Sunday, 22 February 2015


Yang Lusi’s worst fear is bad luck and she finds it annoying when people say ‘whatever’. Most people would be surprised to learn that only 14 people out of the 1.4 billion people in China share her name and she’s proud of her unique name even if most people do not know how to write her name correctly in Chinese. One day, after she retires, she would like to open a coffee shop and a hotpot restaurant, but for now, her goals are to become a professor and to travel to Korea.


Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Chongqing (CQ), a municipality in Southwest of China. Hotpot was invented there. When it comes to CQ, people mostly talk about its hot (spicy) food and hot weather in summer (indeed, sometimes the temperature even reaches 40 Centigrade ☺).  But more importantly, Chongqing has the hottest girls in China. In my mind, our personalities are like what we eat: HOT! You will be overwhelmed with our warm heart and our passion. If you interact with people from Chongqing, you will also find they are straightforward and having diversities of minds. 

What are you studying at SoC?
I am in the 3rd year of my PhD in major of Information Systems. My research interest lies in crowd-based innovation and entrepreneurship. The current study I am working on helps to build theory on entrepreneurial learning on IT-enabled crowdfunding. My research provides practical insights for entrepreneurs to design experiences to promote entrepreneurial success. In the long run, my work will also provide actionable items for effective design of crowd-based platforms to energize innovation. 

What was your academic path before coming to SoC?
Before coming to NUS, I got my bachelor’s degree in software engineering from Sichuan University. In the eyes of most people, it is probably not a mainstream major among women. As I remember, there were only 40 women (out of around 300 students) in my batch. Although I have liked mathematics and logic since childhood, frankly speaking my first year in undergrad was far from easy because of my limited background knowledge in some of the seemingly “basic” classes in computing, like C programming. So, what I did was to be dedicated to my classes. Through diligent studies, I was very excited to be able to become one of the best students in this major. I love my major. It exposes me to the latest technological innovations. The best part was, I enjoyed the feeling of working with my teammates during projects. We struggled to think about our ideas. We stayed up late to debug for the program. We practiced again, again and again for our project presentations. But when we achieved success in the end, I have to say, the feeling was awesome!! Finally, all of my teammates (four in total) graduated with first-class honors.  
During my last year of undergrad, I applied to work in the machine intelligence lab in my university and gradually started to know academic research. For my final year project, I undertook a project to create a medical image processing platform. The goal of that project was to provide an program for doctors so that they can choose the appropriate segmentation, registration or three-dimensional visualization algorithms they want; as well as to provide a flexible toolkit of united interface for the engineers. Meanwhile, I got to know from my FYP advisor about the opportunity for doing PhD in School of Computing at NUS. I was very excited. Since my first year in undergrad, I was dreaming of studying abroad, to interact with people from diverse cultures and to work with them. Two months after I submit my application, I was so glad SoC gave me this opportunity. That’s the beginning of my current life… 

Why are you doing a PhD?
After I started my PhD journey, so many people have asked me the same question. I was asked this question in the interview when I applied for PhD here. To be honest, I do not think we need to find a reason to start a PhD. It seems like this decision is not like what a normal person would make, even though I do admit every PhD student has her/his own uniqueness (in other words, or his own version of “weirdo”, haha…). For me, if I have to find a reason, I would say it is because of “feeling”. I believe I am destined to do this PhD. Sounds irrational? Actually I think I am a rational person, most of the time (nobody is totally rational). Making a decision is like a coin toss. The moment you flip the coin, one of your subselves has made the decision for you. In my opinion, not every person has the chance to choose to do a PhD. Since you have the opportunity, why not?
Like most PhD students, my PhD journey in SoC is not easy.  I remember, in my first year, someone told me, doing a PhD is like getting on a five-year bus ride. Our choices of different buses decide our outcomes after five years. Have to say, finding the right bus (i.e, the research domain you like) to ride is hard, especially for first year student without much academic experience. The route of exploring topics is like a trial-and-error learning process. In my first two years of PhD, I explored several research directions and started to do some preliminary research. Finally, I decided on my research domain - ICT-enabled entrepreneurship and innovation, especially on crowdfunding. Yes, the feeling of finding a right topic is like falling in love with Mr. Right. It deserves the time and effort. I do love one saying from my advisor Professor Hahn: research is the process of re-searching. Now, I do enjoy the journey of exploring and the process of learning. 

After five semesters studying, I am starting to realize that what matters in this journey are not only what we learn during classes, but also the “capability to learn” and the “entrepreneurial attitude” towards work/life. In my opinion, doing a PhD is like being an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship is our attitude, and it determines how to think and act. We are our own bosses, converting ideas into work. And we need to shoulder the responsibility for our own decisions. After five years, we should be experts in our research domains. 
I really like a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt: “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people”. Exactly, the final purpose of working hard is not to surpass others, but to step into the world of great-minded people. That is true! I love every second of thinking about problems and discussing ideas with my professors and colleagues. 
The next time another person asks me “why do you do a PhD”, maybe I still will not have the exact answer. But there is one thing I can be sure of: if I could go back to two years ago, I would make the same decision without hesitation ☺

What do you enjoy doing when you are not studying or working?
In my spare time,… 
I love dancing and listening to music, especially Kpop and street jazz.  
I like singing. But need to find friends to sing with me in Singapore!
I need shopping, like skin care products. 
I enjoy chatting with friends. This makes me excited~

Quick-Fire! What do you do during Chinese New Year?
Be grateful for my 2014 and plan for my awesome coming year. Most importantly, (enjoy) nice chatting!

If you had to eat only one item from one of the NUS canteen stalls for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Yong Tau Foo at arts canteen ☺ 

Guilty pleasure?
Shopping? ☺

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Wednesday, 4 February 2015


Lynnette Ng studies computer science and uses her skills to help build underwater robots. If there was one thing she would change about SoC, it would be to add a pool table like this one to the student lounge. I think she should just build it with some of you. Who’s in? 

Where did you grow up?
I studied in NUS High School. Surprisingly, I did not do any computing subjects nor did I touch a computer much. One day I received an email about an SoC outreach camp and decided to check it out. It introduced JC students to simple concepts like the history of computing and simple Scratch programming. So I realised computing is fun and I decided to study computer science.  

Describe your experience as a SoC student.
SoC is ‘pressurizing’ fun. The modules are challenging and the projects are usually not easy. But once I start working on it, I enjoy it more. We work until late at night, sometimes overnight, but when I see the completed product, the sense of satisfaction is amazing because I’ve just made something from nothing. 

Which faculty members made impressions on you? 
All the faculty members are awesome in their own special way. That’s why I love SoC. During the exam period, Prof Gary Tan came to the student lounge to distribute food vouchers and play foosball with us. Prof Leong Hon Wai gives out coffee awards, so if you do well in his class, he’ll treat you to a coffee (can be exchanged for other drinks). 
Prof Ben Leong is the funniest. Ben Leong’s Lonely Hearts Club solves a very real and pressing problem in SoC (and in Singapore), to help the Singapore Government meet their 6.9 million population KPI. If you need some help or advice, I’m sure he’ll be glad to help :). 

What is the craziest thing that you did or that happened when you were a student here? 
On Halloween (2014), Sarah Tan and I decided to do something crazy! We had the idea a few days before when the SoC page advertised a Halloween profile picture contest. Well, we needed a break from the crazy semester, and we wanted to make people happy. So us being us, we came up with the Sarah-Lynnette cause. So we borrowed paint and cardboard from the Computing Club, and painted ANDROIDS!
The next day, on Halloween, we went around SoC dressed as Android KitKat and Android Lollipop to hand out… yes, kitkats and lollipops! Although the costume was bulky and hot, we enjoyed ourselves, and we did feel very happy when we brought smiles to those who were furiously coding, and crashed a few Profs’ meetings. Best of all, we gave out almost all the kitkats and lollipops, and some people gave us sweets in return! I’m also very thankful for all our friends who supported us through painting, cutting cardboard, walking around with us, and even laughing at us and giving us those ‘face-palms’. 

What do you count as your most significant achievement to date?
Winning the Google Anita Borg Scholarship. I heard about it during the Orbital Liftoff and upon my friends’ persuasion, I decided to try for it. This scholarship included a 5-day sponsored trip to Google Japan where I met many outstanding women who were studying computer science. It was the time where I really started to appreciate what I have in SoC, after I heard stories from the other women. In Singapore, I am not denied a chance for tertiary education, while some of the Indian and Vietnamese girls had to fight hard and even agree to arranged marriages to study computer science. Studying CS does not make me any less of a woman to the community, nor do any faculty or students question my ability to perform because I am a female. No doubt I do enjoy special privileges, like gentlemen will open doors for me or offer to buy me lunch, but I am thankful that unlike an Australian awardee, I do not have to work extremely hard or enforce my views to get heard. Although I always say that I won the award because I’m female, but really, I won it because I truly love computing. 

What is something most people would be surprised to learn about you?
My childhood dream is to build a rocket to go to space. 

What do you enjoy doing when you are not studying? 
I draw. I like to draw architecture and buildings. I like to draw them with a lot of details. I usually do ink drawings, but sometimes I try different mediums too. Once in a while, my friends will commission me to draw cover art for his music. Each time he does, it’s a challenge. I’ve got to listen to his music and understand how it fits into the title, then make the art depict his intentions. Usually I get it wrong the first two times, then I keep trying and eventually am able to colour his music through my art. 

Best movie you’ve seen this year?
Penguins of Madagascar. I watched it as a late night movie on the last day of my exams. It’s a silly movie with totally random scenes, but it was a great way of relaxing after a stressful exam season. I laughed from the start to the end because the penguins are immeasurably cute!

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