Lieuwe is a 4th Year PhD Student in the Centre for Bio-inspired Technology, and is supervised by Dr Tim Constandinou.

Where did you do your undergraduate degree, and what was it?LL

For my undergrad I studied in Hong Kong at the University of Science and Technology.  It was an electronic engineering programme but it was a little bit more specialised towards actual integrated circuit designs. 

Why did you choose to study at Imperial College London?

One of my reasons was that my family are based in Europe so it was nice to move back. I was considering moving back to Holland and going to university there, but since I was already quite proficient in English and comfortable with an international environment, I thought why not give Imperial a try.

Could you summarise your PhD project:

I am doing my PhD in the Centre for Bio Inspired Technology (CBIT) which focuses on bio medical technologies and aim to set up collaborations with other research groups and clinicians.  Our group in general looks at the electronic aspects of next generation neural interfaces, working on both hardware and software.

For my project I am building a system to obtain recordings from the brain. Traditionally you would implant an array of electrodes into the brain, and then these electrodes would drive a robotic arm for example. Current systems are very bulky, invasive and not very stable at all. I am trying to create an implant that is fully integrated which can record and also process the data retrieved, and send that data to a computer or robotic arm.

One of the problems I am facing is that the way people analyse and process data which come from these implants is changing all the time.  I need to make sure that the implant I design doesn’t become obsolete in a couple of years.  So now I am working on creating something which is more software defined, so that it isn’t the hardware which could limit you, and the software can be re-programmed without taking the implant out.

 What have you enjoyed most about your PhD?

There are a lot of things I have enjoyed. I really like the self-organisation and exploring sides of a PhD.  If for example you realise that you need to learn more about a particular subject and improve your skills, then you have the freedom to do that. I have moved from hardware design to software design and so I spent some time improving particular skills associated with that which was invaluable.  My supervisor is Tim Constandinou, and it’s really quite exciting working for him, even if you talk to him for just a couple of minutes you realise how many projects he's involved in.

 What do you think of the facilities here?

It's quite impressive actually. The CBIT has a well equipped lab and we even have an anechoic chamber, and if you need something for your research you can usually get it. 

What’s it like living and studying in London?

When I first came here I kept comparing it to Hong Kong for example of the cost of living and transport issues, but now I appreciate it more.  London has a really nice cultural side and you can always find something to do. I find there is so many different ways you can enjoy yourself because it is such a diverse city. 

I really appreciate the general work ethic of my lab and it is very friendly.  The surprising thing is that I socialise with my colleagues a lot and I think that's amazing as most people don’t have that opportunity to really mix on different levels with the people they work with. 

What are you hoping to do after your PhD? 

That’s still a very difficult question for me. At the moment I am looking at continuing in academia because I have really enjoyed my time here, and I appreciate the freedom of being in research.

Do you have any advice for people wanting to study a PhD here?

The most important thing is to have passion for your subject. If you are not driving your work forward it’s very difficult to get the results you expect. It’s best to have passion for your work as it will bring you a long way.  Curiosity is also important, whether it’s for engineering, or any field.