Xiaohan (Sasha) Wang

'If you want to be someone that contributes to the innovation of technology in the future, UC engineering is a good platform...'

  • Sasha Wang

Bachelor of Engineering with First Class Honours in Computer Engineering

Master of Science in Computer Science

Researcher, Wireless Research Centre

When Sasha took a computer programming course in Year 12 at high school, she became ‘fascinated’ by the range of applications for the skill, and realised it was what she wanted to study at university. After completing her Bachelor’s degree, she went on to complete a master’s degree, where she had the chance to develop a real-world application of her own.

‘My project was about improving the wireless communication process for Christchurch’s bus finders – the devices you often see at bus stops that display how many minutes until the bus will arrive when you press a bus route button – so they can be more energy-saving and reliable,’ she explains.

‘The fact that the outcome of my project could be used to improve our current public transport service and benefit the general public makes the research very meaningful.

Sasha worked on her master’s at the Wireless Research Centre at NZi3 (the national ICT innovation institute) and has gone on to take a contract job there as a researcher.

‘The Centre provides students with opportunities to work on industry-focused problems with the benefit of co-supervision from the academics from the university. This is typical of the way NZi3 makes connections between industry and the broader university pool of expertise.’

Sasha says her choice of undergraduate degree gave her a great foundation for this work.

‘It taught me independent learning, research skills, and gave me training for common software and hardware tools. Being a Computer Engineering student, I’ve taken courses both from Computer Science and Electrical Engineering. I feel fully equipped for what I’m doing now by having the knowledge of both the higher layers of the telecommunications hierarchy that are taught by the Computer Science department and the lower layers that are taught by the Electrical Engineering department.

‘I’ve learned various ways of solving engineering problems which, while systematic, did not limit my creativity in finding solutions but helped me to think in the right direction.’

At high school Sasha was accepted into UC’s STAR programme which gives secondary students the opportunity to study university courses.

‘The main advantage of doing it is you get a taste of how university courses run, which definitely helps a lot. You also get to meet other talented people who are the same age as you and passionate about the same thing as you. I would recommend STAR to those year 13 students who are seriously interested in the subject, well capable of the current school work and are planning to put in extra effort, time and commitment on top of normal school work. This will become one of the remarkable things you’ve done when you look back.’

Sasha also won an undergraduate summer scholarship (co-funded by UC and Tait Electronics) and a Ministry of Science and Innovation scholarship for her master’s study. However, even as a very able student, she has had to overcome challenges to achieve her academic success.

‘I remember that there was an academic writing test that the student has to pass in order to enter the second year (first Professional Year) of Engineering study. The test requires a fairly high standard of English writing skills. It was very hard for me – English is my second language – and I failed the test three times! Luckily I had a final chance at the beginning of my second year. I studied English hard over the summer holiday, and before the test, there was a two-week intensive English course organised by the department. Those two weeks of training really gave me a thorough understanding and improved my skills in academic English writing.’

Sasha explains that this kind of support at UC has been a key feature of her education here.

‘At UC, however much effort you spend, you will find that the University will spend the same in facilitating you to achieve your goal... I could not have achieved as much without the support of my lecturers and friends.’

Sasha has a few words of wisdom for prospective Engineering students:

‘If you want to be someone that contributes to the innovation of technology in the future, UC engineering is a good platform for you to develop all the necessary skills.

‘I don’t think intelligence is a prerequisite for doing an Engineering degree, but determination in achieving your goal definitely is.’

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