Interim Report – February 2021

by Taro Kunimitsu

I am currently a masters student at the University of Chicago, majoring in public policy with a focus on economics and machine learning. I report here what I have accomplished in the first academic quarter of my second year here.

 This was the second completely online quarter here, after spring of the same year. Although we had some expectations in summer of in-person lectures being possible, we ended up having all activity online due to surges in cases. The full-online format of academic activities had its merits, but still, I missed the in-person interaction that I had in the previous year.

 As a professional school student, my focus of the quarter was on course work. I took a PhD-level energy and environmental economics course, reading papers on the theory of Pigou taxation, and how scarce resources are priced. In a regional innovation strategy course, I put together a report on how Portland, OR should pursue innovation policies in the future to keep its position as an innovative city.

Through the machine learning course I took at the Toyota Technological Institute at Chicago, I obtained a deeper understanding of machine learning theory. All these courses have greatly broadened my views and skills on policy analysis.

Along with the above courses, I worked as a research assistant at the computer science department on an electricity-usage forecasting project, conducting performance evaluation on deep learning forecasting methods. I was able to improve my deep-learning programming skills through this project, which has become an important skill asset.

Staying indoors through the pandemic was stressful, but luckily, I was living on campus, so I was able to walk the beautiful autumn campus from time to time. In addition, I was able to spend the latter half of the quarter in Norway, where my wife started her job, which was possible due to the remote learning environment. I felt that learning from another continent as I did may be the future of higher education.

Before I end, I would like to thank Ito Foundation U.S.A and Friends of UTokyo, Inc. for their support, without which I would have had difficulty in pursuing my goals. I am looking forward to giving back what I received after I graduate, through contribution to creating a better society.