STEMM PROFILE: Dr Eva Cheng | Lecturer, Electrical and Computer Engineering | RMIT University | Melbourne | VIC
“It’s not so much a key piece of advice that has impacted my career, but the honest advice without judgement, in addition to my mentor’s invaluable ability to see situations in ways only someone with years of life and work experience can”
Being a Lecturer in the School of Engineering (Electrical and Computer Engineering) at RMIT University means that I am able to combine a number of my passions in life: teaching, tinkering with technology, humanitarian engineering and music! It may seem like a strange combination of interests but an academic wears a lot of different ‘hats’: from being a teacher, mentor, researcher, writer, supervisor to administrator, traveller and even student camp leader! I am able to help students, and it is very rewarding to see a student do well, understand something new or land that dream job after graduation.
I am also able to engage my passion for humanitarian engineering, including coordinating a first year course where students work on real-world design projects as part of the Engineers Without Borders (EWB) Challenge. Working within a team who partner with an institution in Hong Kong to teach, it’s definitely a perk of the job that travelling is involved: to conferences, research visits, and even to teach in other countries!
Although my PhD was completed in speech and audio signal processing, I have since branched out into multimedia signal processing research. I work with a variety of people and on a number of different projects, from microphone arrays to better record directional sound, surround sound speakers for immersive auditory environments, to developing automatic image and video object tracking algorithms to help biologists to better understand the movement and behaviour of cells. Multimedia is by nature a cross-disciplinary field, and I greatly enjoy collaborative research projects – fantastic ideas can come from people of different backgrounds with overlapping interests, and I’ve been lucky enough to collaborate with musicians, composers, film producers, sound designers, visual artists and biologists!
What would you say is your most valuable personal attribute that has helped you succeed?
I’m having trouble just choosing one personal attribute but certainly perseverance, sincerity and a positive can-do attitude have really helped me both in my professional and personal life. A sense of humour also doesn’t go astray, especially when things don’t always work out as you expect but there is always a silver lining somewhere!
Having many passions in life is a great thing – apart from tinkering with technology I also love music, contemporary (especially new media) art, reading, and travelling and eating my way around the world. Luckily and thankfully, my job allows me to combine my work with some of my favourite things in life!
What is your ideal holiday – and do you work on your holiday?
I love exploring new places, learning about new cultures and meeting new people – this is part of the reason why I love travelling so much! My ideal holiday is wandering around a new place on foot, discovering unexpected and unique nooks and crannies that ooze with local character. It’s hard to say whether I ‘work’ on holiday, because if I see something interesting related to work or meet someone I can collaborate with, I’d certainly grab the opportunity there and then to make the connection!
What inspired you to science? Have you always liked science? What do you love most about science?
It wasn’t until the Internet became a consumer technology during high school that I became fascinated with the potential for instant access to information and connecting people all over the globe. This led to my studying a telecommunications engineering degree, and when I discovered the field of signal processing in 3rd year, I found a way to combine my passion for music with my passion for technology!
Do you have a mentor? What is the most important advice they have given you?
I am very lucky to have a professional mentor and I attribute much of my success to my mentor’s unconditional guidance throughout the years. It’s not so much a key piece of advice that has impacted my career, but the honest advice without judgement, in addition to my mentor’s invaluable ability to see situations in ways only someone with years of life and work experience can.