Interview with Chang-hee (Andy) Won, Ph.D.

Dept. of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Temple University

From February to July 2019, prof. Chang-hee Won of Temple University in Pennsylvania, USA will be visiting CTU as a holder of the Fulbright-CTU Distinguished Chair fellowship. His professional interests include sensors and image processing and advanced control theory. His host will be prof. Jan Kybic from the Department of Cybernetics of the Faculty of Electrical Engineering. We asked Prof. Won several questions before his arrival.

Tell us something about yourself - what was the impetus for your choice of electrical engineering? What role did your teachers play in your choice? Did your interest start at an early age or has it developed later, during your studies? Were there engineers or scientists in your family?

To answer your last question first, nobody in my family is an engineer. My father was an diplomat, my mother was a librarian, my siblings are all in the business side.  I am an odd one in my family.  My interest in engineering stemed from the love of physics and math in my high school years. I had a great physics and calculus teacher in Vienna.  Engineering was a natural extention of those interests.

Your research area is very broad: from satellite control to biomedicine to defense research. Can you characterize your scientific work?

You are correct. I have a diverse interest in research.  Current focus of my reseach is in tactile sensing systems, where we are emulating human touch sensation.  The satellite research was due to the job that I had right after getting my doctoral degree.  I worked as a senior researcher at a research institute called ETRI. There I developed a low earth orbiting satellite control systém.  Then I switched to an academic job at Temple University.  Temple University did not have aerospace engineering, so I switched my application to biomedical side. Now, I work on sensing systems for biomedical applicaions such as breast cancer and body fluid retention.  I am more of a systems engineer.

What is for you the biggest challenge in your domain? Where do you see your contribution?

Sensing systems is a relatively new domain. We have many different types of sensors that are well developed and used. I believe that by incorporating those sensors into a systém, we can tackle much larger problems.  For example, a pressure sensor can be used to detect tumors, but a pressure sensor with appropriate force sensor and image processing will not only be able to detect tumor but also be able to characterize tumor as being malignant or benign.  Another interest of mine is in dynamic interrogation using sensing systems.  Most sensors are static. They are mostly in one location and sensor the values that they are supposed to measure. By attaching sensors in dynamic robotic arm, for example, much more information can be found.  This is one of the areas that I would like to contribute.

Can you describe the laboratory (Control, Sensor, Network, and Perception (CSNAP) Laboratory) that you lead at Temple University?

CSNAP laboratory is a lab at Temple University that I direct.  Currently, we are focused on sensor and control technologies with biomedical applications.  CSNAP usually has any where from five to twelve members during the year. They can be a faculty member, a post doctoral researcher or  gradudate students.  Many undergraduate students participate as senior design projects or summer research programs.  We work on sensing and control projects.  The laboratory is funded by the National Science Foundation, Department of Defense, Pennsylvania Department of Health and various industry grants. 

How does research funding work at your university?

University typically provides a startup fund for assistant professor, but for a senior faculty member all the funding comes from an outside source.  In the USA, the federal government has many funding agencies; National Institute of Health, National Science Foundation, Army Reserach Office, Air Force Research Office, and Navy Research Laboratory. There are also state, industry, and Foundation grants.  Typically a faculty member apply for those funding and if they are awarded, they use those funds to perform their research. These programs are highly competitive, so most professors spend a lot of time applying to these programs.

Why did you choose to apply for the prestigious Fulbright-CTU Distinguished Chair?

I always wanted to come to Prague. This probably started from my high school years in Vienna.  But somehow, I never managed to visit Prague.  So, when the opportunity showed up at the Fulbright website, I jumped at the chance.

Are students and professors in your school and in your field motivated to study abroad? What benefits are expected from foreign stays?

In some US universities, over 75% of the undergraduate students participate in study abroad program. So, yes students are very much interesated in going overseas. At Temple University, the number is lower and in engineering the number is even lower.  This is mainly due to the number of required credit hours to obtain engineering degree. There is not much room to take elective courses in engineering and that makes study abroad difficult.  The faculty members and administrators are recognizing the benefits of study abroad program, so they are trying to expand the program.  Some of the benefits are obvious such as a architecture major going to study abroad in Rome, but there are not obvious benefits that is perhaps more important.  One of the most important benefit of study abroad program is realizing what you take it for granted is not so in other countries.  Water is one example for US students.  Water is plentiful and relatively cheap in the US. That is not necessary the case in Europe. Realizing water is a resource that needs to be nutured is an important realization for US students.

Have you been previously on a similar sabbatical stay abroad?

No, I have not done overseas sabbatical. The last sabbatical was at University of Pennsylvania in the USA. I spend a semester in the physics department of the University of Pennsylvania. It was good to experience how a different university operate. Now at CTU, I look forward to experience Czech wýays of running things.

Will this be your first visit to the Czech Republic?

Yes. This will be my first visit to the Czech Republic. I look forward to meeting Czech people and drinking famous Czech beer.

What is the Prague experience for you and what do you expect from it? Have your choice based on just professional criteria or do you have some personal relation to Central Europe?

So far, I am imagining something like a Viennese experience, but I am sure Prague is different.  This choice was professional as well as personal.  Professional because I know CTU is an excellent engineering school and personal because I always wanted to visit Prague.  Hopefully this is a beginning of a long relationship with Czech Republic both professionally and personally.

Are you planning a joint research with CTU staff?

Definitely.  I plan on a biomedical image processing project with professor Jan Kybic.  I also will work with Dr. Hurak Zdenek in optimal control, and professor Antonin Platil in sensors.  Hopefully there will be others who I can collaborate with. Having a broad research interest might become useful in this case.

You are a scientist,  you work in the laboratory and with students. Are students an inspiration for you? What are today's students like?

Students definitely inspire me.  They are different then when I was a student. They have lot more information and knowledge.  They are also very quick and they learn fast.  Extremely good with internet, computers, and smartphones.  Also, many students are environmentally conscious.  This is a good news for the planet.

What will you teach during your stay?

I will teach Scientific Writing course with professor Michael Ynsua.  I will also lecture on optimal control in professor Hurak Zdenek’s course and professor Antonin Platil’s  modern sensor’s course.  I look forward to teaching and learning from the CTU students.

You will be teaching a Scientific Writing course together with a language lecturer. Are there such courses at your school and are they mandatory?

No.  We assume that the US students are good in English.  But we are comtemplating whether such a course is necessary.  Regular english writing is different than scientific writing in many ways.  The students who learn to write scientifically will succeed faster in the reserach world as a proposal writer or editors.  After teaching this course, I might start a Scientific Writing course in my home university.

Anything you would like to add?

I am slightly concerned about food and cooking. Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated. I look forward to getting to know many Czech students and faculty members.


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