ACSE student month is here and to kick start proceedings is a great profile from one of our PhD students - Siung Ghai. Enjoy!

Siung is from the Island of Borneo, where he spent the first 7 years of his life in the tropical jungle, chasing chickens, climbing trees, playing with animals and hunting in the forest with his family.

With no form of proper education until he was 7, Siung only began learning English and Science when he turned 12, but this meant moving away from home and attending high-school in Kota Kinabalu (the capital state of Sabah, Malaysia). Fast forward 11 years and Siung is now studying for his PhD at ACSE and has big dreams for the future.

What subjects did you study prior to ACSE?

SG Profile PictureI undertook the Unified Examination Certificate (UEC) in Malaysia which is equivalent to A Levels and I studied Mathematics, Physics, Biology, Chemistry, additional Mathematics and English. I then went on to obtain a BEng degree in Aerospace Engineering with First-class (Honours) from The University of Sheffield in 2014.
Why did you choose ACSE?

The principle reason I chose ACSE for further study was mainly because of my supervisors, Dr Simon Pope and Professor Michael Balikhin, who are the top researchers in my area of interest, Space Physics. Having worked with Dr Pope previously, he was a great supervisor who motivated me, ignited and fostered my potential and helped to shape me as a good researcher.

Focus of your PhD?

My PhD title is ‘A systematic study of vortex like structure in the induced magnetosphere and ionosphere in Venus’. My research interests include identification of nonlinear structures in space, collisionless shocks and planetary plasmas.

Future career goals?SGQuote

My ultimate ambition is to be an astronaut - but this will take years of hard work and preparation. I wish to enrol into academia within the department of ACSE to continue my research on space physics, specifically Venus. I also hope to obtain my pilot’s licence so that I can start collecting hours of both commercial and fighter aircraft flight. Along the way I hope to pick up any engineering industrial work experience that I can whilst waiting for my dream of an opportunity on a space program.

Favourite things about ACSE?

First of all, the academic staff in the department are some of the best lecturers and professors I have ever met in my life. Each and every one of them is world renowned in their respective field. The admin staff are very friendly and since I spend most of my time in the department - it really does feel a bit like a big family.

Siung 1How will ACSE help you in the future?

Many people know how good ACSE is in robotics or mechatronics, but what’s lesser known is that Space System Laboratory (SSL) from the department of ACSE is a world class research group in the field of experimental and theoretical space plasma and solar physics. SSL has actually been actively involved in high profile space missions such as the Venus Express.

ACSE is the best possible option for me, equipping me with both technical engineering and science knowledge at the same time. A criterion that all astronauts must have.

Most challenging aspect of PhD study?

Firstly, to study for a PhD you have to be very self-disciplined. A PhD is all about your own work and research. As an undergraduate student you have certain tasks to complete and deadlines to meet in order to ‘pass’ your degree. But at PhD level work is done mostly on your own. You have to broaden your own knowledge and be motivated to read lots of scientific research papers - standing yourself in good stead in your own research area.

There are many challenging elements involved in PhD study, but there are always staff in the department of ACSE who are more than happy to help!

Most rewarding aspect of PhD study?

Working in SSL, I get to use and analyse first hand data from space missions, information that is crucial to enable me to be a leader in this research field.

I also have to mention another rewarding aspect of my study, working with my supervisor, Dr Simon Pope. He has been the best supervisor I could have asked for and he has become more than just my supervisor, he is a friend, a mentor and an inspiration.

From the jungle to outer space - Siung’s journey is not only inspirational but makes you realise with hard work and dedication anything is possible!