Quarterly TOP gj

Series: Research and Life in Japan by a JSPS Fellow (3)

 
 
Dr. Sophie Sakka
  Dr. Sophie Sakka

Dr. Sophie Sakka is presently conducting research in Japan as a JSPS postdoctoral fellow. In 2002, she obtained her doctorate in robotics from University Pierre et Marie Curie (Paris 6) in France. From November 2003, she began her research in Japan under the fellowship at the Intelligent Systems Research Institute (IS) of the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST).

In December 2003, IS and le Département des Sciences et Technologies de l'Information et de la Communication (STIC) of le Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) established a joint research laboratory, named IS/AIST-STIC/CNRS Joint Japanese-French Robotics Laboratory (JRL). Dr. Sakka's host researcher, Dr. Kazuhito Yokoi, is one of JRL's co-directors on the Japan side. Of Dr. Sakka he said, "Bringing a different background to our lab, she engenders new perspectives and stimulates our work with an injection of new blood."

What are you researching in Japan and what are your research achievements under the JSPS fellowship so far?

My research is on enhancing the autonomy of humanoid robots by developing new pattern generation systems. I am concentrating on making the robot jump in a human way. To do this, I am writing a model for the inertia contribution of each member of the robot's "body" needed to perform a jump. At the moment of landing, the impact between the feet and the ground must also be reduced so as to enable the use of such movement on a real robotic platform (HRP-2). At the laboratory, I am doing mainly modelization (mathematical) work and simulation using a simulator developed by AIST researchers. The experimental phase will be coming soon. So far during my stay in Japan, I have written four papers on my current and previous research: one for a journal and three for international conferences. I hope to have enough time while in Japan to finish my work on humanoid jumping.

With HRP-2
  With HRP-2

Why did you choose Japan to pursue your research?

Japan seemed to be the best destination for robotics research in terms of its research environment. Geographically, Japan was only a point on a map before I came here. Culturally, I knew virtually nothing about Japan. Scientifically, Japan is quite famous by virtue of international publications and international conferences. My director in France has close professional relations with Japanese researchers and has developed many projects with them. Therefore, Japan was an ideal place for me to go and advance my research.

What do you do outside your research work?

I enjoy doing paragliding, diving, sailing or other outdoor activities as often as possible. I went to Ogasawara to dive with two other JSPS fellows, who have now left Japan. I am also interested in Japanese traditional culture, such as mythology, the tea ceremony and Kabuki. Unfortunately, however, Japanese culture is not so easy to comprehend if you lack the language skills. So I started to attend a Japanese language class. To keep myself highly motivated in studying Japanese, I will soon take a language proficiency level test.

Do you have any advice about living and doing research in Japan for those who may be thinking about coming here under a JSPS fellowship?

It would be ideal if you could start learning the language and obtain some real clues about the culture before coming. When here, meet and talk with Japanese people as much as possible. Before coming to Japan, I am afraid I was too busy to seek out information on Japan. I should have read "Life in Japan for Foreign Researchers," which JSPS published and sent to me in France. After arriving, however, I attended a 3-day orientation held by JSPS, which was useful as I was able to learn what and how other overseas fellows like me are researching in Japan.