PERSON : Dr. Mauricio Kugler (Brazil)
This corner focuses on a person who has made remarkable achievements at NITech.
Dr. Mauricio Kugler (Brazil)
Assistant Professor, Department of Scientific and Engineering Simulation
Nagoya Institute of Technology
c Marina Llopis Nieto
I received my degree in electrical engineering in 2000, and my MSc in biomedical engineering in 2003, both from the Federal Technological University of Paraná, in Brazil. In 2003, I was selected to conduct my doctoral studies in the Nagoya Institute of Technology (NITech), supported by the MEXT scholarship from the Japanese Government. I received my PhD degree on pattern recognition and machine learning in the beginning of 2007 and, although my initial plans were to leave Japan after concluding my studies, I got the opportunity to become an assistant professor at the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at NITech. At the same year, I got married to my Japanese wife and we now have three kids.
My work at the university is divided between classes, research and student advising. Most of my classes are laboratory practices, including introduction to image processing, digital electronics and group projects. My research topic has changed along the years, but always orbited around three main areas: signal processing, pattern recognition and embedded systems. Currently, the main research topics in my laboratory are environmental sound recognition and sound localization.
Sense of hearing is one of the two senses that can provide immediate information about remote events, along with sight. Unlike the latter, which is limited to line-of-sight applications, hearing can sense events in any direction and it is good in bringing them to the attention of an unaware person. Hearing impairment can significantly reduce the quality of life of an individual or even create hazardous situations. The development of aiding devices for automated sound recognition and localization is an important field of research.
Environmental sound recognition is a challenging task. Contrary to speech, which has a well defined structure, environmental sounds present a much larger variability, frequency ranges and patterns. Our current system is capable of learning and recognizing a set of ten different sounds in real time, in a device no larger than a postal stamp. Sound localization consists of detecting the direction of a sound source, its elevation and distance. Humans are capable of detecting the direction of a sound with considerable precision, but rely on several different sources of information, as well as the context of the situation, while elevation and distance are much harder to perceive. We are now developing a system that can identify the direction and elevation of a sound source in real-time, in a device small enough to be installed in a flying drone or to be used in wearable applications. The development of these devices illustrate one important principle of my research: engineering directed towards life quality improvement.
My experience in NITech has two very distinguished periods. During the first four years as a student, I had the opportunity of meeting several different people, students, professors, Japanese and foreigners. Most of these people I never met again, but a handful of them had a great impact in my life, from changing my views about the world, helping me to direct my life and career or simply becoming friends whose couches I can "crash in" when travelling.
As a professor, I could follow my professional dream. Being able to teach and make a student to understand a concept is something I always admired in my professors along my life, especially on those that made me interested on their subject. Watching the "click" moment of a student when he or she is struggling with complex concepts and finally understands it is for me the most rewarding thing on being a professor. I particularly enjoy teaching practical knowledge and how it can be used to solve real-world problems. Apart from only transmitting technical knowledge, part of my mission in NITech is showing Japanese students other ways of thinking. For instance, the lack of discussion and questioning during classes is a serious and counter-productive behavior I try very hard to change.
For the students planning to study in Japan, please come with a fresh mind. Do not create preconceptions of how things are or stereotypes of how people think based on what you read or watch on popular media, TV programs and movies. People have the tendency to over-glorify Japan in certain aspects, but at the same time to create bad stereotypes of its citizens. This is a complex society, like many others, with all kinds of people, believes and attitudes. It has its merits and problems. Japan has as much to learn from you as you have to learn from it. A country's culture is enriched by its immigrants as well, and Japan needs more contact with foreigners in order to broaden their views on other cultures. Being yourself is the best contribution for that you can make.