Peter Cheung's Reflective Journey: Stepping Down as Head of Department


Peter Cheung, Professor of Digital Systems, Dyson School of Design Engineering

Professor Peter Cheung reflects on 4 impactful years as Head of Dyson School of Design Engineering, sharing his insights and achievements.

In the world of academia, where progress is marked by milestones and transitions, a distinguished chapter is drawing to a close. Professor Peter Y. K. Cheung, an influential figure in the field of engineering, bids a farewell to his role as the Head of Dyson School of Design Engineering. With a legacy of transformation and innovation, Peter's four-year tenure came to an end on August 1, 2023. In a heartfelt expression of his journey, he shares his reflections on the profound impact his time as Head has had on both himself and the entire design engineering department he guided. 

A journey of unexpected leadership

"I cannot believe that it has been near four years since I took over from Peter Childs as Head of School," Cheung reflects. A transition from his decades-long career as an academic in Electrical and Electronic Engineering (EEE) to his joint appointment between EEE and Design Engineering in 2018 laid the foundation for his eventual leadership role. "At that time, I did not in my wildest dream expect to lead the School as its Head a few months later." 

Resilience amid Global Pandemic

"I still remember spending the Easter break in 2020 soldering thousands of solder joints to prepare sending Lab-in-a-Boxes to 90 first year students in 22 countries around the world!" Peter Cheung Professor of Digital Systems

The defining hallmark of Cheung's leadership was the resilience displayed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Reflecting on the unforeseen impact, he notes, "No one expected back in 2019 that COVID would hit everyone in 2020, and that its impact would change the world forever." Amid this challenge, he commends the School's ability to thrive. "Our School not only survived COVID, but thanks to the commitment and dedication of our staff, we pulled through this period with minimal impact on our teaching. It was hard work on the part of everyone, me included."

Proud achievements

Design Engineering received the best NSS results of any department at Imperial College, This is something that we are very proud of.

Beyond education, Peter's legacy is woven into the fabric of innovation and entrepreneurship. 

He quotes with pride, "Our School continues to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship. In the past four years, we have had many student projects that won national and international competitions: the Tyre Collective,, and Mentis, just to name a few. Of the 20 finalists at the London Mayor’s Entrepreneur Competition in 2023, 9 were from our School. We eventually won in 2 out of 4 categories."

Growth and expansion

Under Professor Peter Cheung's guidance, the Dyson School of Design Engineering underwent transformative growth. New faculty members, lecturers, and teaching fellows enriched the academic landscape. "Our research activities have also grown significantly," he affirms, highlighting the expanding community of research staff and PhD students. "We have successfully recruited 5 new Professors, 1 Senior Lecturer, 2 Lecturers and numerous Teaching Fellows. We now have 30 academic staff and 10 teaching fellows to support our teaching programmes. In addition, our administration team has been completely transformed under the leadership of our new Department Operation Manager,Dr Natalia Goehring."

Link Bridge, Dyson Building
Link Bridge, Dyson Building

Peter Cheung discusses the design engineering department's expanded presence at Imperial College."Most important is the completion of the link bridge between the Dyson Building and RCS1. This allows us to expand into the main campus of Imperial College without getting cold and wet on a rainy winter day," he elaborates. "We now have in RCS1 building a new staff corridor housing 21 academics, a new IDEAS Lab for students, and are currently developing a new research lab, the I3-Lab jointly between us and IOTA Foundation. Another significant addition is our refurbished mezzanine floor in the ACE Workshop for students to build things."

Final remarks

As Professor Cheung's tenure draws to an end, his gratitude to the School's community is palpable. "It has been an absolute privilege for me to serve as Head for the past four years," he acknowledges. He expresses his confidence in Professor Robert Shorten, his successor, and outlines his continued involvement in the academic realm. "If you are ever in College visiting, please let me know and we will meet up for coffee. I will pay," Peter's gracious invitation marks the closing of this chapter.

Peter Cheung's reflections serve as a reminder of the impact of dedication and innovation within academia. As his journey as the Head of Dyson School of Design Engineering comes to an end, his legacy lives on in the institution he nurtured and the future he has helped shape.


Robert Shorten, Bob, Head of Department, Hod change, Dyson School of Design ENGINEERING

Stepping into the role that Peter Cheung has steered with distinction, the Dyson School welcomes Professor Robert Shorten as the new head. Professor Shorten joined the College in 2019 as Chair in Cyber Physical Systems Design at the Dyson School of Design Engineering. Prior to joining Imperial, he was Professor of Decision Science and Control Theory at University College Dublin, and before that worked at IBM Research. Professor Shorten's wealth of experience and diverse interests promise a dynamic continuation of the School's legacy. Stay tuned for his welcome message as the new Head of Department!


Sanjana Kakar

Sanjana Kakar
Dyson School of Design Engineering

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