News from students

Interview with PhD final year students

This is the first post of “News from Students” of Division of Computer Science and Information Technology, Graduate school of Information Science and Technology, Hokkaido University.

We have interviewed 4 PhD final year students. Hope you enjoy!^^

Q: Introduce yourself


Sun Lu, Laboratory of Pattern Recognition and Machine Learning

Sun: My name is Sun Lu. I’m a Chinese student. I have been pursuing PhD Degree since 2014 under supervision of Proffesor Mineichi Kudo at Hokkaido University. My current major is Multi-label Learning.


Benjamin Evans, Laboratory of Human Computer Interaction

Benjamin Evans, Laboratory of Human Computer Interaction

Benjamin: Hi! I’m Benjamin Evans. I was originally born in Australia. But I moved to Japan when I was 2 years old. I’m now 26. And I’m now studying in Hokudai(Hokkaido University) for over 8 years from my Bachelors and Masters and my PhD. I have a hobby music and reading.



Yuma Inoue, Laboratory of Large-Scale Knowledge Processing

Yuma: I’m Yuma Inoue, a PhD student at Department of Information Science and Technology of Hokkaido University.



Jana Cathrin Backhus, Laboratory of Intelligent Information Systems

Jana: Konbanwa(Good evening)! My name is Jana. I’m from Germany. I study at Hokkaido University, Laboratory of Intelligent Information Systems. Nice to meet you.


Q: What is your research theme? Why did you choose that theme?

Yuma at his desk

Yuma at his desk

Yuma: My research topic is developing an algorithm for ordering items. For example: scheduling tasks and ranking items and so on.
Sun: Currently I’m specialized in field of Multi-label Classification. The task of this classification is try to find the relationship between the input features and output labels. For the reason of choosing this topic is because it has a wide range of applications such as image classification, semantic music emotions detection and the video annotation.
Jana: My research topic is about neural networks in context of online learning. I chose that theme because when i was in masters course i tried to apply neural networks and reinforcement leaning to card game and try to create an intelligent computer player and then i realized that it is very difficult to use neural networks in some context because it has lots of parameters and i try to improve one of the neural networks i used before for my card game.
Benjamin: My research topic initially started with automatic music composition where i teach computer to write new sort of music. From that I‘ve grown interest in the interactions between humans and musics, “what sort of music people listen to in what sort of situations?”, “How does the music affect them?”, on the other hand “How can people affect the music through composing or selecting selection music?”. So at the moment my main topic is music and human interaction. And I look at music as a whole.
I initially chose the topic music in general. I didn’t know what I wanted to do specifically regarding music. But during my bachelors I played a piano, played a flute. I did a bit of music composition and I went to the Professor and asked if I could do some music related research and through different discussions we ended up initially as music composition and from there more in broad scope, interaction.

Q: What challenges are you looking for in your field?

Sun: Actually there are 2 state of challenges in my topic. First one is existing multi-label classification methods can not provide a satisfiable classification accuracy for the growing application.
So I try to make some improvement with my ideas and try to improve the accuracy. As for second stage, I want to apply my some ideas on some large scale data. Because you know that rapid development of Internet more and more applications gather a big amount of data.
Yuma: In the real world, the amount of data to be ordered is increasing so more scalable algorithms are needed. So this is a challenge for me, also for many other researchers.
Jana: Right now I’m interested in neural networks. And for neural networks I’m researching right now I’m trying to make it more robust in context of online learning. So that it will be easier to use for other people. They have a lot of parameters and it is difficult to eliminate the parameters. But at least I try to make it more robust and with different parameter settings, make it easier to choose parameter further.
Benjamin: The study of music and human interaction is very new. In the sense that human-music interaction, I think I am the first one who come up with that phrase. Until now lot of music research has been dealing with specific system so making a composition system or an arrangement system or a music play list system. And a lot of research has been concentrating on the system and the quality of the system. And so what I’m trying to do is step back and look at the relation between the systems and people who use the systems. I think this is a very new concept in the realm of music. A music study has been conducted for hundreds of years. People always had interest in music. And I think now we have the computers, new models of computer calculations, different search algorithms, we are able to enter into a new area of music research. So I think just not knowing what’s ahead maybe the biggest challenge there is.

Q: Why do a PhD?


Sun, at his desk

Sun: For the reason of pursuing PhD degree, I want to make some contribution to the academic society. I want my research work to be accepted and acknowledged by the other researchers.
And I want to be satisfied by the contributions and
I will find contend that my research work can be helpful for other researchers.
Yuma: Simply I like thinking algorithms. When I was a masters course student there were still lot of interesting topics remained. So I wanted to study these topics in my PhD course.
Jana: I choose to do a PhD to further challenge myself its also about like getting deeper into the topic and learn more about the field. But als
I wanted to try and see how far I can go as a challenge for myself, will I really be able get a PhD?. I just wanted to try those and for me that is why i wanted to do a PhD.
Benjamin: Why did I come to do my PhD?. Well, after my masters course I felt like I only really touched the surface regarding music research and I was enjoying the research I was doing. Also I wanted to know more. So it almost felt natural for me to continue, to want to do my PhD. I wasn’t really interested in working in a company or different research firm, and so I just naturally stayed where I was. The research environment here was really good. And although Hokkaido is nearly end of Japan. It’s so easy to get down to Tokyo and visit other professors work. So I just didn’t feel the need to move anywhere either.

Q: How is your life as Hokudai(Hokkaido University) student?


Jana, at her desk

Jana: My life as Hokudai student is really nice. I really like Hokudai, and Sapporo, and also Hokkaido. And one point I really like about Hokkaido is that there is a lot of nature and there is a lot of possibilities to go outside. In the summer like hiking, in the winter you can skiing. Everything is possible nearby Sapporo. So even if you stay in Sapporo everyday you can just go there for a day trip and come back in the evening. And it is very nice because you can enjoy different seasons and lot of nature and also Hokudai itself has a lot of trees and it is very nice to enjoy everyday in the changing seasons at Hokudai.
 I really enjoy my life as a Hokudai student. I’ve been here for my bachelors, my masters, and my PhD, so I’ve been here for my 8th year, no 9th year. And although the snow here is a bit daunting at times. I do not like snow shuffling. I think how it’s cool and environment is really good. I like the weather in Hokkaido and Hokudai campus is right near Sapporo station which makes the access really good. I live outside of Sapporo, so that’s a really big plus to me. Hokudai has also provided me with different teaching assistant jobs. I’ve been able to involved with different academic mates and work there as well. Also because there are many faculties all in the same campus it’s given me a opportunity to just relate to different people from different fields. I think it’s broadened my perspective on different research topics and just life in general.

Sun: In short, I think it is interesting and enjoyable for me to study here. I like beautiful environments of Hokkaido. Especially beautiful campus of Hokkaido University. You can enjoy the beautiful nature of the 4 distinct seasons.
Yuma: Hokkaido University campus has many many nature including trees, rivers and ponds. So I enjoy 4 seasons, especially ginko in autumn and snow in winter.

Q: What are you doing next?

Sun: Actually I want to continue my research work. Because I think I haven’t got enough achievement in my current field. So I’m looking for some PostDoctor positions to continue my research at universities or institutes.
Yuma: I would like to challenge problems more real-life problems. Because currently my topics are theoritical, so I want to try (to solve) more real-situation problems by using my research skills learned in my PhD studies.
Jana: So the next in my life will be about searching a job and try to work in the japanese company. I’m very interested in japanese culture during my stay here. But I also want to know more about it. So the next step will be life in japanese company.
Benjamin: What am I doing next. Well currently I’m working as a special research assistant where I get different topic from the government. I work, study and send them reports of my research. And I’m hoping to maintain the academic work life, even after my PhD. But I’m not necessarily looking for a researcher position. I’m more interested in teaching. So I would like to be connected with the university and share with them the different knowledge I’ve accumulated during my studies here. But I also want to be in a non-academic world as well and hopefully stay with study here and import it into different real-life situations. In particular music is a very popular topic. You don’t have to be scientist to know music. There is a people out there enjoying music in everyday life. So I want to introduce to them new features with music, maybe a new life style that looks more at music and interaction between human. So my goal is stay with an academic world and import what I’ve learned through teaching and also finding some position in the non-academic to import what I’ve learned there as well.

Q: Last one, advice for people considering their next step here


Benjamin, at his desk

Benjamin: So research is very fun if you find a topic you can relate to something that relates your own personal life. I think there are different types of research. You just take on a cooperate theme, you are given an assignment, you work out with different numbers, calculations and send the results back. And I think that has its place. And there is also type of research where you think about what you would like in your life, what people around you would like in their life. So you have think up this new dream system, invent it and share it with people and get the feedback, revise it and I’m part of this second type of research. I have a dream. I have a goal, I’ve come up with. And I think if you come to you are able to do both type of research. But Hokudai is particularly welcoming the researchers of the second type. If you have your own goals, your own passions, I think Hokudai is a very open and free and has the facility to pursue those dreams. So considering your next step of course the academic background and you have to get particular grade, all that is important too. But I think always keep a future dream in mind. What you are wanting to go to university for? What are you wanting to do research for? And always have that personal dream. So you can paint the world that. In your course of study as I did, that dream might change a bit. You might find new interests or realize that a particular dream is just not attainable. And I think maintaining a flexibility to change your dreams is also important. But always have some goals you are working towards. I think have fun! It’s only a couple years you are able to study at university and enjoy all your opportunities you’ve given you.

Sun: My advice is that follow your real interest. Because there are many challenging problems existing in the computer science especially in the machine learning. So if you like to develop your own ideas, if you like to handle big problems, or want your research to be accepted by other researchers, pursuing PhD is one of your best choices.
Jana: For everybody who is interested in Hokudai, also maybe doing a PhD, I advise them, want to recommend you to just try to find what you really want to do, and what is your purpose to do the PhD, what is your goal in life, and in which topic you are really interested. Because most important thing is when you try to do a PhD you have to study about one topic a long time. So it is very important that you like this topic. Try to find out if you are really interested in the topic before you apply to one of our laboratories.

Yuma: CSIT(Computer Science and Information Technology) is not only interesting itself, but also has many applications and many academic areas such as biology, chemistry, physics, statistics, and so on. So i think CSIT is one of the most important research area affecting many many real-world problems. So I hope you join CSIT and try to change the world by using CSIT research skills with us.


Ono pond, Hokkaido University

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