UTRIP 2017 : Six weeks in Tokyo

by Camille Biscarrat

BBQ with the lab

This summer, I had the opportunity to participate in the University of Tokyo Research Internship Program (UTRIP) thanks to the financial support from Friends of UTokyo, Inc. I was a research intern in Professor Goda’s Molecular Imaging and Spectroscopy lab.

My wonderful team

At my home institution, University of California, Berkeley, I work in the Computational Imaging Lab, where we explore and design new imaging techniques and algorithms, focusing both on hardware and software. It was my research mentor, Professor Waller, who introduced me to Professor Goda’s work on optical time stretch microscopy. The idea of conducting cutting-edge research in a top institution like University of Tokyo was so enticing that I immediately applied to the program.

Lemon ramen, a new favorite

In Goda Lab, I worked with Assistant Professor Cheng Lei and graduate student Hirofumi Kobayashi on their High Throughput Imaging Flow Cytometry with AI project. The main goal of this research is to distinguish cancer cells from treated cancer cells in a label-free manner while achieving high throughput and high image resolution. By the time I arrived in Tokyo, the team had established a working pipeline for their project, from cell cultivation to imaging the cells using the optical setup to data analysis. On my first day in the lab, Prof. Lei mentioned that they were considering using Machine Learning to do the classification, although no lab member had substantial experience in this field. Coming from a computer science and electrical engineering background, this sounded more interesting than preparing the cell cultures for the experiment. I had never done Machine Learning before but I wanted to learn and become familiar with it.

Trying Ikebana for the first time

Thus began my 6 week internship: working on something very new to me in a different university halfway across the world. I spent much of my time reading papers and other resources to learn about Machine Learning, support vector machines, vector of locally aggregated descriptors, and convolutional neural nets (CNN). I spent countless hours writing and debugging code to finally obtain classifications with over 95% accuracies. My knowledge and experience in coding, specifically MATLAB and Python, proved themselves valuable assets for the project, as my team members did not have an extensive background in the field. I worked closely with Kobayashi-san, sharing my new understanding of CNNs, having impromptu meetings to talk about future steps in my work and discussing odd results that did not make much sense to either of us.

Fuji Q!

The truly interdisciplinary aspect of the research conducted in the lab allowed me to fit right in, even though few lab members shared my background. The group was very welcoming and the other interns were equally eager to make friends and discover Tokyo. During my second week, the lab hosted a welcoming barbeque in Odaiba, giving us the chance to meet each other while enjoying delicious grilled food and drinks. An intern and I planned a day trip to Fuji-Q Highland (unfortunately, Mt. Fuji was nowhere to be seen that day). I ended my time in the lab with a good-bye lunch at a local restaurant.

Odaiba sunset

While I spent most of my weekdays at the university, my weekends were filled with adventures. I enjoyed the sun set over Tokyo and the Rainbow Bridge from the beach in Odaiba, I got lost in the sea of people in Harajuku. I explored the many temples and shrines in Kamakura. I stood in the pouring rain to catch a glimpse of the Sumida fireworks. I had sushi delivered in front of me by a mini bullet train (technology is amazing!). I enjoyed a glass of sake in a tiny bar in Golden Gai with newly made friends. I sang my heart out all night in a Karaoke. I tried my luck at arcade games in Akihabara and won a Pikachu plushie. I took a break from the busy city and welcomed the peacefulness of the Imperial Gardens. I discovered the art of Japanese flower arrangement and tried calligraphy. But more importantly, I savored all the delicious food Tokyo had to offer and discovered lemon ramen, a summer specialty.
I definitely learned a lot and the research I conducted was very rewarding. I had such an amazing time, both working in the lab and discovering the city. I would like to thank Professor Goda, Lei-san, Kobayashi-san and the other members of Goda Lab for welcoming me this summer and UTRIP for organizing our stay in Tokyo. I would also like to thank FUTI for this wonderful and fulfilling experience and for giving me the chance broaden our horizons, both academically and personally.