Wednesday, October 31, 2012
A New Beginning
Almost four years ago I joined a project at Kyoto university. The idea was to develop a system-scale, detailed model of an area in the brainstem called the superior colliculus, that is responsible for doing saccades — that's the quick jumps from spot to spot your eyes always do when you examine something, read (like now) or just generally look around. The model is fairly large and detailed, so we've used large clusters and supercomputers to actually run it.
The overall project has involved quite a few people and a number of labs. My affiliation was Ishii-lab at Kyoto University while I've been working for professor Doya of OIST in Okinawa. My office has been at NAIST in Nara where I worked with Dr. Shibata, and I've occasionally worked at ATR in Keihanna with Dr. Sugimoto. We've been cooperating with Dr. Inagaki at Riken in Wako outside Tokyo and with Dr. Djurfeldt at INCF and KTH in Stockholm, Sweden. We've been using the RICC cluster at Riken and the Kei supercomputer in Kobe. I have never felt so distributed in my life.
All good things must come to an end. We still have a public presentation and we need to shepherd our model paper through the labyrinthine publication process, but overall the project is now over. It's time to move on.
As of tomorrow November 1st my new affiliation will be Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology in Okinawa, where I will join the Neural Computation unit led by prof. Doya. Moving from Kyoto to Okinawa may sound like a rather drastic change; the practical consequences aren't all that large.
I've been working for prof. Doya for the past few years already, so formally joining his group is not a big change. And while my affiliation changes from Kyoto to Okinawa, my actual place of work just moves from NAIST in Nara to AICS (Advanced institute for Computing Sciences) in Kobe — the site of the Kei supercomputer that we've been using. We'll stay in Osaka, and my commute will be just as long as before — an hour and twenty minutes — but westward to Kobe rather than eastward towards Nara.
The modeling project I'm joining deals with the basal ganglia. It's larger in scope than the previous one and more directly connected to practical applications. With me at AICS we get closer access to developers and administrators. This should help speed up the development and deployment of our models.
This will mean more trips to Okinawa, and indeed I'm there for a project meeting right now. Okinawa sounds far but it's really not bad; with a two-hour flight to Okinawa and one hour from Naha to Onna, the travel time from Osaka to OIST is comparable to visiting Riken in Wako, northern Tokyo. It's almost a day trip, but you really need to stay the night before to get a full day of work.
The past few years at NAIST have been a lot of fun, and especially working at a university again and having graduate students around. I will miss that at AICS. But the new project is exciting and I have high hopes that we can take what we've learned about large-scale modeling from the previous project to make the new one even better.