PHAS Engineering Physics student Yuqing Du shared path to artificial intelligent research

June 24, 2021

UBC Applied Science recently featured Engineering Physics alumna Yuqing Du (BASc 2019) on the International Women in Engineering Day. Below, Yuqing shared her experience in the Engineering Physics Program and an update on her current research project. She is now a PhD Student and AI Researcher at the Berkeley Artificial Intelligent Research (BAIR) Lab. 

Since graduating from UBC Engineering Physic in 2019, Yuqing has found her niche in doing research with UC Berkeley on robotics and Artificial Intelligence (AI). With an interest in how robots can work in real life settings to empower and uplift people, Yuqing says her favourite part of being a being a research engineer is not only “being able to build things and seeing things to work in real life,” but even just knowing “the potential impacts that [her] work may have on other people.” 

However, It was not until completing her co-op terms did Yuqing start to pursue the route of being a research engineer.  

“Deciding to go into research was a roundabout journey that came about trying a bunch of different things in co-op during undergrad, in both industry and in research.” Yuqing explains. From being software engineer intern at Copperleaf Technologies to a hardware engineer intern at Tesla and Google to a Research Assistant at UBC’s Collaborative Advanced Robotics and Intelligent Systems (CARIS) Lab, Yuqing’s exploration as a UBC engineering student was limitless.  

Through trying out all these different decisions, Yuqing discovered how much she loved the autonomy of being a researcher.  

“What I found was that with some of the industry positions, I would be working on projects that [would] contribute to some high-level goal that the company had in mind, but may not necessarily align with what I was personally really curious about. What I thought was really valuable about working in research positions (and the research position I have now) is that I am able to explore ideas that I truly find interesting.”  

Yuqing recalls signing up for conference the first year of her PhD just to go attend and listen to the speakers. Fast-forward one year, and Yuqing’s own research was being accepted, allowing her to give presentations and speak about her work and interests. “It felt really surreal to reflect on how just one year prior, I was struggling to even just get to attend the conference, and a year later I was presenting on what I thought was cool and interesting.” Yuqing’s career journey reminds all students to never settle until they find a career they are truly passionate about, and to find a career worth celebrating. 

A version of this story originally appeared on the UBC Applied Science: Behind the Career website.