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Research and Life in Japan by a JSPS Fellow (7)

 
 
Dr. Chandrajith Ashuboda Marasinghe
Dr. Chandrajith Ashuboda Marasinghe
B.Sc. (Physics and Mathematics), University of Colombo, Sri Lanka, 1997
M.Sc. (Computer Science and Engineering), University of Aizu, 2001
Ph.D. (Computer Science and Engineering), University of Aizu, 2004

Hailing from Sri Lanka, Dr. Chandrajith Ashuboda ("Ashu") Marasinghe started his JSPS postdoctoral fellowship in the Software Engineering Laboratory of the University of Aizu in November 2004. His host, Prof. Minetada Osano, was one of the referees for Dr. Marasinghe's PhD dissertation at the University of Aizu, where he received both his master's and doctorate degrees. He was introduced to Prof. Osano by his doctoral supervisor Prof. Michael Cohen. Prof. Osano said of Ashu, "He's a person who puts others before himself. He has the sort of heart that Japanese once possessed but have forgotten."

You are researching "kansei engineering" under your JSPS fellowship. This is a new field to us. "Kansei" is Japanese, is it not?

Yes, kansei is a Japanese word in which the first syllable kan means sensitivity and the second sei means sensibility. It does not have a direct translation in Western languages. Kansei engineering is a new branch of information processing science, one born in Japan. As kansei engineering can answer many research questions with regard to emotional reactions, it's a concept of considerable interest to many research fields, including computer science, robotics, design science, perception, and marketing.

As this concept is still new in other countries, Japan is the best place for me to pursue my research. Being one of very few foreign researchers doing work in kansei engineering in Japan, I am privileged to learn from and share ideas with pioneers of this field. Wanting to promote this research in my home country, I am currently working on a proposal to establish a kansei engineering society in Sri Lanka starting from next year.

What is the focus of your research in the kansei engineering field?

Dr. Marasinghe with his host Prof. Osano
Dr. Marasinghe with his host Prof. Osano

In our project, we are focusing on conducting kansei evaluations of cross-cultural sound perceptions by measuring emotional reactions. Kansei processing can influence sound perception in different ways according to cultural characteristics. Our project considers alternatives for assessing kansei reactions, and we hope it will better elucidate how kansei reactions by listeners of each language are used to describe various natural and synthetic sounds. We evaluate kansei properties of sound perception using kansei adjectives to describe sounds in different native language groups.

What is your impression of your host institution?

This is my seventh year at the University of Aizu. It is a great university for foreigners who want to do research, study, or work in Japan. It has a highly refined international flavor. Currently, around half of the faculty are from other countries. Lectures are given either in English or in Japanese at the undergraduate level. The language of instruction at graduate level is English in principle, and students are required to write their dissertations in English. Simultaneous interpretation is provided between Japanese and English in faculty meetings.

This year, the university was chosen as one of the 20 pilot institutions under the Ministry of Education and Science's new Strategic Fund for Establishing International Headquarters in Universities. It has a particularly strong program in the field of computer engineering, supported by a world-class computer environment. Being a regional university, it enjoys a close relationship with the local community. When students or researchers go to town, we are greeted warmly.

What do you do outside your research? Do you take part in any community activities?

Dr. Marasinghe and other HC 2005 conference participants
Dr. Marasinghe and other HC 2005 conference participants

I consider Aizu-Wakamatsu to be my home away from home. I have learned many things living in the Aizu culture and among the Aizu people. I participate in several social activities so as to learn more about Japanese culture, especially Aizu culture. Voluntary activities are I think the best way to immerse oneself in society and culture. Most of my free time is spent participating in the Aizu-Wakamatsu Rotary Club; International Youth Exchange Organization, Fukushima; Environmental Conservation Association; Aizu-Sakura Lanka Club; and other volunteer organizations to which I belong. Lately, I have also been visiting temples in the area with Prof. Osano and studying the history of Aizu-Wakamatsu. I believe this helps deepen my research of kansei.

Finally, what advice would you offer someone about to begin a JSPS fellowship?

Becoming a JSPS fellow has lifetime rewards. I have three pieces of advice. Most important is to maintain a close relationship with your host researcher. Next, try to com-municate with your colleagues at the host institution so as to build strong networks with Japanese experts in your field. Then, make contact with the local community through volunteer activities. Of course, you must give priority to your research; however, using your spare time to participate in such activities will help you learn the customs and improve your language skills. Always keep your promises, and you will build strong relationships with the Japanese people.

Interview by JSPS Fellows Plaza