Canadian Guest Researcher Iris Kong at CoE


Iris Kong, a Canadian guest researcher, stayed 2021 for a 9-months visit at the Institute of Industrial Engineering and Ergonomics (IAW) at RWTH Aachen, where she worked within the field of human factors and ergonomics. She assisted a Cluster of Excellence IoP project within the field of human-machine interaction focussing on optimization strategies in assembly processes. The research paper encompassing this IAW project is expected to be peer-reviewed and published in early 2022. Iris, a graduate from Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST)  with a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering and Engineering Management, will be moving on to study for her master’s at DTU Denmark this fall. Her motivation to stay at RWTH Aachen and her work for the Cluster of Excellence go back to her first contact with the CoE – the annual Engineering Summer School Programm in which she participated in 2019.

  Portrait © Source: Iris Kong Guest Researcher Iris Kong

Nice to meet you, Iris. Let us start with your first contact with RWTH and the Cluster of Excellence, where did your Idea to apply as a Guest Researcher come from?

I took part in a summer program back in 2019, the Engineering Summer School hosted by RWTH and the Cluster of Excellence. The programm was titeled “Production Technology meets Industrie 4.0” and I heard about it from my home university. They promote the program because RWTH is also a partner University of Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. I thought the topic was really interesting and applied for the Summer School.

And how did you go from participant in the Engineering Program to Guest researcher?

During the Summer School program, I met Matthias Brockmann. He gave a very interesting lecture about the Cluster of Excellence and also mentioned that ‘if you're interested in being an exchange researcher, you can just, talk to me, send me an email’. So I sent him an email after the Summer Program and I basically conversed with him for about a year, talking about how I could realize my vision of coming back as a researcher. We held contact through the pandemic which has just taken its full effects and then it was all just able to fit into place and I was able to start my nine months research stay at the IAW.

  Canoeing © Source: Iris Kong Iris also had the opportunity to discover different parts of Germany, like the lakes of the Eifel area.

How did your work at the IAW look like and how did the pandemic impact your stay?

I worked with Ralph Baier from the IAW and served as an assisstant while he was conducting experiments for his PhD-Thesis. But due to the pandemic, essentially r my typical work day was all ‘home office’ unfortunately. At the time I arrived, in late 2020, it was recommended that you still didn't go to the institute physically, if you didn't have to. So I only had the chance to meet my supervisor in person about three times during my stay and worked from home. The original plan was to conduct this entire experiment over nine months but because of Corona we were pushed back a little, but still managed to complete half of the preparations and experiments. We started with the literature research, completed the experimental design and focused on two aspects of the experiments necessary for the thesis. We were designing it for the people that would use this experiments, but we were also creating a simulation.  Even though the pandemic led to some restrictions, I was able to do many things from home. Through my time at the Institute, I learned how to use different software in the context of 3D-modelling and simulation. I had the opportunity to create 3D models with Blender and coding a simulation with Godot. I was also able to assist in editing a joint research paper within the IoP, “Human Digital Shadow; Data-based Modeling of Users and Usage in the Internet of Production” and was listed as a co-author

  Two persons in front of Cologne Cathedral © Source: Iris Kong The Cologne-Aachen area as a perfect space for research and international connections.

While you didn’t have the chance to physically discover the Institute, you had nine months to get to know Aachen. How did you like it here?

I love Aachen. When I first came here in 2019 I thought ‘this is such a lovely place to study and work and live’ and now that I’ve returned I’m glad to see everything has stayed the same in this regard. This time I started working on learning German and now I’ve been learning for about 10 months. Everything here is so convenient, you have a good public transport and everything's within walking distance. And once the lockdown was over, the possibility of going to the Netherlands for a trip and visiting Brussels was very cool. I lived in a WG with two friendly guys and I think it would be great to actually work here again in the future. I really liked it and will surely be coming back.