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SCSE PhD’s Internship 2017

Published on: 20-Oct-2017

The University of Tokyo, Japan

Name of Student: Sundar Vijaya Kumar
Place of Internship and country: The University of Tokyo, Japan

My internship at The University of Tokyo was a memorable and an enriching experience.

I had a chance to work with software professionals related to autonomous vehicle development, a spin-off company from University of Tokyo. On top of that, I also get to participate in lectures and workshops conducted by start-up companies in the campus, giving me a good understanding of the current trend in autonomous vehicle technologies.

Being exposed to hands-on experience with the hardware and software of a vehicle in the lab has helped me to further understand the real issues and problems prevailing in my research field.

Communication was a roadblock for the first few days as there were few English speaking Japanese in the lab, but once I picked up a few basic conversation starters, it was a breeze developing friendships.

I was assisted in the right direction by the supervisor, succeeding in achieving the research target. The labs for research students were open concept, resulting in the formation of closely-knitted bonds, hence, developing teamwork synergies along the way.

The “Made in Japan” branding that is synonymous to best quality was evident as I observed my lab members working with utmost focus and dedication without getting distracted by external factors.

As the university is located in Tokyo city centre, I have managed to explore interesting places such as Tokyo Sky Tree, the highest tower in Tokyo, Ueno Park and anime shops in Akihabara.

Tokyo is a vibrant, well-organized city with extremely kind and helpful people. One should not miss local delicacy and the exciting train journey via Shinkansen, the bullet train of Japan.

Overall, the internship experience in Japan has improved my listening and observation skills. It has taught me to be considerate and to travel with an open mind when it comes to unfamiliar culture.

Recommendations for Japan internships:
1) Since language plays an important role in the sharing of ideas and concepts, choosing a university lab where there is a common language is strongly encouraged.
2) Have a clear objective, plan and methodology for your research to be done for the proposed timeline in the host institution. Be prepared to work independently as the professors are extremely busy.
3) Have enough cash since only few shops accept credit/debit cards.
4) Some knowledge on the Japanese language (at least for basic conversations)
5) In order to minimise food expenses in Tokyo, carry your own cooking utensils. Cost of living in Tokyo is really expensive. A good meal would cost around 800 to 1200 yen (10 to 15 SGD).
6) Campus accommodation is preferred to avoid travel and the crowd in cities like Tokyo.
7) Language translation tool may be helpful in most situations.

École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland

Name of Student: Debjyoti Bhattacharjee
Place of Internship and country: École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland

I am a third year PhD student at the School of Computer Science and Engineering in NTU. Internships offer the prospect of working with exciting problems and meeting like-minded people, it is basically a stepping stone to new opportunities.

With these thoughts in mind, I applied for internship at the Integrated Systems Laboratory (LSI) in École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland and was awarded with a research funding from June to August 2017. The internship is focus on the development and implementation of algorithms for quantum computing.

EPFL is located in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, it is a world-renowned university with very unique resources on campus such as nuclear reactor CROCUS, a Tokamak Fusion reactor and Blue Gene/Q Supercomputer et cetera.

After a brief introduction to my counterparts in the laboratory, I was assigned a lab desk and granted access to the EPFL network account.

My first task was to work on implementation of an existing solution inside Revkit, a reversible circuit design tool, allowing me to get familiarized with the code base.

In the following weeks, I worked closely with one of the post-doctoral researchers in LSI on developing novel algorithms to reduce the number of qubits in quantum circuits. A qubit in quantum computing is analogous to a bit in classical computing. I had to develop highly optimized code to allow the algorithms to complete execution in reasonable time for challenging quantum benchmarks.

I also attended seminars from leading researchers in the fields of logic synthesis and electronic design automation, helping me to gain cutting-edge insights. From graph algorithms, to learning about logic synthesis techniques and tools, my toolbox is much fuller than it was when I started.

Other than the research endeavours, the internship offered me the opportunities to experience the cultural and social life in Lausanne. People generally speak French and the living costs are comparably higher than Singapore.

There are scenic mountains and lakes around Lausanne, easily accessible via the multiple modes of public transport available. During my stay, I went hiking to Lac Lioson, Lac d'Émosson, Moléson and Gornergrat. Lake Geneva, one of the largest lakes in Western Europe.

I was lucky to be able to see spectacular fireworks on the Swiss National Day (1st August) on Lake Geneva, which went on for more than half an hour. I also had a chance to experience the glory of the past, by visiting multiple historical sites such as the medieval Chillon Castle, Gruyères Castle, late Gothic architecture of the Bern cathedral.

In Bern, a visit to the famed Einstein museum was unavoidable as it offered unique exhibits from the life of the great physicist and humanist, Albert Einstein.

I also enjoyed the traditional Swiss dish – fondue, sitting in Le Chalet de Gruyères in the picturesque medieval town of Gruyères. The restaurant flaunts authentic interior design features traditional woodwork, bells and ornamented cowbells, three legged stools and a typical wood tile roof.

In summary, I feel the internship has enabled me to gain considerable knowledge in the field of quantum computing and logic synthesis techniques. I have thoroughly enjoyed the Swiss experiences beyond the laboratory. Finally, I would like to thank my mentor and supervisor, Dr Anupam Chattopadhyay for his extensive support throughout the internship.


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