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Dec. 21, 2023

AI augmented scientific simulations

Mohamed Wahib, Team Leader

Please tell us about yourself.

I was born in Egypt and spent most of my childhood there, except for a couple of years in an elementary school in the United States. After graduating from university, I traveled to several countries. I now head the High Performance Artificial Intelligence Systems Research Team in Kobe and Tokyo.

What excites you the most about your current research?

Currently, we are looking into how artificial intelligence can augment and compliment key numerical methods in scientific simulations. For instance, to model a mouse brain, we could use artificial intelligence technology to build a comprehensive map of neural connections in the brain.

What do you think has been the most interesting discovery in your field in the last few years?

The realization that we can use huge amounts of data and computing power to train neural networks to outperform humans in a wide range of tasks. Previously, it was thought that for computers to learn a task, such as playing chess, you needed to teach computers the first principles of the task in hand (chess rules and strategy, for example). Surprisingly however, simply providing data—such as records of chess games—to neural network models is enough to help computers to learn a task without additional human expertise or knowledge.

picture of Mohamed Wahib

When and how did you come to Japan?

I first came to Japan in 2006. I always admired the country and I wanted to experience the challenge of living and studying in a new environment. I was so happy with my lab and university during my Master’s degree, that I continued and did my PhD there. Fast forward, it’s now 17 years since I arrived in Japan!

What are your workplace and colleagues like?

RIKEN is a national research center, but it feels very much like a university. While my center is in Kobe, I spend most of my time in the central Tokyo office because my team is located there. It’s a very relaxed and nice environment and the people are flexible.

Would you encourage foreign researchers to work at RIKEN?

Yes, definitely. RIKEN has a lot of resources and facilities. For instance, it has one of the world’s most powerful supercomputers. And these facilities attract bright people from all areas of science, so career-wise, it’s a smart move. Japan is a great country to live in and life in RIKEN is good because it’s a very relaxed environment, and there are professional support personnel in the background looking after all the necessary administrative tasks. Doing a postdoc at RIKEN was the most productive phase of my life because I had minimal distractions and could focus on my work.

Do you enjoy life in Japan?

Yes, very much so. Outside of my research, I have a lot of hobbies. I like to exercise and like to do sports, so I try to make them a part of my daily life. For example, I cycle to the Tokyo office whenever I can. Also, Japan is really good for food and there is a wide selection of different cuisines. Japan is a great place to live and it offers a very vibrant environment.

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