Engineering corner - December 2014 - September 2015

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ENGINEERING CORNER Lecturer interviews by theSun newspaper December 2014 - September 2015


TABLE OF CONTENTS

Cutting-edge Expertise .............................................. 1 - Dr Seung Hwan Won

Engineering Expert at USMC...................................... 2 -Dr Low Siow Yong

Engineering Innovation at USMC................................ 3 - Dr William Chong

Expert in Innovation..................................................... 4 - Dr Pu Suan Hui

Mastering Electrical Engineering................................. 5 - Dr Khor Jing Huey

USMC’s Green Engineering......................................... 6 - Dr Ng Jo-Han

Expertise in Engineering.............................................. 7 - Dr Mihai Rotaru

Expertise in Power Electronics..................................... 8 - Dr Lee Sze Sing

Expertise in Aerospace Technology............................. 9 - Dr Gan Khong Wui

Expertise in Nanotechnology..................................... 10 - Dr Suhaila Sanip


EDUCATION FOCUS theSun on TUESDAY |

DECEMBER 9, 2014

ENGINEERING CORNER

Cutting-edge expertise > Southampton leads the way

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R SEUNG HWAN WON has been teaching at the University of Southampton Malaysia Campus (USMC) since April 2013. Currently the associate professor teaches Programming, Digital Systems, Mobile Communications and Mathematics in the Electrical and Electronic Engineering programme. Won ( pix ) was the recipient of the 2004 State Scholarship of the Information and Telecommunication National Scholarship Programme, awarded by the Ministry of Information and Communication, South Korea. Here, he shares his thoughts with theSun readers: Can you tell us about your academic and research background? I received BSc. and MSc. degrees in Radio Science and Engineering from Korea University, Seoul, in 1999 and 2001 respectively, and a PhD degree from the Communications Research Group, Electronics and Computer Science, University of Southampton, UK, in 2008. I was a research engineer with the Mobile Communication Technology Research Laboratory, LG Electronics R&D before I completed my PhD. After I graduated from the University of Southampton, I was a senior engineer with Modem Team, Digital Media & Communications Business, Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. I now work for the University of Southampton Malaysia Campus as an associate professor. What inspired you to follow your area of expertise? In 1995, one of the commercial 2G mobile communication systems, Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) had been deployed in the Republic of Korea. It was the first commercialisation of the new system around the world—at that time, only Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) had been deployed around the world. In order to gain a competitive edge over other developed countries, Korea developed this new technology. I became interested in this area of expertise due to CDMA’s commercial success.

What would you say is the most challenging project that you have undertaken? As a senior engineer at Samsung Electronics, I was involved in a commercial mobile station modem design project. This modem is currently being used in the wellknown Galaxy S and Note series. Making a commercial level of mobile station modem was extremely challenging; indeed, many big companies around the world had given up on this project. However, Samsung made it work at a commercial level. To achieve commercial success, countless obstacles had to be overcome. During the final stage of the project, there were no weekends for me; I worked 21 days in a row with no breaks. What current research projects are you working on? Currently, I am working with Prof Lajos Hanzo, head of Communications Research Group, Electronics and Computer Science, University of Southampton. Our research interests encompass synchronisation (including cell search schemes) and estimation schemes (including speed, location, and channel status) in diverse cooperative MIMO-

How do you see your graduates making an impact in the field? To achieve a successful career, graduates should work in a specifi c field over many years. Without gaining profound knowledge of their area of expertise and related practical experiences, they cannot be the master of a specific area. With the University of Southampton’s well-designed teaching and learning schedules, I believe that our students are able to maximise their potential. After graduation, they will have a solid background to embark on their successful career path. Can you share with us your previous experience working in LG Electronics & Samsung Electronics? Throughout over eight years of industrial research experience gained at both LG and Samsung Electronics, I was involved in the design of commercial mobile station modem, 3G W-CDMA network optimisation and standardisation of 3G systems. As a result of my research and development in these areas, 21 US patents and more than 50 Korean patents have been granted or applied for.

aided multi-carrier systems and MIMOaided mmW mobile broadband communication systems. As examples of our research plan, with over eight years of industrial research experience gained at both LG and Samsung Electronics, I will be investigating feasible solutions and their possibilities of extensive cell search and key parameter estimation schemes through both theoretical and practical approaches. I believe this opportunity is capable of taking the initiative over other 5G research activities. What advice do you have for students entering your field of study? My advice to students would be to continue pursuing their studies relating to their fi eld and obtaining practical experiences in the long term. Achieving a position of either senior level engineer or professional academic staff takes many years and requires candidates to remain committed and focused on achieving their goals. Therefore, constantly getting themselves updated plays a pivotal role in their career path.

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EDUCATION FOCUS theSun on TUESDAY |

JANUARY 13, 2015

ENGINEERING CORNER

Engineering expert at USMC > Students enjoy the best of two worlds

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R Low Siow Yong, assistant professor at the University of Southampton Malaysia Campus (USMC), held a variety of postdoctoral and research engineer posts prior to joining the university. He currently teaches Electronic Systems, Electronic Circuits and Mathematics on the MEng Electrical and Electronic Engineering programme at USMC. Here he shares his thoughts with theSun readers: What is your academic and research background? My PhD was in the area of speech processing and now my research is in the broad area of acoustics signal processing. In simple terms, my research involves the mathematical manipulation of acoustic signals to meet certain criteria. One example is speech enhancement, where noisy speech signals can be processed in such a way that the noise signal is reduced. The tricky bit about this is that both the speech and noise signals are overlapping, making the suppression of noise more complicated. What inspired you to follow your area of expertise and what are the big challenges? Alexander Graham Bell’s work on telephony was greatly influenced by the fact that both his wife and his mother were deaf. I guess, to a certain extent, one’s research direction is influenced by the problems or difficulties you see around yourself. After all, engineering research is all about making human lives better. For me, I used to live with my paternal grandma and I understood how difficult it was for her to communicate, with age-related hearing loss. Speech and hearing are the two fundamental blocks in human verbal communication. It takes two to tango and if either one fails, verbal communication collapses. For instance, conversations will be diffi cult if there is background noise or there is some form of hearing loss from the persons involved.

For people with normal hearing capability, tackling the noise will not be a problem as our brains can fi lter out this noise to allow us to hear the speech clearly. But the big challenge here is when you have hearing impairment and environmental noise at the same time. We live in a noisy world, so my aim is to electronically reduce the environmental noise and simultaneously compensate or amplify the speech signals according to one’s hearing profi le. What is the most challenging project you have been involved in? I would say it was my fi rst consultancy work with the Northam Police Department in Western Australia The work involved forensic audio analyses of some emergency calls for a homicide investigation. The police wanted an enhanced version of the background noise as they believed were some noisy yet faint background conversations in the recorded call, which could potentially reveal foul play. The work was the complete opposite of what I was used to; the challenge was to suppress the speech (the caller and the operator) and enhance the background noise. An “inverse” algorithm was created to help the extraction process and the favourable results actually led to a similar consultancy work with the Organised Crime Squad in Perth, Western Australia.

The work related to this area is still work in progress and I believe this domain could provide vital information which we have not seen in more traditional approaches. As well as my Southampton colleagues, I am also working with Hong Kong and Australian collaborators. What advice do you have for students entering your field of study? Studying at USMC is the best of both worlds. Students can build a solid foundation of engineering techniques at the Malaysian Campus, through smaller class sizes, excellent staff-to-student ratio and no acclimatisation issues. Then, in two years’ time, students will be ready to embark on a new experience at the UK Campus, with excellent research facilities and a different culture and landscape altogether. How do you see your students making an impact in their profession when they graduate? At the University of Southampton, we provide a good emphasis on both the technical and transferable skills an engineer needs. Whilst the devil is in the “technical detail”, transferable or soft skills are also needed when it comes to an engineering team. Given the right attitude our students have and the comprehensive courses provided by the University of Southampton, all I can say is the sky is the limit for them.

What research projects are you currently working on? My current research is applying new signal processing technologies to assistive listening devices and hearing aids. I am working on domains processing, where I have migrated from the usual timefrequency domain to a domain called modulation domain. In layman’s terms, the potential here is that it is easier to distinguish speech components from noise in the modulation domain. Low once lent his expertise to the police in Western Australia in a homicide investigation.

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EDUCATION FOCUS theSun on TUESDAY |

FEBRUARY 10, 2015

ENGINEERING CORNER

Engineering innovation at USMC > A successful engineer has a curious mind

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R William Chong, assistant professor at the University of Southampton Malaysia Campus (USMC), currently teaches Mechanical Engineering Design and Computer Aided Design (CAD) in the MEng Mechanical Engineering programme. During his time as a postdoctoral researcher at Loughborough University, UK, prior to joining USMC, he worked closely with automotive industrial collaborators such as Aston Martin, Capricorn, Ricardo and British Petrol (BP).

What is your academic and research background? I am a mechanical engineer specialising in the field of automotive product design and tribology. I obtained my first degree in Mechanical Engineering from UTM, Malaysia, before securing a JPA scholarship to further my studies at Cranfi eld University, UK, where I graduated as the best student in my course, MSc in Automotive Product Engineering. After that, I was offered a full PhD studentship under EPSRC’s Encyclopaedic grant to pursue my doctorate. The doctorate first led to my postdoctoral research at Loughborough University, UK and then a year later, my fi rst lectureship with the University of Southampton, based at our Malaysia campus (USMC). Since my PhD, my research has always focused on the fundamental study of interfacial interactions between sliding surfaces. This enables me to investigate the tribological characteristics (for example, friction, lubrication and wear) of machine elements such as engine lubrication. My research interest helped me to secure two MOE grants within my first year back in Malaysia and also international collaborations with renowned tribology research groups in the UK, including the National Centre for Advanced Tribology at Southampton (nCATS) and also the Dynamics Research Group at Loughborough University.

What inspired you to follow your area of expertise? I am always fascinated by the science behind all moving engineering components. Obviously, for something to move, you first have to overcome resistance, better known as friction in engineering terms. For example, an internal combustion engine has to overcome the in-cylinder friction in order to operate. The friction along the piston ring contact, if not taken care of properly, might affect the mechanical efficiency of the engine, leading to probably higher fuel consumption. On the other hand, when the vehicle is moving, the most efficient way to resist motion is by friction, via braking. Therefore, the double-edged existence of friction inspired me to take up tribology, allowing me to better understand friction and more importantly, to develop engineering designs with optimal efficiency. What is the most challenging project you have been involved in? I would say the aim of my research, which is to find a link between nano-scale and microscale tribology, is the most challenging activity. This is because my aim is to apply nanotribology to a larger scale application in order to better predict the frictional performance of the engineering design. At a nano-scale, surfaces are minute and researchers are still heavily exploring the science at such levels using Atomic Force Microscopy. This already presents a challenge and we are not yet talking about the integration of such knowledge for engineering product development. What research projects are you currently working on? I am currently working with my collaborators in the UK (University of Southampton and Imperial College, UK) in an attempt to explain friction force in terms of energy instead of the typical coeffi cient of friction. The idea of using energy is in the hope that the knowledge gap between nanoscale and micro-scale tribology can be bridged. Besides this, I have a PhD student

Chong, who graduated as the best student in his course at CranďŹ eld University, UK, today takes delight in sharing his expertise with students at USMC.

working on the design of lubricant-surface interaction in order to reduce friction and wear of materials. What advice do you have for students entering your field of study? I would advise students to be proactive and ask constructive questions. With this mentality, it allows one to actually gauge whether one has fully understood the problem. This is essential for engineers as we are problem solvers; we need to come out with creative and innovative solutions to problems faced by mankind. I think a successful engineer needs to have a curious mind. This would inspire one to ask constructive questions that might lead to creative and innovative solutions. How do you see your students making an impact in their profession when they graduate? The students at our Malaysia campus are always proactive in and out of class. With young and creative minds like theirs, I can only see a bright future for them in engineering. It would not be a surprise to see them being leaders in their respective engineering fields in the foreseeable future. In your own words, how would you describe a typical day at USMC? As for my typical day at USMC, I get the opportunity to mingle with students during their free time, to casually discuss their student design projects and even their future career plans at times. I also share my experience as an engineer and researcher with the students. This is only possible at USMC because of the signifi cantly higher number of staff to student ratio.

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EDUCATION FOCUS theSun on TUESDAY |

MARCH 10, 2015

ENGINEERING CORNER

Expert in innovation > At USMC, academics are all research-active

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MONG the many experts at University of Southampton Malaysia Campus (USMC) is Dr Pu Suan Hui (pix) , who was previously in the semiconductor manufacturing industry with Infi neon Technologies. The assistant professor currently teaches Programming, Mechanics and Mathematics on the MEng Mechanical Engineering programme at USMC. What is your academic and research background? I spent 7.5 years at Imperial College London, obtaining my Bachelor degree in Mechanical Engineering and my PhD in Electrical and Electronic Engineering. My current research interest is broadly in the development of novel sensors, spanning the areas of sensor materials, micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS), and wearable technology. What inspired you to follow your area of expertise? I have always had a fascination for miniaturisation, essentially the art of engineering things to be small, useful and sometimes beautiful as well. With the miniaturisation of sensors, you open up countless possibilities for utilising these small and energy-efficient devices. For example, the automotive industry is heading that way, increasingly with major multinational companies interested in developing either self-driving vehicles or assistive technologies for the human driver. Furthermore, we are also living in an era where the gadgets that we carry, like our mobile phones, tablets and smart bands, include many sensors. One of the challenges in MEMS development lies in the need to constantly find novel materials for new sensor applications. For example, we are currently working on nano-crystalline graphite or graphene as a material for ultra-sensitive sensors with the ability to withstand high-temperature environments.

What is the most challenging project you have been involved in? The most intense period of my research life was during my PhD years. As an academic now, my work is highly collaborative and I work in various project teams where each person has a specifi c responsibility. For my PhD project however, I developed a micro-sized variable capacitor for tuning wireless signals and I had to drive the entire process independently. Starting from scratch, I developed mathematical models, ran simulations, designed the masks for fabrication and then spent many hours in a clean room to fabricate the prototypes. Once a batch of working prototypes were obtained, I characterised them by performing electrical measurements and then optimised the design further. Although the PhD years were difficult, looking back, I would not swap them for anything else as the experience gained was invaluable. What research projects are you currently working on? I am working on a number of projects and I have active collaborations with researchers in the UK, Germany, Singapore and also locally in other institutions within Malaysia. I am currently working on a project funded by the Ministry of Education; the project aims to characterise the fundamental mechanical properties of nano-crystalline graphene. I am also working on force sensors with a collaborator in Germany and two PhD students in the UK. More recently I’ve started a project on wearable technology. In fact, I recruited five of our undergraduates as interns over the last summer to develop a wearable sensor platform. They performed extremely well given the fact that they were only one year into their undergraduate course.

which means that lecturers know all their students by name “A great option for and there are excellent for interaction. students... opportunities The environment at USMC is they get also safe and highly conducive access to for study as there are not many world-class distractions compared to other campuses. When the students research transfer to Southampton for facilities their final two years of study, and they get access to world-class professors research facilities and who are professors who are world world leaders in their field. This is a very unique opportunity and a leaders.” great option for students in Malaysia and the region. So my advice for students joining us is to make full use of the educational experience and participate fully in the research seminars, internships and projects. How do you see your students making an impact in their profession when they graduate? The University of Southampton has many illustrious alumni holding leadership positions in various multinational organisations. There are also examples of those who go on to form technology startup companies by commercialising work that they have done at the university. Due to the way we train our students—we have a strong emphasis on fundamental theory as well as practical hands-on work—our graduates are highly sought after in the job market, whether they choose an engineering career or opt to enter a different fi eld.

What advice do you have for students entering your field of study? In the first two years, our students get to interact closely with research-active, highly-qualifi ed academics at the Malaysia Campus. The class sizes at USMC are small,

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EDUCATION FOCUS theSun on TUESDAY |

APRIL 14, 2015

ENGINEERING CORNER

Mastering electrical engineering

> Analytical skills, creativity among the attributes

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LECTRICAL engineering is a highly exciting field—and one that drives today’s connected world. Ask Dr Khor Jing Huey ( pix ), lecturer at the University of Southampton Malaysia Campus (USMC) who currently teaches Digital Systems and Microprocessors, Programming and Mathematics. Here, Khor shares her views: Can you give us some insight into your academic and research background? I received a Bachelor of Engineering Honours degree in Electrical Engineering (Electronic) with First Class Honours from Universiti Malaysia Pahang (UMP) in 2009. Then, I successfully obtained my PhD degree specialising in Prevention and Detection Mechanism for Security in Passive RFID System from Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) in 2013. At the same time, I served in USM as a teaching assistant for three years, from November 2009 until October 2012. Starting from November 2012 until December 2013, I worked at Auto-ID Laboratory (USM) as a research offi cer to develop and optimise RFID technology in different applications, including library, healthcare, academic convocation, bus tracking, car park, and attendance systems. My research interests include RFID, security and authentication protocol, RFID electronic fingerprint, and wireless system design. What inspired you to follow your area of expertise and what are the challenges? RFID technology is able to replace barcode system because it offers better performance and functionality, such as no line of sight requirement, higher data rate, and longer reading range. Therefore, RFID is an emerging technology that is widely used in many applications, including supply chain management, transportation, passport system, and digital smart communities. But previous researches have proved that the system is susceptible to various attacks, such as tracking, denial of service (DOS), replay, and cloning attacks.

Therefore, both prevention and detection mechanisms were proposed in my recent project to enhance the security and privacy protection in RFID system. A lightweight cryptographic mutual authentication protocol, which is resistant to tracking, DoS, and replay attacks, was proposed as a prevention mechanism. In addition, electronic fingerprint matching method was proposed as a detection mechanism to detect counterfeit tags. Physical characteristics of RFID tag are being analysed to use as unique electronic fingerprint, such as received power of tag and transmitted power of tag. Eventually, the proposed mechanisms will be used for detecting fake E-passports in order to improve cross-broader security. What current research projects are you working on? Any specifi c funding grants, students/partners you’re working with? I collaborate with Prof Steve Beeby, on “Wireless Autonomous Rail Networked Sensor System (WARNSS)” project. He is a professor of Electronic Systems and Devices, and works in Electronics and Electrical Engineering group within Electronics and Computer Science (ECS) at the University of Southampton. Technology Strategy Board (TSB) is funding this project. The project aims to improve rail monitoring wireless sensor network capability by developing a local network of wireless satellite sensor nodes (SSN). Two strategies for operating the SSNs will be investigated: wirelessly powered passive RFID sensors and small self-powered sensor nodes that use a new miniature vibration energy harvester. What advice do you have for students entering your field of study? Can you describe how their experiences in Malaysia and the UK might compare? In the first two years of study in Malaysia, students will have the opportunity to gain knowledge on fundamentals of Electrical

and Electronic Engineering. Therefore, students must equip themselves well with all the fundamental theories, intellectual skills and subject specific skills through formative and summative assessments. In the third and fourth years of study in UK, students will undertake individual designs and group research projects. This is the opportunity for students to apply all the knowledge and skills learned to create outstanding designs that can lead to commercialisation and publication in scientifi c journals and conferences. What personal characteristics do you feel are necessary to be a successful engineer? The most important characteristic is being self-motivated. A great engineer must possess enthusiasm and motivation. Engineers are responsible for inventions and solving problems. Hence, one must possess strong analytical skill, creativity, and attention to detail. In addition, a great engineer must have good communication skills, so that he or she is able to deliver ideas effectively and able to give instruction to subordinates clearly. How do you see your students making an impact when they graduate? Electrical and electronic engineering drives the fundamental technologies of today’s connected world. Each year, University of Southampton produces graduates that have highly exciting career opportunities in the leading companies in the world, such as ARM, Siemens, Samsung, BAE Systems and Boeing. These companies are involved in different areas, ranging from electronic and software systems, environment and sustainability, communication, aerospace, automobiles, and nanotechnology.

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EDUCATION FOCUS theSun on TUESDAY |

MAY 12, 2015

ENGINEERING CORNER

USMC’s green engineer

Ng is the principal investigator for a biodiesel production project funded by the Ministry of Education.

> An expert in thermal fluids sciences

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MONG the many scientists at University of Southampton Malaysia Campus (USMC) is Dr Ng Jo-Han, an assistant professor. He currently teaches Thermofl uids, Thermodynamics and Mathematics on the MEng Mechanical Engineering programme at USMC. He shares his thoughts with theSun:

What is your academic and research background? My research interests lie in solving realworld problems related to renewable energy, spanning both the areas of combustion and energy production research. In particular, I am interested in looking at how we can use cleaner biodiesel to replace diesel fuels in diesel engines. It refl ects my strong interest and passion in the broader agenda of solving the twin planetary emergencies of energy depletion and environmental deterioration. Although I am a trained mechanical engineer, my PhD was in the fi eld of automotive-related engineering, and now I deal with chemistry. While they might seem worlds apart, essentially they are all linked by the flexibility afforded by my core knowledge in thermal fl uids sciences. Rather than being typecast into a specific traditional engineering discipline, I believe the best description that suits me is “green engineer”. What inspired you to follow your area of expertise and what are the big challenges? For most Malaysians, the mere thought of diesel engines conjures images of noisy and air-polluting vehicles. That was my impression too before I went to SchwäbischGmünd in Germany as a 17-year-old exchange student after completing my secondary school education. While I was there, my environmentally conscious host father decided to purchase a

diesel-powered Mercedes-Benz. That decision baffled me as I could not fathom the logic behind a “green” advocate driving a “dirty” vehicle. My confusion turned to revelation when I was brought to the Mercedes-Benz headquarters in Stuttgart for an educational tour. I realised that diesel engines could be cleaner than petrol engines. From that moment, I knew that I only wanted to be a mechanical engineer, focusing on diesel engines. Years later on a flight, I was amazed by the vastness of land area covered by oil palms in Malaysia. I wondered if we really consumed that much palm oil. My inquisitiveness led me to the knowledge that surplus palm oil can be used for the production of biodiesel, leading to cleaner diesel engines. Eventually, I embarked on my research journey, starting with a PhD on the application of biodiesel in diesel engines. Ever since, I have been part of the army of scientists worldwide, tackling the big challenge of bringing biodiesel to mainstream usage. On that front, we are gaining success with many countries, including Malaysia, by mandating the blend of biodiesel in diesel fuels. What current research projects are you working on? Currently, I am the principal investigator for a project funded by Malaysia’s Ministry of Education under the Fundamental Research Grant Scheme. It involves using micro-scale structures to increase the mixing of chemicals to improve biodiesel production. I have high hopes that this research can potentially be a positive force in the fi eld of palm biodiesel-related research of which Malaysia is very much at the forefront. Together with my collaborators both in Malaysia and the UK, I hope to form a consortium engaging in world-leading biodiesel research work. I can only see the positives that it can bring to Malaysia

economically, and also to raise USMC’s standing around the world. What advice do you have for students entering your field of study? The brilliant thing about studying at USMC is the flexibility that courses can offer. Take for instance the Mechanical Engineering degree programme which allows students to choose one of 10 different specialist pathways, including automotive, sustainable energy systems and engineering management. All of these will open up career opportunities in various sectors within the engineering industry. An advantage often cited by our students at USMC is the need to only decide on their specialisation at the end of their second year of study. By that time, students have a clear understanding of what engineering is all about and have gained insights into the specialisation that interests them. This provides a superior option for young students who might have otherwise been forced to select a specialisation that they might regret in the future. What personal qualities do you feel are necessary to be a successful engineer? Most would consider strong analytical, creativity, mathematical and communication skills as the key four qualities of a successful engineer. While I would not dispute these qualities, I believe that the ability to reinvent oneself is the key quality to being a successful engineer. Reinvention is important because the future is always changing, and we should always be taking advantage of new skills learned to improve ourselves in a way to be ready for future challenges. At USMC, we take pride ourselves in our great staff-to-student ratio that allows us to develop a strong mentor-mentee network to transform raw talents into successful engineers.

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EDUCATION FOCUS theSun on TUESDAY |

JUNE 9, 2015

ENGINEERING CORNER

Expertise in engineering > Dr Mihai Rotaru on electromagnetics

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MONG the many leading engineers teaching at University of Southampton Malaysia Campus (USMC) is Dr Mihai Rotaru, an associate professor. His research is in the broad area of electromagnetics which is related to wireless power transfer, terahertz bio sensing and smart grids. He is an IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) and IET (The Institution of Engineering and Technology) member. He currently teaches Applied Electromagnetics, Fields, Circuits and Transmission on the MEng Electrical and Electronic Engineering programme.

What is your academic and research background? I received my BEng and MSc degrees in Electrical Engineering from Technical University Cluj in Romania, one of the best engineering universities in Romania. I was awarded a scholarship from the European Community to study at the University of fi Southampton for three months during my nal BEng year and it was here that I discovered the art and beauty of modelling and solving electromagnetic fi eld problems. I then completed my PhD at the University of Southampton, funded by the National Grid UK, which was in the area of electromagnetic fields. After my PhD, I worked as a research assistant at City University London for a year before working for six years at the Institute of Microelectronics in Singapore, dealing with the application of electromagnetic fields in microelectronics. I joined the University of Southampton in 2007, first working at the UK Campus and then moving to the Malaysia Campus in 2012. What inspired you to follow your area of expertise and what are the big challenges? My mother, who is the best chemistry teacher I have ever met, inspired my interest in chemistry, but I didn’t like the smell of chemistry labs. So when my parents bought me a ZX Spectrum (a very cool computer in 1997), I got hooked on programming and writing computer codes. I then realised that I could write a code that allowed me to simulate a chemical reaction and instead of being in a chemistry lab I could sit at my desk with my computer and experiment with

chemical reactions. This is how I became interested in modelling and simulation of chemical and physical processes. Since then, computers have become much more powerful and the simulation I am doing now is much more complex. However the fact that I am creating a virtual reality where I can test my ideas and concepts without being afraid that I will break something, still gives me a lot of satisfaction and thrills. What is the most challenging project you have been involved in? Probably the most challenging one so far related to a real microprocessor developed by one of the biggest manufacturers of microprocessors in the world. While working in Singapore, my team was asked to develop a methodology to simulate and accurately predict the electromagnetic noise that exists and propagates through the power distribution of a microprocessor. This is a very difficult problem to solve due to the complexity, details and scale of the system involved. However by employing several methods and putting them together in a clever way, we succeeded and the approach we developed has been adopted by the company in their design process for all their microprocessors. What current research projects are you working on? Any specific funding grants and who are your partners? I am working with my collaborators from NTU Singapore to develop a wireless power transfer system for electric vehicles. This project is sponsored by a well-known automobile manufacturer who is interested in this technology. I also supervise several PhD students working on different electromagnetic design problems, some with applications in bio-sensing and others with applications in electric power systems. What advice do you have for students entering your field of study? My advice to students interested in electrical engineering is to clearly understand the physical laws that govern the real world. Although I love the virtual world where the real world is represented through mathematical equations and their solution, I learned to understand and appreciate that there is no substitute to the real world. Physical laws always have to be

Rotaru is currently working with his collaborators from NTU Singapore to develop a wireless power transfer system for electric vehicles.

obeyed unlike other types of laws (for example, traffic laws), and I stress to all my students that whatever result they obtain from a simulation, it should be scrutinised to understand its physical implications. How do you see your students making an impact in their profession when they graduate? All of our students experience a wellbalanced education at the University of Southampton—both theoretical and practical aspects of electrical engineering are covered in all our courses. The skills that students acquire during their Electrical and Electronic Engineering degrees are in demand by most of the engineering companies as well as non-engineering companies. All of our students have the characteristics I mentioned earlier so I expect that all of them will become excellent engineers solving and driving the technology world of tomorrow. Why do you like teaching at USMC? What I love about teaching at USMC is the fact that being such a small campus, compared with the UK Campus, allows me to know all the students very well. Being in such environment allows me to share my teaching and working experience easily and also it lets me receive feedback from the students in a very direct and unfi ltered way. This helps me to become a better teacher.

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EDUCATION FOCUS theSun on TUESDAY |

JULY 14, 2015

ENGINEERING CORNER

Expertise in power electronics > Dr Lee Sze Sing on the fast evolution of technology

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S the trend towards electrifi cation and renewable energies increases, research in power electronics is becoming even more important. From this standpoint, Dr Lee Sze Sing is intrigued to investigate this area. A member of the academic staff at the University of Southampton Malaysia Campus (USMC), Lee currently teaches Power Electronics, Power Circuits and Mathematics on the MEng Electrical and Electronic Engineering programme. What is your academic and research background? I spent seven years at the University of Science Malaysia (USM) obtaining my BEng and PhD, both in electrical engineering. My PhD research focused on designing novel DC-DC converter topologies for high voltage applications. My current research interest is in the broad area of power electronics systems.

What is the most challenging project you have been involved in your career? My biggest challenge is to work under budget constraints. While working on my PhD project, I received a research grant which had a limited budget. I had to develop my research idea and build my design prototype from scratch. For instance, I had to build transformers, devices for high frequency current measurement and high voltage measurement on my own, even though they are readily available in the market. I had to put extra effort and time in the research. Although this hard work boosted my practical skills and trained me to become a more passionate researcher, it is always favourable to have sufficient budget to make sure the research keeps pace with the fast evolution of technology. What research projects are you currently working on? I am currently working on novel converter topologies as well as control strategies for various applications, especially renewable energy integration. As a member of the Electrical and Electronic Engineering (EEE) research group in Electronics and Computer Science at University of Southampton, I am actively engaged with researchers at the UK campus.

I am a co-investigator of the University of Southampton Annual Adventures in Research Award 2015. This award funded my research at the UK campus this year to develop a hardware platform for inverter system. I also collaborate with researchers from local universities in Malaysia which includes working with UTM-Proton Future Drive Laboratory on Direct Torque Control of induction machines. How does the student experience in Malaysia and in the UK compare? For the first two years of their degree programme, students are required to build a solid understanding in fundamental concepts and theories, together with practical skills. Design projects are

formulated in increasing complexity to affirm and link the knowledge gained from their different modules. Students are trained towards specifi c specialisations that they have chosen for their third-and fourth-year at the UK campus. They have the chance to work in advanced laboratories and learn to solve real engineering problems with cutting edge technologies. By the end of the fourth year, students are equipped with all the necessary knowledge and skills which a professional engineer should possess. My advice to our EEE students would be to follow their passion, keep up their hard work and be consistent. What personal characteristics do you feel are necessary to be a successful engineer? This is a very subjective question as different people defi ne “success� differently. For me, a professional engineer, who is deemed successful, should be able to contribute and lead the development of cutting edge technologies. They have to be enthusiastic problem solvers who can think critically. They should be passionate, persistent and hardworking in any research they undertake. As engineers are individuals who contribute to changing the world and making our lives better, they should be responsible people who practise engineering ethics properly. How would you describe a typical day at USMC? USMC is a small yet very comfortable place to work. A typical day at USMC is spent almost evenly on my research and teaching related responsibilities. I can always exchange ideas with my colleagues and actively engage with the students. Due to the small number of students, we get to know each of them pretty well and this has greatly assisted the teaching and learning process.

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EDUCATION FOCUS theSun on TUESDAY |

AUGUST 11, 2015

ENGINEERING CORNER

Expertise in aerospace technology

> Dr Gan Khong Wui on pursuing aeronautics and astronautics

A

S a boy, Dr Gan Khong Wui was obsessed with spacecraft and Star Wars . He played Lego bricks and built his very own intergalactic space vehicles. As he approached adulthood, he found that aerospace engineering was one of the most prestigious branches of engineering that one can pursue. Gan has remarkable industrial experience with Airbus and Rolls-Royce. He is an academic staff member at the University of Southampton Malaysia Campus (USMC), and currently teaches Materials and Structures, and Mathematics. What is your academic and research background? I am an aeronautical engineer specialising in composite materials for aero-structures. I was awarded the European Union’s Erasmus Mundus scholarship in Aeronautics and Space Technology (EuMAS), a two-year double MSc degree course offered jointly by Università di Pisa, Italy and Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, Spain. For my dissertation, I worked in the A350 XWB belly fairing team at Airbus Spain in Getafe, Spain for six months. On completion, I won the prestigious Dorothy Hodgkin Postgraduate Award to fund my PhD at the University of Bristol, UK where I studied complex multi-axial loading and failure in carbon fi bre reinforced polymeric (CFRP) composites at the Rolls-Royce Composites University Technology Centre (UTC) in Bristol, UK. Before joining USMC, I worked on a oneyear Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) project with Rolls-Royce at Derby and the Rolls-Royce Composites UTC. Funded by the UK EPSRC’s Impact Acceleration Award (IAA), I helped develop an analysis toolbox for the new design of composite fan blade for RollsRoyce.

What are the biggest challenges? Aerospace technology sits at the frontier of human knowledge. Safety and reliability are the main concerns of this very demanding industry, as failure is too expensive to bear. In order to keep an aircraft or spacecraft in service for 20 to 30 years in harsh atmosphere or space environment, we need the strongest, lightest and most durable materials for its structure. Advanced carbon and glass fibre reinforced composite materials tick all the boxes. However composites are made up of multi-phase constituents, for example fibres, matrix and toughening particulates. They can fail in a very complicated manner and the failure is harder to predict. Currently there is extensive research in the area of testing and failure modelling of composite materials. How do students’ experiences in Malaysia and the UK compare? USMC offers a four-year MEng Aeronautics and Astronautics (A&A) programme where students spend their first two years here learning engineering foundation subjects with an emphasis on aerospace. In the following two years they study at the UK campus on individual and group design projects, as well as optional modules, depending on their intended specialisations. Ultimately, they will be trained to be an aircraft or spacecraft designer, much sought after by giant aerospace companies like Airbus, Boeing and Rolls-Royce They can choose to work in the UK where its aerospace industry is already well-established or return to Malaysia. The new Malaysia Aerospace Industry Blueprint 2015-2030 was recently initiated by the Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT) which means there will be plenty of aerospace-related job opportunities in the near future.

Gan specialises in composite materials for aero-structures.

What makes a successful engineer? New problems crop up every day, and are getting more and more challenging with time. Engineers are problem solvers and are tasked to solve problems to improve the lives of mankind. To be a successful engineer, a person needs to be analytical, inquisitive and innovative. They need to continually think of ways to help things work better, faster and more economically than what we already have today. They also need to be able to work and communicate effectively in a team. How do you see your students making an impact in their profession? The students at USMC are generally outstanding so I expect our A&A graduates to work in big multinational aerospace companies like Airbus, Boeing, Rolls-Royce and General Electric or for Formula One car manufacturers like McLaren – pushing forward the frontiers of science and technology. If they choose to return to Malaysia, they will lead and help establish the Malaysian aerospace industry and strengthen its presence globally. Either way, I see only bright and exciting job prospects for our engineering graduates.

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EDUCATION FOCUS theSun on TUESDAY | SEPTEMBER 8, 2015

ENGINEERING CORNER

Expertise in nanotechnology > Dr Suhaila Sanip on creating energy applications

D

R SUHAILA Sanip was intrigued by the chemistry of big molecules, namely polymers. She saw the potential in polymers to be the material of the future due to their excellent properties, such as durability and lightweight. She is now the Director of Education and Research Services at the University of Southampton Malaysia Campus (USMC). Currently teaching Professional Engineering and Functional Materials on the MEng Mechanical programme, she also oversees the operational process of research management, and curriculum quality control based on both Malaysian and UK standards. Suhaila has managed to secure a Global Partnership Award from the University of Southampton, UK campus to initiate research collaboration between USMC, University Technology Malaysia (UTM) and Nagoya Institute of Technology Japan.

What is the most challenging project you have been involved in? Nanotechnology came to the forefront of our shores at the beginning of the millennium. I was involved in a big project under the Ministry of Science Technology and Innovation to develop a hydrogen storage medium for fuel cell application. This led to numerous literature reviews and brainstorming sessions where our team decided to embark on using carbon nanotubes as a medium of storage due to their high absorbency and most importantly, because they are the safest medium. We were one of the early teams in Malaysia to produce our own homegrown carbon nanotubes. It was such a joy to see the first images of the tiny tubes with my fellow researchers. I then further explored the applications of carbon nanotubes with polymers for the separation of fl uids. This was one of the most challenging projects as we started from zero knowledge and we managed to produce our own carbon nanotubes in the lab.

What are you currently working on? I am now working on polymer composites, utilising carbonnanotubes and graphene for energy applications. This is part of a collaborative project with UTM and Nagoya Institute of Technology, Japan to develop mixedmatrix membrane (MMM) consisting of inorganic materials such as carbon nanotubes with polymers. Membranes are used as filters for the separation of both gases and liquids. MMMs are considered new generation materials which possess the synergistic properties of both inorganic and polymeric materials, potentially making them more robust and durable, especially in harsh conditions. I am also working on a project to develop Thin Film Transparent Graphene Electrode for Organic Solar Cell (OSC) which is awarded by the Ministry of Higher Education through their exploratory research grant scheme. New materials such as 1D and 2D graphene has shown potential as the emerging technology for electrodes in organic solar cells. The use of thin film technology in graphene is expected to revolutionise the manufacturing process by reducing cost as the layers become much thinner and less purifi cation processes will be required.

What is your advice for students entering your field of study? In whichever field students embark in, they must be willing to work hard and play hard in their undergraduate studies. A well-balanced student life is more important than scoring straight As. This will ensure that when they graduate, students will be able to meet the demands of working life, which in reality is much more challenging than studying. What characteristics are necessary to be a successful engineer? It is important to be passionate about the subject you are studying as well as to persevere with all the challenges that each subject presents. Always interact with your peers and lecturers as this helps in your studies. How do you see your students making an impact when they graduate? I hope the graduates will be able to contribute towards our nation’s growth, especially in realising the Wawasan 2020 objectives. With the rapid development of industries in Malaysia I expect USMC graduates to be the drivers of change in innovation and technology – both in Malaysia and internationally.

The OSCs, fabricated using thin film graphene, are expected to show a power conversion efficiency of more than 70%, indicating that a graphene indium-free transparent electrode is a potential substitute for the conventional ITO electrode for use in cost-efficient OSCs.

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