Computer Science Software Design Associate Professor
Please tell us about your research.
I am researching software engineering. Software engineering is the study of how to create quality software efficiently and with as little cost as possible.
For example, in our daily lives, software is contained in smartphones, computers, and various other home appliances. This is a field that has a large demand in society, so it is very important to create them efficiently.
In Japan today, people are talking about the "cliff of 2025". This means that there is currently a shortage of IT personnel, and if this trend continues, the supply of software will not be able to keep up with the demand from society. It is predicted that this will lead to an economic loss of about 12 trillion yen every year. In order to alleviate the negative aspects of such a shortage of IT personnel, my research focuses on the creation of technologies that make software production as efficient as possible.
I am particularly interested in research on software source code.
If a machine can automatically fix bugs in software, it will require less human intervention for fixing bugs. I am researching such automated program repair. At this moment, it is possible to fix bugs of one or two lines.
Automated program repair is one of the hot topics in software engineering and is being researched by companies like Google and MS.
I think there is a great atmosphere of nurturing students in this lab. As a professor, what do you do to guide students?
The students are all very good problem solvers, so once I decide on the first assignment, I don't go into too much detail. I ask them to report their progress once a week, but they come up with the specific methods on their own. So I try not to give them too much detailed guidance on research methods and procedures.
There are two main ways to formulate the initial problem. One is to find problems from research papers, and the other is to find problems by asking what companies want to solve through joint research.
When it comes to papers, there are trends in research. We need to know what papers have been published recently, so that we can understand and analyze what kind of research is required now. Without knowing the trends, it is difficult to decide on the next research theme.
Another method to decide on a research theme is to grasp society's needs. In this lab, we are currently conducting several joint research projects, and I think they will also become needs-oriented research.
In addition to research, in the past few years, I have been encouraging students to make presentations at international conferences, publish journal papers, and other external activities. I think that international conferences in particular are a good stimulus for students. When I ask them to give a presentation in English, they usually say "ugh" at first, but I try to convince them that it will be beneficial. I think that doing something like that while they are still students will give them courage before they go out into the world.
What I think is a good trend among our students is that almost all of them have presented their research overseas in the past few years. Because of this trend, I think that the newly assigned students think that giving a presentation in English is not a special thing, but a normal thing that everyone does.
When undergraduate students write their graduation thesis, I sometimes get master's students to check them, so they are able to build vertical connections within the lab. The students share information among themselves, and the graduate students take care of undergraduate students voluntarily. I would be happy if presenting at intenational conferences and publishing journal papers in English would become a normal thing.
Before the COVID-19 epidemic, some students would give three presentations abroad before graduating with a master's degree. They would start going to presentations since their fourth year as undergraduates, so that's a pace of about once a year.
In many cases, it is not the case that the contents of the research students worked on as a student itself are not always be put to use after they get jobs. Some students may do different jobs after entering a company. However, the process of working diligently on research as a student involves a lot of investigating, presentations, and writing. I believe that students' abilities are enhanced through such experiences. I think it would be a good idea for students to enhance their abilities in this graduate course, and then apply them to their work and become active. The content of the research itself may not be very useful, but I think it is very important to do research that students are passionate about. After all, it's more important to be absorbed in something than to work hard.
F There is a lot of pressure to work with people outside of the university on joint research, but if you work hard, I think you will gain confidence. It is different from doing it individually, and there is an atmosphere in which it is natural to announce your progress at each meeting. This is more serious than working alone, but I think it will motivate you.
What do you think about the growing trend of "working PhDs"?
If students want to come back to our lab, I'm always happy to have them. At this point in time, a couple of people have come back to work on their PhD while working. However, there are not many cases now where people become "working PhDs" right after they start working. The current members of our lab have been working for 5 to 8 years before coming here. However, some of the companies that students go to work for have a strategy to increase the number of PhDs.
As for me, when I was a master's student, there were more than three students in each year who went on to doctoral courses, so I continued to a doctoral course without much hesitation, but I would be very happy if the students who got jobs also came back to get PhDs.
Is there a way to refresh yourself during research?
I don't think there is much of a boundary between rest and research. If I have a computer, I can work at home, but I try not to do much work at home. Recently, I have been playing online games with my children to refresh myself. I also try to get enough exercise by running 10 km every three days. It refreshes me because I get moderately tired. I also eat ramen. Before the COVID-19 epidemic, I used to go out for ramen with everyone in the lab. Depending on the research, we sometimes conduct experiments on test subjects during the evaluation stage, and in that case, we sometimes ask the students in the lab to help us as test subjects. Afterwards, we sometimes go out for ramen together. During normal research, it is refreshing to talk in the evening. In the evening, when I start to lose my concentration, I go to the students' room and talk with them in the common space to take a break.
Do you have a message for students who are planning to enroll in the graduate course?
Please engage in research that interests you. I want you to be aware that the process of research leads to the improvement of your abilities. This will give you the strength to work hard in your research life.
Following your own interests also means that you should not choose a school based on its ranking alone. I think it is a good idea to go to open campuses during the summer vacation and see if the graduate school or department you want to apply to is a good fit for you. I think there is a feeling that you can't get just from second-hand information on websites and such unless you actually go there. I want you to actually visit the university and find out if it appeals to you. If you have a strong feeling that you want to research there, I think it will lead to your motivation, and you will be able to do your best in the entrance exam. If you can belong to that lab after you have been accepted to the university, you'll be able to do research that you are passionate about, and further improve your abilities in the process.
F I entered this department because I wanted to do programming, but I think it would be a good fit for people who like supercomputers and smartphones as well. However, even in a department like this, it is surprisingly rare to focus on the latest technologies, and you are more likely to be exposed to old theories and technologies. When I was in my first and second year, I thought, "Why are we doing this?" But as time goes by, you realize that knowledge of these areas is the foundation for new research. Outside of research, you have more and more opportunities to come into contact with the latest technology, and it helps you to understand the technology in such areas. You can learn from the basics, not just from the surface, and it gives you a fundamental strength in your research.
M When I was a high school and undergraduate student, I had no concrete image of research life in graduate school. However, when I joined the lab, I found that everyone was going to international conferences, giving presentations in English, and conducting joint research with companies as a matter of course. Not all of us were able to do everything from the beginning. I have the impression that Dr. Higo is a researcher but also an educator. Through my research here, my English has improved and I am now able to formulate my thesis. I feel that I you are able to grow and be nurtured here. It is a good lab. I think that I made the right choice with Kusumoto Lab, and I hope that people who feel the same way will join me.
*Masks were removed only during filming.