual way and the step-by-step mutual agreement style will be taken.
This is my suggestion.
Three years are not so long for learning about Japanese language for inexperienced foreigners but it is possible to reach the level for daily communication and work together with Japanese if the person study hard. The Japanese skill benefits you to be able to obtain a scholarship from the Japanese private organization.
According to the reason, I recommend PhD students to learn Japanese. Fortunately, our campus organizes free Japanese class at evening. Every international student works in the lab in 10:00-18:00 (the case in my lab) and then go to the Japanese class from 18:00-.
In the past record, my Indian PhD students started to learn Japanese from the first grade, got the scholarship in the second year from the Japanese private organization and obtained PhD degree in three years.
Please consider whether my lab is appropriate for you and your future plan at last. I do no mind whether you will come or not. At every moment, I just encourage you and all the international students and researchers.

With best regards,

Hiroaki Wagatsuma

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