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The University of Southampton
EngineeringPostgraduate study

Dr Ivan T.Y. Ling PhD, Engineering and Environment

Current student

Dr Ivan T.Y. Ling's Photo

Working towards a PhD at Southampton is a very enjoyable experience. I’ve found my supervisors to be incredibly supportive, providing feedback and advice constantly.

What made you choose to come and study at Southampton?

Before I decided to choose Southampton, I’ve actually obtained offers from two Australian universities, and a Malaysian university, alongside the offer from Southampton. Since I grew up in Malaysia, and completed my undergraduate degree in an Australian university, Southampton became my top choice. I wanted to experience something different, away from my comfort zone.

Can you provide a summary of the research you are working on within your course?

Currently I’m working on characterizing and designing environmental sensors using nanocrystalline graphite. Nanocrystalline graphite films are films consisting of extremely small, nano-sized graphite crystals, with high concentration chemical sensitive grain boundaries, or ‘cracks’. My work focuses on exploiting these tiny ‘cracks’ on the film to sense chemicals in the environment.

How have the facilities available at the University helped you with your research? Which facilities have you used/ do you use regularly?

The Southampton Nanofabrication Centre (SNC) is literally my second home here. I spend most of my time fabricating my devices in the Nanofabrication cleanroom. Without support from the SNC, I would not have the chance to fabricate and test my devices.

What is it like studying here?

Working towards a PhD at Southampton is a very enjoyable experience. My supervisors are incredibly supportive, providing feedback and advice constantly, and so are the post-doctoral researchers and support staff. My office is located just five minutes away from the Southampton Common. I find it incredibly helpful to have a walk at the Common whenever I need an extra boost of inspiration. The workload is incredibly challenging, but I’ve trained myself to stay away from work during weekends, to recharge and recover.

What have been your Southampton ‘highlights’ so far?

One of my best experiences was the Southampton Game Jam event. It was a 48-hour game hackathon, where we designed, coded and published a working game within 48 hours. Having no prior experience in game-making, I was surprised when I actually managed to contribute to the team, and create a working game within the deadline.

What other activities have you taken advantage of while at University?

Throughout my undergraduate years, I’ve always been an active Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) member. During my free time, I’ve been working together with undergraduate students to set up IET OnCampus Chapters at both the Malaysia campus and Highfield Campus.

What are you enjoying most about your course?

The feeling of satisfaction when I look at the beautiful devices I’ve fabricated under the microscope.

Do you have any idea of what you would like to do in the future? Have the opportunities you have taken up while at the University helped you have a clearer idea of what you might like to do?

During my first year as a PhD student, I have had the chance to work as a lab demonstrator and teaching assistant at the Malaysia Campus, and I really enjoyed it. Hopefully, at the end of my PhD I will be able to work for the University at the Malaysia campus and establish my research there with my supervisors. As a Malaysian, this is the best case scenario: being close to home, and working for a top UK university at the same time.

Do you like living in Southampton? What are the benefits of Southampton as a city?

I absolutely love Southampton. The main benefit of the city is its amazing cultural diversity. The city centre is also jam packed with music venues, art galleries and fantastic shopping facilities and a great restaurant selection, with options from all around the world.
What advice would you give to prospective University of Southampton PhD students?

I would advise prospective students to make full use of all the facilities and support provided by the university. Also, do not be shy about getting involved in outreach programmes. These outreach programmes allow you to communicate your research to wider, non-scientific audiences. In the process, you will gain valuable experience and confidence in presenting your research.

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