At the Department of Computer Science and Engineering and the Department of Computer Science and Communications Engineering, students engage in comprehensive study of cutting edge hardware and software technology and undertake the construction of actual information systems with the aim of developing talent needed to contribute to the development of world-class technology.

Professor Tetsuya Sakai
Creating mechanisms in which systems offer information of benefit to users
Department of Computer Science and Engineering / Department Computer Science and Communications Engineering(FSE Graduate School)

Q. Professor Sakai, what is your specialty?

― In a nutshell, “information access.” That is to say, we study everything from when a person thinks of something they want to know, to the point at which that need is satisfied. This includes search engines such as Google, as well as the “natural language processing” used to convey information to search engines.
But the study of information access is not limited to search engines.
If you’re in a moving car, you probably will not be able to enter text into a search engine, and the surroundings may be too noisy to use speech input, making it impossible to set up a query in a search window. We think about alternatives in such situations. For example, wouldn’t it be great if your Smartphone could say, “The information you need now is . . . .”? Achieving this would require that the system have an understanding of the user’s information needs and circumstances. So one of the keywords of our research is “interaction,” or interactive learning by the system and the user.

The expanding domain of information access

Q. Specifically, what sort or research are you doing?

― My research is directed at developing more natural interaction between users and systems in the language used by people, but the research I’m undertaking with students may be even more interesting.
We have one student who is attending classes while we monitor his brain waves with electrodes attached to his head, then we evaluate the courses based on his reactions to them. This might seem like it has nothing to do with “information access,” but the brain waves produced by users are a source of information. If a system could read such information and respond to it appropriately, it would enable a splendid form of information access. We also have students who are working on systems for categorizing newspaper articles according to topic, and others who are studying construction of cross-language information retrieval systems.

Q: I understand you worked in industry for many years? What is the difference between industry and the university?

― The difference is that industry has an overwhelmingly greater diversity and quantity of data. When studying information access, there is no substitute for big data, and on this score there is no comparison between industry and universities.
The thing that universities can do is to develop systems that are new, albeit small in scope. This is not possible without taking a long-term view and disregarding profitability.
Another topic I am studying that may sound a bit hum-drum is the development of methods for evaluating new systems. Rather than just studying a variety of topics as the whim strikes, greater advances can be made by sharing the results of research to date and conducting new research on top of those results. I think that universities are uniquely qualified for the research that enables advances in such information.

Wants students to try new things with their own hands

Q. What are the characteristics of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering?

― As you can see from a look at the curriculum, this Department offers not only a solid grounding in the mathematical foundations of programming software and the like, but also studies in hardware, such as electronic circuits. This means that if you have an idea, you will have the means of making it a reality.
It also means that the Department of Computer Science and Engineering may be more suited to people who have the ability to take action and want to make things with their own hands than to people who have big dreams but don’t do anything about them.

Q. In closing, what advice do you have for prospective students?

― I think this Department is a very attractive option for people who are interested in working in cutting-edge industries, such as the IT industry. The School of Fundamental Science and Engineering aims for the development of research-minded people who are capable of winning credence on the world stage.
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