I grew up a few miles from where the first integrated circuit was invented, I suspect that strongly influenced my career choices- it was probably not a coincidence that I studied electrical engineering at the University of Texas and then went on to work in the semiconductor industry. After a while, I realised I needed more fundamental knowledge to advance further, so I went back to university for a master’s in physics at Trinity College Dublin and then a Ph.D. in the same subject at the University of Freiburg. I later worked at Trinity College Dublin, followed by the Tyndall Institute at University College Cork.

Throughout my career, I have been fortunate to receive support from the European Union, Science Foundation Ireland, and several industry funds to work on projects with global companies such as Intel, Samsung, IBM, Hitachi, and TSMC, as well as with partners at universities such as Arizona State, Cambridge, EPFL, ETH, Florida, Nottingham, Stanford, and many more.

When I heard the University of Nottingham had a position available in my area at their China campus, I was intrigued. Nottingham has an excellent academic reputation, and that they had established overseas campuses in China and Malaysia revealed an interesting international vision.

I took the leap and was happy that I was offered the Li Dak Sum Chair Professorship in Electronic Materials and Devices, and that I have been able to extend my stay in a new role as Chair Professor in Engineering Physics. Not long after I arrived I also became the Head of the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering.

Two significant events followed shortly thereafter. First, our accreditation with the Institute of Engineering and Technology was approved jointly with the UK and Malaysian campuses. This was very significant because it was an important assurance of our quality standards. Second, the COVID-19 pandemic struck and along with it, as we all know, many challenges surfaced making life in academia hard. Still, despite hard conditions, our staff and students managed to work together and maintain the high standards expected in our degree programs.

During this period, I also started new research primarily focused on novel nanoscale materials, collaborating with partners in Ireland and the UK. Nanoscale materials have a wide range of applications across various fields including electronics, material science, medicine, and energy, among others, and this has opened up many exciting possibilities for material science applications and emerging technologies.

All of this was made possible because of the support provided by UNNC, and I’m not the only one to benefit from these opportunities. Year after year I see how the university provides a high degree of support for everyone within their three campuses. For instance, the professional learning services provided by our Learning Portal, along with other university-wide activities create a state-of-the-art education platform. Notably, UNNC also offers excellent research and teaching seed funding, Ph.D. scholarships, conference grants, and other incentives that make a big difference, enabling academic staff to ‘ramp up’ quickly after their appointment.

I’m really pleased to say the gender balance in the Electrical and Electronic Engineering department in terms of staff and students is actually quite good when compared to my days in university. It is wonderful that more and more women choose engineering as a profession, and welcome their valuable contributions. This is an example of how effective our EDI culture at UNNC is and is something to be celebrated.

Last but not least, I would also like to mention the very talented undergraduate students who inspire me to work harder to meet their high standards and my Ph.D. students and postdoctoral researchers who help me keep learning through research. Living and working in such an environment is an everyday pleasure. Being part of UNNC has been a fun journey.

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