In this editorial feature, we catch up with Dr Shane Kyi, Alumni of PhD – Engineering Product Development (EPD) / September 2020 who is currently a Research Fellow at the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD).
To find out more about Dr Shane Kyi’s research work, visit https://shanekhw.github.io.
Please tell us about yourself
My name is Shane Kyi, a Research Fellow working in the Aerial Innovation Research (AIR) Lab at SUTD led by Professor Foong Shaohui. I have a long history with SUTD. I was from the pioneer batch of the Engineering Product Development (EPD) Undergraduate Programme when SUTD started its curriculum back in 2012. Upon graduation in 2015, I went to work at HOPE Technik for a year before deciding to pursue a PhD back at SUTD and dive into the world of scientific research. Fast forward 4 years, I completed my research work and earned myself a round hat. However, I felt that there was much more to continue exploring in this research field which led myself joining SUTD as a research fellow in the same Research Lab (AIR).
I chose SUTD for both my Undergraduate and PhD degrees mainly because of SUTD’s unique position as compared to other universities. SUTD is small and nimble, while they still offer top notch faculty and research facilities. Being small means the community is closeknitted – you get to know everyone and there are a lot more interactions and collaborations. SUTD’s curriculum also features a healthy share of hands-on learning, where students work on projects which often cover multiple disciplines.
How would you describe your SUTD experience?
SUTD has a unique edge when it comes to empowering and promoting resourcefulness, self-learning and entrepreneurship. The labs are very well-equipped for conducting research. My most memorable experience of SUTD is with its people. SUTD comprises very knowledgeable and caring faculty, friendly administrative staff, and resourceful students. SUTD’s culture encourages students to tinker and be creative. For instance, in SUTD, it is quite likely to find peers who build their own electric skateboard, design a unique unconventional drone or write an app.
Share with us your roles and responsibilities in your current employment and what do you hope to achieve?
In postdoctoral positions, researchers function more independently as compared to being a PhD student. Researchers conduct highly specialized and advanced experiments, publishing results in well-reputed scientific journals and conferences. Grant proposal writing, networking and liaising directly with funding agencies are also part of the job scope.
I would love to publish my new research in high-impact research journals, gain experience on grant proposal writing, and find ways to use the new technologies that my colleagues and I had developed in real-world applications.
How has SUTD PhD Programme prepared you for your career?
The SUTD PhD Programme has equipped me well for my current role. The experience of PhD students largely depends on the mentorship they were given. In SUTD, there are many really good and caring professors. It also provided me with adequate international exposure during my exchange in Aalto University (although it was unfortunately shortened due to the pandemic) and various international conferences that I had the chance to attend.
Share with us the challenges you faced when pursuing the PhD Programme and what are you most proud moments?
One of the challenges I faced, which may be common to any PhD student, was picking the exact topic for my dissertation. It means you have to choose a particular research problem you want to solve for the entire duration of your PhD student life, where every research work you embark on during your candidature has to contribute to the bigger picture.
My proudest moments were when my research works were featured on IEEE Spectrum, which is an engineering magazine that shares latest and noteworthy scientific works. Being featured on IEEE Spectrum meant that the research community in general saw my research work as significant and outstanding, and I hope that it has inspired some researchers around the world.
What are your career goals / future plans?
I wish to bring the research and technologies that I have been working on to real-world applications and solve real-world problems. A good example is the ‘maple seed’- inspired drone devices that we have created. We hope that the devices will be able to tackle climate change problems that the world is facing today.
Any words of encouragement to students/professionals who wish to pursue post-graduate studies?
The post-graduate student life can be tough for some, with the requirement to publish your research at reputable journals and conferences. In order to go through this experience, I believe consistency is key. Post-graduate students have to consistently put effort into research, network, and collaborate. Taking one step at a time, you will be part of a journey that will take you for miles. All the best!