Dr. Mitsukura is tackling the development of innovative systems based on signal processing technology. She is a short sleeper, but never cuts corners whether it is research or pleasure.
The source of her restless energy seems to come from her forward-looking attitude of finding pleasant things and thoroughly pursuing them.
You were born in Nara Prefecture, and then moved to Matsue City in Shimane Prefecture where you entered a scientific high school. Is that right?
That’s correct. Although I had moved from one workplace to another to date, I have at last found a place in which I can settle in peace. I chose the scientific course as a high school student presumably because I was raised in a family where my father is a man of science and mother from the medical field. In fact, bookshelves at my home were filled with books on mathematics, physics and medicine – no picture books and the like for children. Even now the scene of my father studiously reading such books on holidays is printed on my memory. I still remember the day when I dropped and broke a piece of glassware. At the time my father explained to his small daughter earnestly and in detail about “why it can be broken.” His explanation was so interesting that I broke various other things merely for the sake of interest – my mother scolded me. Raised in such a family atmosphere, it was natural that I chose a scientific high school and then specialized in electric/electronic studies at a university.
I moved from one place to another to study – at Okayama Prefectural University until I completed my master’s course, earned a doctor’s degree at Tokushima University, studied at the University of Tokyo’s Graduate School of Medicine, worked at Okayama University and Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, and finally moved to Keio University in 2011.
When did you make up your mind to choose a researcher career?
When I was a senior, I had an opportunity to participate in an international academic conference on telecommunications, where I won the best paper prize and the best presentation prize. In relation to the paper I would read at the conference, I had run into a great wall (though it’s not too serious a problem as I look back at it today) and had to sit up sleepless for several days in a row. However, the moment I won the prizes, all the hardships I had experienced were blown away and replaced with utmost delight, which I still remember vividly. Through this experience, I learned the importance of dedicated effort and willpower necessary for solutions when I come face to face with a problem.
Later, an encounter with Professor Norio Akamatsu during my service with Tokushima University marked an important turning point for my career as a researcher. When we were bothered with noise from a nearby construction site, I spoke to Dr. Akamatsu, saying, “If we produce sound of opposite phase, the noise outside disappears, doesn’t it?” This is nothing special, but Dr. Akamatsu praised me as being always conscious of my own research in relation to daily matters. He even guaranteed that by maintaining such an attitude I would be able to grow into a full-fledged researcher. This word of encouragement has supported me as a researcher ever since. As I continued the work of converting sounds and visual images into frequencies and formulating them day after day, I found myself capable of connecting various phenomena with frequencies, and by merely hearing sounds or seeing images I naturally became able to make out what frequency components are contained there. For example, by a casual look at ripples on the water surface, I became able to intuitively realize what waves are contained and how they can be expressed in a formula. Now everything around me appears as a frequency or a formula – almost an occupational hazard you might say.
Incidentally, at my lab, students jokingly say for example, “Look! Curls in that person’s hair can be expressed by the XX function. Don’t you think so?” It may be safe to say that one’s mathematical sense can be cultivated in greater part through training.
I may have wandered off the point. Now back to the point. Thanks to the advice given by Dr. Akamatsu, I came to engage in research into brain waves. Back in those days, I was totally absorbed in matters related to frequencies. In my doctor’s course, I focused on research into frequency analysis of facial visual images. This project aimed to distinguish individuals by formulating visual images of faces. Individual faces can be distinguished by comparing formulas . . . Don’t you think it’s interesting? After all, I was able to earn a doctor’s degree in a year and a half.
By the way, among the students who were concerned with Dr. Akamatsu is Dr. Shuji Nakamura, who is famous as a researcher of blue LED. Surrounded by such highly progressive researchers, I can say I was extremely happy. Indeed, I have been blessed with good teachers, good researchers and good friends around me.
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