SGRA Kawaraban (Essay) in English

Victor SHISHKIN “What I learned from my Doctoral Course”


I came to Japan having hundreds of productive ideas and a big passion “how to realize those ideas”. And I had a question “which ideas are worth focusing?” After entering to doctoral course, I could choose any directions and anything which I had interest as far as it would have novelty and challenging. Such freedom gave me a lot of possible directions. At the same time. it gave me uncertainty also. I thought “How to spend those three years hereafter?”


It will be the easiest way to find a theme of my doctoral course that I combine my research and “The New Laboratory”. A theme of doctoral course should be possible as far as it would be challenging and have novelty. So, I proceeded to this direction for the first one and half years.


However, I was confronted with my self-questions which many doctoral course students have experienced. “Are there anybody who think it necessary?” “For whom am I proceeding?”

Answers from my pondering did not satisfy myself. I know there are few companies which understand my technology and the number of people who like to use such products which use my technology is few. As I have been working for a business world for years, I was accustomed to the works which respond to customers’ needs. In other words, it became difficult for me to work for technical development which may have no customers’ needs.


I realized my doubt. It was very important period which is one year and half before the thesis defense of the first semester and start of doctoral thesis. I know I would suffer a hardship or lose my motivation if I spend my remaining time being unable to trust how my research would be useful. I could not cheat myself anymore. I thought “How can I write doctoral thesis where I do not have confidence? I will have questions which I cannot answer from examiners or others.”


I think it necessary to trust myself from bottom of my heart what I am doing now in order to continue my long doctoral course and to have a power which can overcome my difficult time and setback. I must find honest answer to myself to questions: “For whom and for what am I doing? Is it useful?”  


During the period which I was looking for the answer, I recognized a new thesis. I recalled a customer’s dissatisfaction which I heard when I have been working for Russian company. When I talked with potential customers of my technology at an industrial exhibition in Tokyo, I could confirm their questions. I discussed with CEO of a company of my research field to make clear about difficult point and after this discussion, I could grasp a trend of technical development of my research field using ‘big data analysis tool’. When I attended international meeting, I could understand future of this technology after talking with a top of academic conference and technical scouts. I studied about process of political decision for the purpose how the Japanese Government support research field and analyzed the Governmental data at GRIPS (National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies).         


I concluded that the most important factor for customers is the price of goods. What customers are unsatisfied is not performance of goods but the price. There are a lot of potential customers who know about our sensing technology but cannot afford to buy although they like it. So, I put my effort into affordable price and came up with an idea that the most precious parts of sensor system would be made on the photonic chips.


Now I understand that I have been working for customers who could not afford optical fiber sensing technology and I am convinced customers would buy and use the products if we can decrease the prices.   


I repeated unsuccessful efforts for the first year when I started toward new direction. Nothing went well. Design of chips, production process and setting up of testing etc. I could not find what was wrong. However, I did not feel depressed. I thought it would go well next time. I trusted myself thinking that my research would be useful and it gave me a power of inspiration, motivation and endurance for failures.


What I learned from my doctoral course is an importance of trusting myself from bottom of my heart when I proceed long term projects. It is necessary to have not only logical understanding but emotional connection also. If I can do so, it will be useful for getting better, being encouraged and encourage others in my daily life.


Principle mentioned above can be applied to a lot of occasions in daily life.

1) When we learn new languages, it is necessary to trust the languages and necessary to trust ourselves. In my case, the reason why I can speak English is I have stayed in America for six months where nobody could understand Russian language.

2) As I was afraid of getting fat, I keep on doing exercises every day.

3) Everybody knows early riser is efficient. But it is not enough to know what is early riser.  It is necessary to believe their feelings truly. In my case, I started my early rise because I liked to see sunrise.


Hereafter I will keep finding honest answers against my question “Why?” for what I am doing. 



SGRA Kawaraban 698 in Japanese (Original)



Victor SHISHKIN /2020 Raccoon, Project Researcher at The University of Tokyo



Translated by Kazuo Kawamura

English checked by Sabina Koirala