Ting-Hsuan Chen: Living Life Beyond Boundaries
While other children were playing with their toys, 8-year-old Ting-Hsuan Chen had decided that she wanted to be an artist. She had it all worked out when she extended her open palm and asked her mother for the fee to attend a sketching class. With a smile on her face, her mother agreed. Little did she know that Ting would become a researcher and engineer who wants to devote her life to science and technology. Ting is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Professor Craig Arnold’s group in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.
Ting, who grew up in Taiwan, also had her father’s support. When Ting was in high school, he introduced her to industrial design. ‘’My father saw my interests and inspired me to bring my love of art into the world of modern technology,” she recalled. “He took me to visit his company, which holds the world-leading technology for sputtering services and I found out that industrial design requires an understanding of the fundamentals of materials. After that, I began to look seriously into material science.” A few years later, Ting enrolled in the prestigious National Taiwan University to major in Material Science and Engineering.
While there, Ting became particularly interested in organic materials. She dedicated herself to her studies and was awarded a Student Research Fellowship from the National Science Council of Taiwan to work as an undergraduate research assistant in the Optoelectronic Thin Film Processing Laboratory. One of her endeavors was silver nanowire production for improving the transparency of electrical-conducting thin film. “Until then, no one at the lab had done this type of work,” Ting said. “The experience helped me develop self-learning skills. Although the subject matter is different from what I do now, it prepared me to navigate through unknown territory during the PhD program here at Princeton.”
As the time approached for Ting to receive her bachelor’s degree, she realized that she loved doing research, so she applied to graduate schools in the U.S. and United Kingdom to pursue her passion. She was pleasantly surprised to receive her family’s full support and ultimately decided to attend Princeton.
Ting, who hopes to complete her studies in May of 2018, began working under Professor Arnold during her early days at Princeton. Among her projects was a collaboration between her and a fellow student to design and construct from scratch a 3D microscope integrated with an ultrafast tunable lens for fluid dynamics visualization. Before this project, Ting did not know much about lasers and optics but was able to use her self-learning skills to successfully complete the project.
“When I first brought the idea to Professor Arnold, he gave me the go ahead to proceed. He was very supportive,” Ting said. “He allows his research team to pursue our ideas as long as they’re not too crazy. That’s what I love about working in this lab. I devote myself to exploring new territory with interdisciplinary collaboration.” In another collaborative project, Ting was involved in the development of a novel nano-ribbon design fabricated by microelectromechanical systems technology for flow velocity and temperature measurement.
Ting’s work also involves high-efficiency laser material processing using ultrafast vari-focal lens. This novel idea of fast scanning focal position has significantly increased the material processing efficiency and opened the door to processing non-flat surfaces that have been traditionally challenging. Ting’s work has recently been published in such journals as Experiments in Fluid, Journal of Laser Applications, and Measurement Science and Technology.
Although Ting is dedicated to her work, she has fully embraced all aspects of life as a graduate student at Princeton. Her collaborative leadership skill can also be seen outside of academic research. She has been elected twice as the special events chair for the Graduate College. Inspired by Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In, which encourages women to take on leader positions in the workplace for a broader impact on gender equality, Ting also serves as the outreach chair for Graduate Women in Science and Engineering, an organization that advocates for inclusion and gender equality in STEM fields at Princeton and beyond. Through the outreach events for young girls, Ting hopes to encourage the next generation to pursue its passion in science and engineering.
Research suggests that many girls who show an early interest in an engineering career change their mind as they get older. Ting also has observed this phenomenon as she grew up. Ting recently served as an instructor for the Girls Who Code event at Princeton Day School and at the annual New York City Girls Computer Science and Engineering conference. Both of these events are aimed at enlightening high school girls about science and engineering.
“I was a girl who just wanted to paint, a girl who didn’t think I could accomplish anything other than that,” Ting said. “Now, as a woman, I want to dedicate my life to the advancement of science and technology, as well as serve society by helping to educate the next generation.”