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Internships: Opening the Door to the Future

August 16, 2010 | By Microsoft blog editor

Yusuke Sugano’s enthusiasm for technology inspired him to earn a Ph.D. in computer science from the University of Tokyo earlier this year, but his internships with Microsoft Research Asia were what fostered his passion for the value of collaborative relationships. 

In March 2008, Sugano successfully completed an internship in Beijing. He then was accepted into the Microsoft Research Worldwide Internship Program, and in April 2010, he arrived at Microsoft’s corporate headquarters in Redmond to work on a computer-vision project. While Sugano confirms that his technical knowledge benefited from both experiences, he says the more important lessons he has learned came from the collegial relationships he enjoyed at Microsoft Research.

From the beginning of the internship-application process, it became apparent that relationships would play an important role in Sugano’s Microsoft Research experience.

“My focus has been on computer interaction and computer vision, both disciplines in which Microsoft Research is famous because the research is very good,” he says. “But what really got me interested in the internship was meeting Yasuyuki Matsushita, lead researcher with Microsoft Research Asia, who encouraged me to apply.”

For his internship in the United States, Sugano was mentored by Zhengyou Zhang, principal researcher at Microsoft Research Redmond. Zhang, among many other peers, has shown genuine interest in Sugano that he believes has enhanced his technical development and been of great benefit to his career path.

“I interact with professional researchers on a daily basis, and the interactions are very frank, honest, and productive,” Sugano says. “The people I’ve met during both internships have set very high goals for their careers. As a result of meeting, working with, and learning from so many highly motivated people, I have become more motivated.”

Since beginning his U.S. internship in early April, Sugano has worked with the Communication and Collaboration Systems group on a project focused on facial images.

“This would be very useful for a human interface that could be used in scenarios such as gaming and video conferencing,” he says.

The prospect of correctly aligning faces in videos or photographs is engaging, Sugano says, but also challenging.

There are differences, of course, between Sugano’s experiences in Asia and the United States, the most striking of which is the formality of communication in Japan compared with the more casual style employed in America. But the differences are far outweighed by the similarities.

“Microsoft Research is global, so there’s a consistency between the U.S. and Asia in terms of the work environment,” he says. “Even though they’re in different countries on different continents, the work experience is quite similar.”

Sugano plans to implement the knowledge he has acquired during his internships when he returns to Japan. There, he will embark on as many as four years of postdoctoral research that he hopes will provide contributions to the evolution of computer-vision technology. He says he is well-prepared for a research career as a result of his Microsoft Research internships.

“Before I went to Microsoft Research Asia,” Sugano says, “I didn’t think about going abroad, but as a result of my experience in China and the U.S., I have a very positive outlook on working overseas.”

Microsoft Research offers many internship opportunities at research facilities around the world. While the majority of those interns are Ph.D. students in computer science, in related technical majors, or in social sciences with a technical focus, Microsoft Research accepts a small group of outstanding students with a proven research focus who are master’s or bachelor’s candidates. To learn more, please read the Microsoft Research Internship FAQ.

– Steve Yamashiro, University Relations, Microsoft Research Asia