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Message for students 2024:Kei Shibuya

February 7, 2024

Applying social psychology to medical DX

Researcher, Biometrics Research Laboratories
Kei Shibuya

Kei Shibuya majored in social psychology and obtained her master degree in human science. She later advanced to a PhD program while simultaneously joining NEC. In addition to being involved in applying the knowledge and methods of psychology to exploring issues at hospitals, she has advanced research into stress estimation and behavior modification utilizing bio information. From January 2023 to January 2024, she studied at Rice University in US as a visiting researcher using NEC’s study abroad program.

Joining NEC as a researcher integrating the humanities and sciences

I majored in social psychology as a student. In terms of the university entrance examination path, I was in the humanities. There are still very few companies in Japan that hire researchers in the humanities, so my case might be a little bit unusual. Right as I was searching for a job as a researcher, NEC Laboratories engaged in an interesting experiment by hosting a workshop open to any student of both the humanities and sciences, and my participation was the impetus for joining the company.
In addition to researching stress estimation, I also continued to explore hospital solution issues after joining NEC. In stress estimation, we estimate stress based on bio information with the goal of building a system that can provide appropriate feedback to users to mitigate stress. This research is deeply related to NEC’s biometric technologies.
Meanwhile, in the exploration of hospital solution issues, we are using a method called “biodesign” (*1) that is being broadly adopted at American medical institutions, etc. We measure and quantify the impact we can have on reducing the working hours of physicians if we create certain technologies and products. We followed physicians around to see what actions they take and measured which tasks they spent their time on with a stopwatch. This is an area where the behavioral observation and qualitative research of psychology can be applied, so I feel that I was able to use the knowledge that I learned to make an effective contribution.
When I talk about this kind of work, my friends often tell me that it “sounds like consulting,” but it feels a little bit different. The reason why it differs from consulting is because I can tackle the challenge of submitting research papers about the content of my work and actively participate in conferences. In fact, I also apply and experiment with algorithms created by researchers specializing in machine learning and AI, which I summarize in my research papers. I think that it is a style of working which is well-suited to those who want to build a track record in their own name.

Using the study abroad program to visit the US for one year

After earning a master’s degree, I began my doctoral program while simultaneously joining NEC. I also wanted to obtain a PhD but thought that I should first get a job and achieve financial stability. I have balanced my assignments to earn credits with the Golden Week holidays, summer break, and class attendance using my time off. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, companies shifted to remote work and universities went online, so in 2022 I was able to take all of my credits. Currently, I am putting my thesis together to earn my doctorate. You can use corporate research results in your thesis, so I don’t think it is impossible to aim to earn a doctorate while working as a researcher.
In addition, last year I used the company’s study abroad program to study at Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, new windowRice University in US. The company has a program that allows employees to study at a Japanese or overseas university for a certain period of time, and every year the laboratories also recruit people who wish to study abroad. In contrast to typical study abroad programs, you are accepted as a visiting researcher at a university, so depending on negotiations, you can closely collaborate with local professors working on the front lines of academia. It became a very valuable experience in advancing the stress estimation research.
In addition, the company provides financial aid for studying abroad. The acceptance fee as a visiting researcher is provided by the company, and they also cover the local living costs. It is a program which resembles a trading company overseas posting, and I was extremely grateful for their support. Prices in the US are high right now, so I don't think that I would have been able to study abroad on my own.

An environment in which you can learn knowledge of different fields from colleagues

After joining the company, my colleagues taught me many things about AI, machine learning, and other areas of specialized knowledge. Inside the company, technology exchange meetings and research poster presentations, etc. similar to a conference are frequently held. It is an environment in which you can go and listen to someone's research presentation to easily learn about various technologies. Naturally, I proceeded with my studies in an independent manner. Because if you don't have a certain level of knowledge, you cannot engage in conversation within the team. These are fields that I was unable to study at university, so it is fun to study them.
Moreover, my position is that I want to pay attention to firmly adhering to the ethical aspects of research. When majoring in human science in the humanities, an ethical review for research is essential, so my university era major is also useful in this area as well. We have a lot of data that deals with people, so I am always careful to avoid making the people who participate in our data collection feel uncomfortable and try to reduce the burden on them as much as possible. Of course, it is important to collect lots of data to increase the accuracy of a technology, but I believe that thinking about the balance of such ethical aspects is also extremely important.
Because I was able to study abroad in the US, I hope to maintain a global sensibility in the future. If I have the opportunity, I would definitely like to work at NEC's overseas laboratories.

  • The information posted on this website is the information at the time of publication.

A day at work

Message to my past self in my school days

Private column

American culture is different from Japanese, so I was cooking my favorite food in US.. I alwasy enjoy cooking myself as small-scale experiments, it’s not expensive (laughs). In a large-scale experiment, it requires an enormous amount of money to buy a server, so you get depressed if it fails. However, the costs required for cooking are between 1,000 and 2,000 yen at the most. Even if you fail, you can eat it, so it is fun as a small experiment. I have many other hobbies as well. I love metal music, radio and podcast programs.