Photo: Jason Dorfman, CSAIL photographer
Where did you grow up: I grew up in Tokyo, Japan.
What was your academic path before coming to grad school at MIT? Prior to coming to MIT, I completed my undergraduate studies up the road at Tufts University. When I started at Tufts, I was set on entering the business world post-graduation. So I started as an International Relations major. In order to circumvent the mathematics requirement (I really didn't want to take those calculus classes) I took an intro to computer science class. I enjoyed the class enough to take another CS class the following term. Four years and several CS and math classes later, I graduated with a BS in Computer Science and a BA in International Relations.
What did you want to be when you were younger? Is that still an interest of yours? Not including all the superheroes I wanted to be (and yes, I still would love to be able to fly!), I wanted to grow up and become an astronaut. I even was fortunate (and cool!) enough to go to Space Camp. While I still would love to be an astronaut and float around in the ISS, I'll have to be content with being "weightless" only while scuba diving.
What is something most people would be surprised to learn about you? Many people are intrigued when I tell them that I am actually a Swiss citizen (with a bright red passport and all) and that I grew up in Tokyo. Although I don't have an accent (well, Europeans would say that I have an American accent), I didn't move to the United States until I was 16.
What department are you currently working in, and when did you start there? I'm in Course 6 Area II. I started in the fall of 2005.
What are you working on and why are you passionate about it? Currently I am working on large-scale microarray analysis to try to uncover genetic signals in various diseases. Apart from the obvious "Finding a cure for cancer would be fantastic!" answer, I find this work interesting because it combines computer science and biology/medicine. Although these fields are very different when looked at in isolation, they blend together wonderfully. Both sides can contribute and learn a vast amount from each other.
What is your favorite thing about working at CSAIL? There are many great things about being at CSAIL--discovering a new route in Stata to a room that you've being going to for years, hunting down free scraps of food, the office chair "long jump" in the CSAIL Olympics, etc. However, these things are just added benefits. I truly think the people are what make this place so great. Everyone that I have met is courteous, helpful, and intelligent. It's not often that one will find such a blend of talented people that are willing--and wanting--to make a difference in the world.
What effect do you think your area of work will have on the world in the next decade? Computational biology, medical informatics, and so forth will probably have quite an effect on the world in the coming years. Our understanding of biology is still relatively crude, and many bright minds are hoping to untangle the mysteries of how humans (and other species) work, how we are wired, how we develop, what the causes of various diseases are, and so forth. It will be very interesting to see what we'll uncover!
What are your future plans? My immediate plans are to graduate in the coming year (while CSAIL and MIT are great, one can have too much of a good thing). I am planning to work as a postdoctoral associate over at the Children's Hospital. So I'll be continuing my work in computational biology/medical informatics after I have successfully donned the funny-looking hat and robe.
What advice would you give a prospective CSAIL graduate student? Get involved. Research is fun, exciting, and first-rate here in CSAIL. But it's the people and opportunities that are available to students, staff, and faculty here at CSAIL (and at MIT) that I think differentiates this place from many others. Serve on the CSAIL Student Committee, participate in the CSAIL Olympics, take part in the Graduate Student Lunch, or join a club. Most of these things don't take up a lot of time, but they make your quality of life exponentially better.
Is there anything else you'd like to share? I don't have any wisdom to share, but I'll gladly share my cookies.