From Tsinghua to RWTH Aachen - Being an Exchange Student in the Cluster of Excellence Research

  Yun Gong sitting in front of a computer © Yun Gong

Yun Gong (24) grew up in Shanghai, but moved to Beijing to study Industrial Engineering at the renowned Tsinghua University. She is now doing her master’s degree in Human Computer Interaction and decided to come to Aachen as an exchange student. During her six-month stay, Yun Gong is working as a student assistant on a Cluster of Excellence project at the Laboratory for Machine Tools and Production Engineering (WZL) while writing her master thesis.

Why did you decide to come to Aachen to write your master thesis?
YG: The first time I heard of RWTH Aachen University was during a conversation with a fellow student from my home university, who compared RWTH Aachen to Tsinghua University. RWTH Aachen is known as “the German Tsinghua“. This comparison gave me the very first impression of RWTH Aachen and immediately aroused my interest and lots of questions: Why has Germany been able to lead the manufacturing industry for decades? Why is “Made in Germany” a quality label? I thought RWTH Aachen would be the place to find out. Afterwards, I volunteered to be the tutor for a group of Aachen students from the "Double Degree" program between our universities and I had a wonderful time with them. They were cheerful, friendly, interesting people. And their solid command of technical skills and knowledge, creativity and serious attitude towards technical problems impressed me. This encouraged me to apply for the exchange program with RWTH Aachen.

Which research project in Aachen are you involved in and what are your principal tasks?
YG: I am working in the Cluster of Excellence project area Self-optimizing Manufacturing Processes on the development of a self-optimized perceived quality measurement system. The aim of the system is to simulate the behavior of human testers in an increasingly complex and dynamic competitive environment as a result of changing product requirements, such as shortened product life cycles, increased product complexity, and the customer’s desire for more customization. My principle task is to train the robotic system to automatically identify potential test features (such as buttons) by using computer vision techniques. Furthermore, I research on the impact of several critical factors to enhance the accuracy and efficiency of the system.

What excites you about this project?
YG: It is fascinating that I am literally teaching a robot to understand the world. I am like a kindergarten teacher telling a robot “This is a button“. And this robot, with many other functions built-in, will become a self-taught loyal assistant in the production line. This is the future of manufacturing and artificial intelligence.

In what way is this research project important for the future of manufacturing in high-wage countries?
YG: There is an increasing demand in high-wage markets for products with high variance and customization. This poses particular challenges for the production process and in particular the quality assurance. A flexible production process integrated with a self-optimized, context-aware intelligent system is an important approach to meet this demand and this is where my research project is rooted in.

  Yung Gong outside at a park © Yun Gong

What is the biggest difference between Tsinghua University and RWTH Aachen?
YG: RWTH Aachen provides a first-class environment for international researchers: Funding is adequate at my institute, all reasonable research expenses are well supported and application requires minimum effort. Also, everybody speaks good English, which makes communication easier. Work time and location is totally flexible. It is enjoyable to have a professional IT team to cope with all the computer problems and a snack bar for free coffee. Unlike Beijing, Aachen is not too big and crowded. I really enjoy living in Aachen.

What do you like about living in Germany?
YG: I like about Germany that everyone who lives here can truly choose their own life. No matter which job you want to do, where you want to live, what interests you have, whether you are an open or shy person, as long as you make an effort and are brave to pursue your goals, there is always a way to happiness and life will reward the diligent and the honest.

What are your plans for your future?
YG: After finishing my master study in Tsinghua, I would like to search for job opportunities in Germany.
Thank you, Yun Gong, for the interview. We wish you all the best for your future!