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The University of Southampton
University of Southampton Malaysia

Developing next-generation sensors for safer and better living

Published: 15 May 2019
Dr Pu Suan Hui
Dr Pu Suan Hui

Technologies that help increase our safety, support our health, and raise our quality of life, have always inspired Dr Pu Suan Hui to improve the design and manufacture of environmental and wearable sensors.

"By making these sensors small while increasing the amount and precision of environmental data, we could change the way that data is gathered, analysed and consumed. In the near future, everyone will be wearing a device with environmental sensors, allowing them to get real-time data on things like temperature, particulate levels in the air and even detect toxic pollutants,’’ he said.

An Associate Professor at the University of Southampton Malaysia (UoSM), Dr Pu is developing sensors that measure physical parameters like temperature, moisture, strain, visible light, environmental gas concentrations and other important data. He believes that with the miniaturisation and cost reduction of sensors, it opens up countless possibilities for utilising these small and energy-efficient devices. 

He shares enthusiastically: ‘’For instance, the trend towards developing smart homes and smart cities is just beginning to take off, fuelled by a boom in the Internet-of-Things (IoT) phenomenon. A large proportion of the data generated by IoT devices come from the sensors embedded within and I am excited that there will be many novel use cases for sensors in this field. Before you can apply smart algorithms for data analytics or machine learning, you first have to generate the signals and this is where the sensors are needed.’’

Life as an academic

‘’It is hard to describe a typical day because it varies depending on the academic semester but that is exactly why this job is so interesting,’’ explained Dr Pu who spent nearly eight years at Imperial College London wherein he obtained his Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and a PhD in Electrical and Electronic Engineering.

‘’I could begin the day by reviewing an academic paper which has been submitted for publication at a research journal, followed by a discussion with my PhD student on research progress. I often host visitors from the industry or other academic institutions to discuss possible collaborations and internship opportunities for our students. Going into the latter half of my workday, I could be giving a lecture or having one-to-one discussions with personal tutees who have appointments with me. To end off the day, I often visit my PhD students and research collaborators who are based at partner institutions. I am passionate about both the education and research aspects of my job and it has been a rewarding career so far.’’

According to him, one of the most exciting things in his academic career was setting up a brand new branch campus. Dr Pu is among the pioneers of Southampton Malaysia when it was established in 2012.

‘’I am proud to say that UoSM has made great progress over the last few years. As an academic, my main priorities are to ensure that our students are taught well and we continue to grow our research capabilities.’’

The University of Southampton Malaysia now offers a range of engineering programmes, which include an Engineering Foundation Year, a MEng in Aeronautics and Astronautics, a MEng in Electrical and Electronic Engineering, and a MEng in Mechanical Engineering. Each undergraduate programme offers a variety of specialisations that meet the demands of various industries and trends for future development.

Current programmes are offered on a 2 + 2 arrangement with students spending the first 2 years of their degree at Southampton Malaysia before transitioning to Southampton UK for the final 2 years of their degree.

Advice for future engineers

‘’Engineering careers are very diverse with some requiring more technical depth and others requiring more people management expertise. In all cases, being mentally agile and creative in problem solving leads to the best outcomes for any engineer. Apart from detailed sector-specific technical knowledge, engineers often work in teams across business functions within an organisation so being a team player is extremely important as well. A well-rounded engineer has the ability to grasp technical concepts, has good communication and negotiation skills and ultimately the ability to build a business case for every decision that is proposed.’’

Dr Pu also emphasised the need for future engineers to demonstrate they are resilient as most recruiters are looking for engineers who are determined and can pick themselves up after a setback. He also added that engineers need to be more holistic while having fundamental skills which revolve around conversation and action, being able to interact with the situation and converse with others in order to bring great ideas into solutions.  

 ‘’You need work hard, aim for a good degree qualification, but in the process make full use of your university years to enrich your learning through extra-curricular activities. At UoSM, we have a rich selection of clubs and societies, and students have the opportunities to get involved in activities like TEDxUoSM, IET on Campus, IMechE Student Chapter, Robotics Club and many others. There are also research opportunities offered to our undergraduates during the summer break.’’


About the University of Southampton Malaysia

The University of Southampton Malaysia (UoSM), an international branch campus of the University of Southampton, is located in Educity, Iskandar Puteri, Malaysia. Established in 2012, UoSM offers world-class engineering programmes including MEng in Mechanical Engineering, MEng Aeronautics & Astronautics, MEng Electrical & Electronic Engineering, and Engineering Foundation Year. Offering a unique student experience, the university enables students to spend their first two years in Malaysia combined with the final two years at a research-centred university in the UK. Learn more at

About the University of Southampton

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