Bulletin of Keio University Faculty of Science and Technology
  kyurizukai interview  
AkikoTakeda Hoping to create a wide range of use of OR for society

Ms. Takeda is an active specialist in optimization, a field of Operations Research (OR) based on applied mathematics. However, on the contrary, she said that as a little girl she did rather poorly at school and studying was her weak point. But she used this inferiority complex to persevere in her great efforts to study and to maintain her spirit of inquiry, which paved the way for her to becoming a research scientist. However, no excitement can be seen behind her soft smiles. Instead of confining herself within the academic world, she appears always open-minded and outgoing, as she is willing to make her research results widely available to society.


A complete change from an elementary school dropout to a scientist

photoOur stereotype image of a mathematician is an extremely sharp and wise person. May I ask if you have been good at mathematics since your school days?
      To tell you the truth, I was a dropout as an elementary school girl. I made the poorest grades in school – so bad that my mother was even called to the school and was asked why. (laughter) On top of that, I was like a tomboy, running around in the school, climbing trees in the schoolyard and so forth. I was always being scolded. Therefore, any one of my old friends in the elementary school days is surprised to hear that I’m now a research scientist.
      I’m truly thankful to my mother who told my teacher, “The problem about this girl is merely being slower than the other students in making progress.” This remark encouraged me and made me think that I would be OK only if I work harder than the others.
      There are a few reasons for my doing very poorly at school. Firstly, I was not very good at grasping the important points and was trying to study all the subjects to perfection but failed. Secondly, I was weak at subjects that required lot of memorizing. I didn’t remember mathematical formulas but instead tried to prove the formulas themselves during an exam and always ran out of time. As such, I had no favorite subjects until my high school days. All my high school classmates are surprised to hear that I chose a career as a mathematician. They unanimously say, “I thought you would go on to study liberal arts.”
      I might have been the type who did not want to lose at anything. I was so strong in a desire to overcome tough subjects that during my junior and senior high school days I strove to study all the subjects thoroughly, even subjects that required learning by memorization. Frankly speaking, I had no other choice than to continue studying mathematics, even though I did not particularly love it. (laughter)
      Maybe I just wanted to maintain a wide range of choice for my future. I don’t mean to praise myself, but I’m rather a hard-worker.

photoYou mean you chose a career as a mathematician in the course of events as you continued striving? You didn’t have any special dream for the future or any special desire to do something?
      As I recall, I didn’t have any particular coveted dream to become something. Incidentally, I was raised in a family background far from scientific studies: my father runs an apparel-related firm while both my younger sister and one of my cousins had been members of the Takarazuka Revue Company, singing and dancing until several years ago. So at the point of entering a university, the idea of becoming a scientist never occurred to me.
      Upon graduation from high school, I joined Keio University’s Faculty of Science and Technology where as a sophomore I chose the Department of Administration Engineering. In short, this department is where you study methodologies for creating and/or managing systems of society using mathematical tools. As such, targets of this learning have broad fields. Customer flow planning for supermarkets, production line planning for factories, and city planning . . . all these tasks are covered by the Department of Administration Engineering.
      Speaking of myself, I had specialized in mathematical economics through the master’s course. But soon I found myself increasingly intrigued by solving numerical formulas themselves. In fact, I became inclined for more mathematical studies, such as scheming out problem-solving methods and creating algorithms for packaging on computers and solving them. Under such circumstances, for the doctor’s course I moved to Tokyo Institute of Technology’s (TIT) Graduate School of Information Science and Engineering. I specialized in optimization, a field of operations research, and obtained the degree of Doctor of Science.
      Throughout the three years of the doctor’s course, I found myself absorbed in solving difficult problems. By that time I was inclined to see how my research results could be used to benefit the actual world. I was also interested in experiencing a life in the business world at least once. So, upon receiving my doctor’s degree I found employment with a major electric machinery manufacturer, where I was assigned to its laboratory to engage in optimization of generators for an electric power company.



A complete change from an elementary school dropout to a scientist
Return to my alma mater after working as a scientist for an industrial company
I’d like “optimization” to be  known and used by more people
Profile AkikoTakeda Ms. Takeda engages in the development of optimization techniques that take uncertainty factors into account. She addresses the development of algorithms for efficiently solving optimization problems in fields such as financial engineering and statistical machine learning. After obtaining the degree of Doctor of Science in 2001, she joined Toshiba Corporation’s R&D Center as a staff researcher. She then became Assistant Professor at Tokyo Institute of Technology’s Graduate School of Information Science and Engineering. From 2008 to present, she serves as Assistant Professor at Keio University’s Faculty of Science and Technology.

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