"I feel quite fortunate to have a long-standing collaboration with MERL. This collaboration, and my interactions with MERL and its parent company (Mitsubishi Electric Corporation) more generally, has influenced my areas of research, has heightened my interest in work with industry, and informs the advice I give to graduate students. I worked at MERL full time for one year, between when I finished my post-doc at the University of California, Berkeley, and when I started as an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. I have since collaborated continuously with MERL on a number of projects. My now strong interest in theory and algorithms for error-correction coding started at MERL as did my research into information-theoretic security. My work with MERL in these two areas has resulted in numerous publications and patents, and is now having an impact on actual products and on international standards. In my experience, research at MERL is both at the forefront of technology and is shaped by business and product constraints. This can be a rich marriage, but leads to a delicate balancing act for the managerial and technical leadership: between affording researchers creative freedom and making an impact on business. When I interact with other industrial labs I look to see if the balance is struck as well as it is at MERL.
MERL's philosophy of collaboration is impressively open and broad, which I believe is a significant contributor to its success. MERL researchers are actively involved in the broad research community: they publish in top-tier conferences and journals; they act as associate editors of journals, chair conferences, and serve in leadership positions in technical societies; and they help shape domestic and international standardization efforts. MERL researchers frequently mentor graduate students through MERL's intern program, which brings in a large influx of fresh talent and energy every summer. MERL plays an important role within Mitsubishi Electric. Its mandate is to stay at the forefront of technology, to identify important nascent technologies and trends, and to make early and foundational contributions. This long-term focus is connected to the business units through continuous efforts by MERL management, and through these efforts an environment has been created in which fledgling ideas can be nurtured and developed until it is their turn to make impact."
— Stark C. Draper, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, ECE Dept.
University of Toronto
MERL tenure 2006-2007
"Fresh out of PhD, it was fantastic to work in broad areas without boundaries in a research lab of a large conglomerate that develops tiny chips to cameras and TVs to large robots and smarts for bullet trains. I had fantastic colleagues in Cambridge who were world leaders in their own research fields, but over time I also realized the role of liaisons that were committed to translating research into products. I was in a unique position to publish high-quality research and at the same time see many of my ideas spawn new product families. This dual platform MERL provided to academic as well as commercial world, was ideal in preparing for my next career at MIT Media Lab."
— Ramesh Raskar, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Media Lab
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
MERL tenure 2000-2008
My first interaction with MERL was when I met a friend after his short stint as an intern at MERL. He was beaming with pride about his recent research, and his infectious enthusiasm bit me. I applied to be an intern and spent the next several months as an intern at MERL. It was exciting, engaging, tough, sleepless and fulfilling all at the same time. The SIGGRAPH deadline was approaching and my corner of MERL was brimming with the caffeinated energy of 5 sleepless research scientists and 20 even more sleepless interns: I felt like I was a part of something bigger than myself, something special and it was this feeling of belonging (even as an intern), that ultimately made it easy for me to decide to join MERL as a research Scientist immediately upon my graduation from UMD.
I spent three wonderful and rewarding years as a Research Scientist. I was one of a group of 6 greenhorns right out of their PhDs, who were trying to learn the ways of performing cutting-edge research. They became some of my closest friends and that made it easy to tolerate when they invariably and with alarming regularity found holes in my until-then watertight ideas. The speed and intensity with which mediocre ideas were culled out necessarily forced all of us to dig deeper and focus all of our energies on the ideas that had the best merit. This was a collaborative yet competitive experience—much like sport, everybody became better through participation and everybody left with a better sense of their own creative and intellectual strengths.
— Ashok Veeraraghavan
Asst. Professor, Dept of ECE
MERL tenure 2008-2011
"My nine years at MERL were wonderful. I had the freedom to work on fundamental problems, to collaborate with researchers outside the lab, and to publish. I kept one foot in academia and one foot in industry. Doing that for so long required picking a research agenda that excited both me and Mitsubishi Electric, but I was able to do that, and many times Mitsubishi Electric provided problems that spurred the research. I had the satisfaction of seeing my work have impact both within the academic community and within the parent company. Being able to follow directions I was passionate about was a real gift."
— William T. Freeman, Ph.D.
Professor, EECS Dept.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
MERL tenure 1992-2001
"MERL is one of the internationally leading research labs for communications, computer science, image processing, mechatronics, and related areas. One of the most attractive points for me has been that it enables fundamental research, while at the same time connecting this research to actual products and standards. Another benefit is the group of smart and nice colleagues that makes research there fascinating and fun. Working there not only was enjoyable, but taught me many things I have been benefiting from over the years."
— Andreas F. Molisch, Ph.D.
Professor, EE Dept.
University of Southern California
MERL tenure 2002-2008