Meet Jiayi. Jiayi Li is a current student at the Harbin Institute of Technology in Shenzhen, China. Jiayi was a 2019 undergraduate summer school student in GET's Engineering Research Academy program. Her hometown is the city of Chengdu, located in the Sichuan province of China.
What was the most memorable experience of your GET program?
We took three courses, in total, in our GET Engineering Research program last summer. They were: dynamic systems, dynamic systems labs, and sensation and perception. The most memorable experience was during one of the sensation and perception classes.
I remember clearly that our two professors from the Department of Psychology, Simona Buetti and Alejandro Lleras, brought a big yellow light tube, which is around one meter long. They turned off the light in the classroom and turned on the yellow light tube. The classroom was filled with yellow light.
Then, they asked us to distinguish between colors from a handful of M&Ms (milk chocolate candies). A few minutes later, when they turned on the lights in the classroom, we were surprised to find that we could hardly tell the difference between yellow and orange ones - also red and blue ones - for they looked almost the same in the yellow light.
I was impressed because, although we have known that our brain may be cheated by the ambient light since middle school, we had only learned this from the textbook. I have never had such a vivid experience.
How did you apply what you learned at Illinois to your studies at the Harbin Institute of Technology?
I was not active in class before. I was a little shy, and I never tried to interrupt teachers to ask questions in class. On the one hand, I was afraid my question was silly, or I had the wrong idea. On the other hand, I thought I might waste others’ time. However, in our dynamic systems class, there were only six students.
Professor Srinivasa Salapaka from Mechanical Science and Engineering made sure everyone caught up with him, by asking if anyone had any questions. He told us it is very important teachers get feedback from students, to adjust their teaching speed. Also, for most of the time, many students have the same question. Once a student raises [the question], the teacher will know what is the point that he or she should go further with.
What influenced me most from the GET program is the idea that my questions are worth answering. And I started to ask questions in class when I came back to Harbin Institute of Technology.
What motivates you to achieve academic success?
For me, motivation is not something big, but a simple idea. That I should try my best to do the present job. Like many other students, I do not know what I want to do in the future. So, I thought I should cherish every opportunity to learn, finish every assignment I would receive to the best of my ability. And then, if I have a goal, I will be well-prepared to chase it. Sometimes, it is hard to stick to a long-term plan, while it is more effective to make an effort to do your present job.
Now, I have been admitted to graduate school at Tsinghua Shenzhen, thanks to my three years of hard work. For me, it is a new beginning. I must work harder in the future by continuing to do every present job well.
What are your professional goals and future plans?
I will complete further study with my graduate supervisor, in the field of artificial intelligence and robotics, which concerns: control algorithms, motion planning and other knowledge. If I am suited for this research direction, I will pursue a PhD, either at home or abroad.
Are there any stories that you would like to share about your time at the University of Illinois?
Yes, of course - we had many interesting experiences there! We tried many different foods on-campus: American food, American Chinese food, American Korean food, and American Indian food.
We found that typical American packaging is oversized, compared to in my own country. I remember I bought a tub of ice cream, and it took me three days to finish it! And it’s also very funny to find that the same food may taste differently at different places, for the chef always tries to cater to local tastes.
Is there anything else you would like to share about your experience with Global Education & Training?
The best way to know about a university or a culture is visiting it in person. Due to geographical and other conflicts, we all have some misunderstandings between different cultures.
Before I visited the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, I had never been in English-speaking environment. I worried about a lot of things, like: Can native speakers understand my non-standard English? Can I understand what the teachers say? I was also curious about a lot of things: Are people friendly there? What's an American university like?
The Engineering Research program offered us a precious opportunity to get in contact with some of the most knowledgeable professors in the world. Our three professors and two teaching assistants were very kind and patient. This year, I had a control systems course at Harbin Institute of Technology, which was similar to the dynamic systems course from the GET program.
I wrote an email in March to Professor Salapaka to share my happiness to learn something more about dynamic systems and ask about how he’s doing. I am very grateful that UIUC and GET gave me the chance to join the Engineering Research program. I hope UIUC and my university, HIT Shenzhen, can have future collaborations and communication.
Learn about GET's student programs at the University of Illinois.