Jingjing is a 4th Year PhD student in the Control and Power Group and is supervised by Professor Alessandro Astolfi.
Where did you do your undergraduate degree and what was it in?
I have two undergraduate degrees. One is from the Harbin Institute of Technology in China which I started in 2006, a BEng degree in Measurement, Control Technology and Instrument, and then I transferred to the University of Birmingham in 2008 for another two years for a BEng degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering, and so I have degrees from both universities.
Why did you choose Imperial College London to do your PhD?
Initially I looked to do a Masters and at that time I wasn't familiar with Imperial but I looked at the website and at the rankings, and Imperial is quite high. I chose to do a Masters in Control Systems at Imperial. After I finished my Masters, I applied for a PhD with Professor Astolfi (my supervisor during my Masters project) in the Control part of the Control and Power Group. I am in my final year of my PhD.
Could you explain what the Control and Power Group does?
The Control section of the Control and Power Group looks at designing controllers for different kinds of systems to achieve several different tasks, maybe to make a system move quite quickly and safely, and to be more energy efficient.
What does your project look at?
My project is about shared control. We are looking at a control scheme to combine human user input and automatic feedback control. We know that humans are more interactive and more inventive when they operate a system, but with an automatic feedback controller safety is guaranteed and it’s more reliable, so we are trying to combine the two to take advantage of both. I am trying to apply this first to a linear system and then extend the results to non-linear systems - mobile robots and these kind of systems (wheelchairs, cars, etc). We have run simulations and experiments to prove that the results are what we expected.
Linear systems are more like ideal systems. In fact, most of the systems we used in the real world are nonlinear systems. That is why our final target is to build shared-control algorithms for nonlinear systems even though we start out study with linear system. Theoretical proofs of the feasibility of the shared-control law for different systems have been established. In addition, significant progresses have been made on the shared-control scheme for multi-agent systems, such as transportation systems, and simulation results have shown incredible superiorities compared with human controls.
What have you enjoyed most about your PhD?
I like the freedom. There are no strict rules about working hours in Imperial. As long as you are making progress and have results to show others, no one cares about when and where you work. My supervisor is perhaps different from others as he is quite busy as he is a group leader and has a lot of work to do, so usually our meetings are quite short, perhaps five to ten minutes once a week, but what we discuss is actually quite effective. He does not tell me how to do things, instead he suggests what I could do. Usually we use our short meetings to discuss next steps, he will give me some suggestions or maybe I will raise some ideas and we try to pick up ones that we are both really interested in. The strategy I am taking for my project I found myself and I quite enjoy that. I failed several times in the beginning, but I overcame those difficulties and that is what I enjoy most about my PhD.
What do you think of the facilities?
The facilities are quite good. We can order what we need online and build robots to do our experiments. I think the Department is quite supportive.
What do you think about studying in London?
London is quite a big city and you can find everything you need. Because of it's the capital, a lot of people from different countries come here and work and so it's multi-cultural. You won't feel lonely here, you can meet a lot of people from different countries, even from my own country. During our free time we can go to parks as there are a lot of parks in London, which is quite good as we can have some fresh air and refresh our brains and maybe come up with some new ideas for our projects.
What do you hope to do when you have finished your PhD?
I think I want to do a postdoc or another research position and stay in the academic area.
How has Imperial inspired you?
My colleagues are very smart, and even though we are working on different projects sometimes we share ideas. As the Control and Power Group is divided into two, I am perhaps more familiar with the control area, and someone else might be more familiar with the power side, so if I want to apply famous theories in other fields to my project, I can talk to my colleague and save some time. Sometimes I ask them questions such as do you think it’s possible to apply this theory in my applications or in the system I’m studying, and they will give me some useful suggestions, and I will do the same when they approach me. The Power Group organise discussion sessions to allow us all to discuss our findings together, so that everyone can keep updated about the research taking place.
Have you got advice for anyone looking to do a PhD at Imperial?
I think that it is best to meet your supervisor before you choose them as different supervisors have different styles.
What do you enjoy most about being a student here?
I have a good relationship with my colleagues and our group often organises activities like hiking. The staff here are quite supportive and they will always give you good suggestions and advice. The lecturers and staff are quite famous and their knowledge is strong, so you can learn a lot talking to them, and I think that is important as a PhD student.