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Nanyang Assistant Professor Xu Yan

Professor Wang Peng 


NTU EEE’s Prof Xu Yan recently had his appointment upgraded from Assistant Professor to become one of the university’s much-valued “Nanyang Assistant Professor”. Prof Xu tells us more about himself, his background and his academic experiences. 
“I obtained my B.E. and M.E. degrees from South China University of Technology, China, and PhD degree from the University of Newcastle, Australia, in 2008, 2011, and 2013 respectively. After my PhD graduation, I conducted postdoctoral research at University of Newcastle in New South Wales, and later Sydney. Finally, this year, I joined NTU EEE and was recently awarded the Nanyang Assistant Professorship. It is NTU’s flagship elite faculty programme, where only up to 10 are awarded internationally for all areas per year.


My research focuses on power system stability problems, including its analysis, control and optimisation in the context of large-scale renewable integration and smart grid development. To date, I have published 46 international SCI journal papers including 24 IEEE Transactions and 13 IET Proceedings. Furthermore, I have also authored 27 peer-reviewed conference papers and 2 book chapters. I have also received a number of competitive academic awards including 4 IEEE and IET paper contest awards. I am also pleased to say that my research deliverables have been practically applied by power utilities in Australia, USA, Hong Kong, Macau, and China Mainland.

Since I’ve joined, I have been enjoying myself very much working here. I’m very proud to be a faculty member at one of the largest and top-ranked EEE schools in the world, and having the opportunities to learn from and collaborate with so many eminent scholars. The School is very supportive – it has created a perfect environment for young faculty to grow up independently and quickly. The school has various visible and invisible supportive resources such as first-class research labs (such that I don’t need to spend extra time and efforts to build one), close relationships with the engineering industry (such that I have various industrial funding opportunities), and specialised funding for research network expansion (e.g., I can visit top universities and know other scholars to build up more international collaboration). Most importantly, being a NTU EEE faculty member simply allows me various opportunities to make my mark and achieve milestones at one of the top academic platforms in the world! 

In the meantime, my colleagues are very friendly and helpful. They have provided me with numerous valuable suggestions, guidance, and experience sharing, from which I have benefited greatly in developing my research profile and in building up my research team. Overall, my journey at NTU EEE is immensely pleasant and enjoyable!”

Prof Xu’s proudest moments in research to date:
“My research aims to improve power system security and reduce the risk of blackouts. Power system is one of the most fundamental infrastructure for our society. Due to the environmental pressure, the modern power system has been integrating more and more renewable energy resources, such as wind and solar power. However, these renewable energies are intermittent and uncertain, which have introduced significant technical challenges to the system. I have been devoting my efforts to developing methodologies and tools to better evaluate the power system’s stability, and to control and optimise it in such a context. 

As such, my research outcomes have went on to be published in a number of high-quality international journals and many of my outcomes have also went on to be practically applied by power utilities. This is my proudest moment in my research, just being able to improve a small increment level of power system security, can help save an enormous loss from blackouts.”

What EEE-related projects Prof Xu is currently involved in:
“I’m currently leading a research project to utilise various data measurements in power system to support system’s security operation and control. Our power systems have been evolving towards a “Smart Grid” era, where advanced sensing and communication devices have been deployed, such as smart meter, phasor measurement unit, etc. These devices can collect a tremendous volume of data (can be called as “big data”), ranging from different timescales and geographical locations. This project aims to develop novel power system data analytics techniques to extract useful information and knowledge from these data, and that a more efficient and informative operation and control of renewable energy-penetrated power system can be achieved.” 

What motivated Prof Xu to apply for the Nanyang Assistant Professorship:
“The Nanyang Assistant Professorship (NAP) is the university’s flagship faculty programme. Through an extremely rigorous selection process, only up to 10 are awarded internationally for all areas per year. The NAP comes with a very generous package, including a huge amount of start-up funding, a number of PhD students, as well as various personal benefits. The NAP is definitely a top honour for a young researcher like myself, but most importantly, it provides me a perfect platform to conduct high-level research. NTU is the world’s fastest-rising young university, and as a young scholar, I believe that it is a smart decision to join the university and grow up as quickly as it.

Besides that, the Singapore government has a strong commitment to investing in scientific research, and has been creating a highly supportive environment for researchers to realise their research ideas. The country has various research funding grants to support my research, and a solid industry base which allows me to practically implementing my research outcomes. All of these attracted me to apply for NAP.” 

Some of the things Prof Xu looks forward to in his new position:
“The new position is a substantial change for me. Unlike a post-doctoral research fellow who only needs to work individually and focus on one or two specific topics, an Assistant Professor needs to develop a more comprehensive research profile and independently lead a strong research team. 

I feel very lucky to be the first Nanyang Asst Professor in the power engineering area, but clearly this title means more expectations of me. In the short-term, I will work hard to achieve the following aims: 1) Continue with high-level research and achieve more high-quality research outputs and international impacts, 2) Develop cross-disciplinary research collaborations with local and international partners, and devote more efforts to translational research, 3) Attract more research funding, talented students, and outstanding research staff to build up a sustainable and internationally renowned research team.”

Prof Xu gives his take on what he thinks are the future challenges students would face:
“We are now living in a dynamic, fast-changing, and open world. Taking scientific research as an example, every day, there will be a large number of new technical publications or patents generated. On one hand, we are lucky to enjoy so much academic resources – they sometimes help our own research to be “easier” since we can learn useful information from them. However, on the other hand, we are expected to make more novel innovations to be competitive. 

For students, I believe the competition will be even higher in the future, and truly be on an international basis. As a student, he/she should have an independent thinking but with a global perspective, be able to develop innovative ideas, and work collaboratively. Notwithstanding all that, I would suggest students to plan well ahead, not only for short-term study purposes but also for a long-term career development.”

We learn how Prof Xu motivates his students and team:
“Research students are extremely important assets to me! I am very lucky to have 3 very talented and self-motivated students to work with me. I try to create an active, collaborative, and flexible environment for my students to concentrate on research. 

I have been maintaining close relationships with my students. Every week, we gather together to have a lunch meeting, we chat on academic and non-academic topics (such as long-term career planning, interesting news in the research community, etc.). Through such meetings, I can also track their personal work progress, know about any difficulties they’re encountering, and help them out. Furthermore, every month, we have a formal group meeting to update on one another’s research works and other goals. I encourage every student to think independently and work collaboratively. This sort of attitude is effective in developing cross-disciplinary thoughts. 

The most frequent words I use to encourage my students are “your future is in your hands”. I always tell them that every effort they have made will be paid back to them in the future! However, I don’t wish to give them too much pressure. Instead, I try to guide them to discover their interests in research, and encourage them to have a balanced research life. I also encourage them to “work hard and play harder”!

In general, I believe that the best encouragement is to make myself a good example. I will do my best to be that and grow with my students together.”

Find out more about the full aspects and benefits of being under the career track of a Nanyang Assistant Professor here.


Published on: 11-Nov-2016 

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