Life and studies in Japan

Text by Md Nazial Kadir, IMLEX student of the cohort 2021

It has been nearly 7 months since we, the second cohort, started our semester in Toyohashi. The semester began with all of us making adjustments to the massive differences that TUT had to offer compared to the institutions in Europe. However, while very different, our time here has not been any less eventful!

Before we arrived in Japan, we were assigned to particular laboratories within TUT. Most of us were uncertain what exactly being a member of the lab would entail. Over time we learned that each lab follows their own ‘culture’ of sorts. Some labs followed regular online meetings, while others required weekly physical meetings and presentations. Acclimatizing to these cultures was a slow process, often because communication was somewhat difficult with our knowledge of Japanese, but it was a fun process nonetheless. The labs themselves are equipped with high end hardware and facilities to support all manner of research.

Our courses at the university were quite rewarding themselves. The classes focused more on assignments instead of exams which meant the coursework was very hands-on and allowed us to practice the material well. In the ‘Case Study in Imaging and Light and XR’ class we conducted a basic psychophysical experiment in VR as groups and gained an insight into how some of these experiments are conducted in research projects within the university as many of our thesis topics follow similar procedures.

As opposed to our universities in Europe, TUT is located quite a ways away from the central city, here being Toyohashi. While Japan’s convenience stores are always at hand, the campus itself is surrounded mostly by cabbage fields and sparsely populated suburbs. This meant most of our days were spent within the confines of the university, which may sound somewhat isolating, but it also means we were always surrounded by our peers. We had an incredible time making new friends and partaking in activities. Surprisingly enough, despite the language barrier most Japanese students are keen to socialize with us and learn about our cultures and experiences. TUT also promotes several student bodies that regularly organize events where we get to mingle not only with other foreign students but Japanese students as well. One such regular event is called J-Talk, where students get together and are separated into groups to play games and have fun discussions. There are also events within the city of Toyohashi that invite people from all cultures to join and share their experiences. These were great opportunities to practice the Japanese we learned and to improve on it.

After the semester it was time to work on our theses. Some of us returned to Europe, while others remained at TUT. As our time as IMLEX students draws to a close,  we are hoping that the remaining months have many more experiences to cherish!


Text and Photos by Maazin Munawar, IMLEX student of the cohort 2021

The semester in France ended around June. Some of us did internships over the summer while others traveled or went back to their home countries.

The semester in Japan starts officially from October. It was amazing seeing the whole cohort together after such a long time. Right off the bat, the TUT campus is very nice and organized. All the main buildings are colored and numbered so it’s fairly easy to navigate. We all stayed in the accommodation inside the campus for International Students. We were all assigned supporters (mostly Japanese students from TUT) who helped us so much getting accustomed to the rules and regulations in Japan. There is a fair bit of paperwork we needed to complete as soon as we got to Japan so it’s better to be informed beforehand.

We got into the classes soon after. Some of them were on demand while some were in person. Classes such as 3D Vision and Computation were so much as got to do really cool assignments like 3D reconstruction and work on AR applications.

One of the best things about the Campus is that we had two rooms just for IMLEX students where we did our Case Study course. The rooms were equipped with high end PCs as well as VR headsets which were available to us 24/7. We spend a lot of time in these rooms for research or just tinkering with the headsets.

Before coming to Toyohashi, I thought it would be very hard to adjust to Japan culturally. But it was quite the opposite. Everyone here from the staff to students made us feel very welcome and always do their best to aid us in any way they can. We learn from each other constantly about each other’s cultures and languages. There are also quite a few events like J-talk on campus which allow Japanese and International students to interact a lot outside of class time.

Japan has been amazing so far, and as we are approaching the end of our program in IMLEX, we hope to make the most of the time we have left here.

IMLEX Days 2022

IMLEX Days 2022 were held as a two-day event at the University of Eastern Finland. The first day was held at Kuopio Campus. First the IMLEX main partners University of Jean Monnet, KU Leuven and Toyohashi University of Technology presented their activities to new IMLEX students. Then from associate partners, the Utsunomiya University was introduced.  Special guest from the Finnish Broadcasting company Yle Innovations and Future was presenting their activities, then students and staff had lunch with the Dean and then wonderful visit to Kuopio University Hospital Microsurgery Center.

The second day programme was at Joensuu Campus. We introduced Photonics Center and XR laboratory. Emmanuel Bustos, alumnus from our first IMLEX cohort, presented Dispelix, in which he works now in Finland. SeeTrue Technologies, a university spin-off company was presented. After that, it was time to get familiar with the new XR lab, OpenAR glasses and concept, Computational Spectral Imaging labs, and virtual tour to Photonics Clean Room spaces at UEF.  Academic Management Board meeting was held online with KU Leuven and University of Jean Monnet. Thank you very much for all participants!

IMLEX days participantsIMLEX days participants

Semester start at UEF

by Laura Hurmalainen, IMLEX Coordinator at University of Eastern Finland

Semester 1 started one month ago for the second cohort of IMLEX students. The immigration process has been easier this year, and we have been happy to see most of the new student arrive at Joensuu on time. Teaching is still partly in hybrid mode and online, but classroom and lab teaching will be implemented more and more later during the semester.

river view joensuu

Autum colours in Joensuu, Pielisjoki river

It is very common to commute by bicycle in Joensuu, and you can see often very full bicycle parking areas around the university campus. The cycling routes by the riverside and through the forests are very beautiful this time of the year, and maintained all year around.

School of Computing is situated at Joensuu Science Park, and IMLEX programme activities mostly take place here. It serves as a business incubator, but also hosting a number of IT companies, and the largest upper secondary school of Joensuu.

Joensuu science park

We are in France

by Valeria Acevedo, 1st year student of IMLEX 2020

January 30th 2021 was our last day in Finland. From the IMLEX students that got to Joensuu to start the first semester, five of us would take a train to Helsinki and later the same day, a plane to Lyon. For the next morning, we would finally be in Saint Etienne, France.

It was a smooth trip, except for the masks and the paperwork needed derived from the Covid-19 pandemic. But we managed to get to Saint Etienne safe and sound.

The very next day classes were starting!
Our week began with our first meeting with the IMLEX academic coordinator, where we talked about all the exciting topics and projects the new semester would comprehend.
It’s been almost a month now since we got here, and from the third week of classes the university opted for an hybrid online-in site teaching method. Which means that everyone who is in Saint Etienne should attend the university and those who were and are still unable to come here have the opportunity to attend remote classes.

It’s been so nice to finally be in a classroom and meet our classmates again!

University Jean Monnet has great installations, and amazing technology that we will be able to try and work with in the coming months. We are already excited with all the opportunities that have been presented.

japanese language class

Journey to IMLEX

by Niladri Ganguly, 1st year student of IMLEX 2020

While watching science-fiction movies in my childhood days, I realized that the actions presented were some special effects of the animators and the cinematographers which played a game-changing role behind the scenes but certainly they were imaginary at that time according to my understanding. They were like magical pieces of art that floated in front of me. I tried to find the answers in my science textbooks but I was not satisfied with my findings until I knew that the light can be treated as an electromagnetic wave, and the 3D-glasses work on the principle of polarization and this has a huge role to play.

Lost in physical phenomena of nature

The fascinating example of the movie theatre and the role of the 3D glasses tend me to take a deep dive into understanding of the physics behind it and go through the course of my Bachelor of Science in Physics. After taking a deep breath of the broad theories there came the interesting lectures of another branch of physics and the definition asked by my professor- “What is optics??!!”- by Prof. L.N. Hazra, University of Calcutta.

The definition of Optics – which was explained to us is the, “Science concerned with the genesis and propagation of EM radiations and its interactions with matters from UV to IR range of the spectrum”. This broad-spectrum is called electromagnetic spectrum which can be utilized to study various properties of nature, materials, matters depending on the wavelength dependencies.

The fascination towards light was started previously when I came to know in Quantum Physics that light can be treated both as wave as well as a particle (the wave particle duality) – the De-Broglie hypothesis. I was explored more into the field of Optics during my B. Tech thesis on – ‘Enhanced resolution in microscopy using converging beam Illumination’, where I learned the resolution plays a huge role in the imaging of minute details and how converging beam could be utilized to achieve enhanced resolution far beyond that achieved by conventional light microscopy. I believe this general method could be used in future in various optical microscopy even in several optical imaging system to get enhanced Super resolution. After my B. Tech I started looking for the Master degree programs in Photonics related field. While applying many courses I found IMLEX program in the Institute of Photonics web page shared by one of my seniors from UEF.

Let us make a coffee break in the reading. By the way, I got to know one of my program countries in the IMLEX program is best coffee consuming countries of the world and it is Finland.

 Beginning of IMLEX

Though the acceptance to the IMLEX program was a great start but the year 2020 started giving me pandemic pulses and my courses began in the remote mode ( which was scheduled to be started on campus from the very first day of the September, 2020) as my residence permit process was stopped. My courses were going on remotely where the classroom sessions were conducted online with very interesting lectures on the ‘Fundamentals of Photonics’ along with worst experience in ‘Design & analysis of algorithm’ course which were anyway completely new way of learning science. Anyway, the excitement began after the first week of the November when students accepted to the Master degree programs were given access to travel.

The first day, I went to the lab I saw some devices placed on our heads with a display system that generates computer vision. Suddenly I was lost again into a different sense of the reality which I have only seen in the movie theatres and saw coming them out of the screen but have not yet interacted and immersed into them. I found myself inside the imaginary world and I can interact with them with the help of the tools called VR controllers which I placed on my hands or on fingertips. But still my mind was thinking of a big question on how the devices work and on what basis or techniques I can see these graphics on display. Then, after spending few days with it, I realized that a huge role of photonics is there in optical design, fabrication and manufacturing procedures which is the effort of variety of expertise in this field. After coming in touch with this technology, I came in touch with the continuum of the reality of these devices. In one end of this reality continuum there is VR (Virtual Reality) and the other parts were occupied by Augmented reality (AR) and hybrid of the two- The Mixed Reality (MR). Further exploration begins when I stepped into the 1st semester project-work in Robotics & XR course on – ‘Teleoperation of robot arms using VR controller interfacing with VR environment’, where as a group work, we are trying to show the robot arm (UR3e) can be controlled in real-time using VR controller and performs some specific tasks.

Transition of next generation of reality: XR world is warming up

The next-generation technologies emerging up does not only include the VR, AR or MR devices but the whole reality continuum has been taken together into one device called the XR (Extended Reality) and the whole world is now on the way to make open XR standards that are still on going under research roadmap and huge improvements are going on with the XR devices and XR technology where Photonics and Computer science experts have challenging role to play. It will not be only used for controlling robots but also used in the real scenarios of the real-world applications and relatively you can make use of this technology to showcase automobiles, medical applications to give instructions for training, in various Optical measurement setup (e.g., XR Microscope) etc. In some sense I can say that XR technology is still warming up and the next decade will be the decade of exploring this technology in daily activities. One can realize the real-word only if one can interact, touch, feel. The XR is the technology which will give you the roadmap to feel the VR environment in the real-time.

Exciting stuffs are ahead and of course the hunt for photonics will be continued…