Celebrating Excellence in Research and Impact Awards 2020

Dr Jinya Su


Winner: Outstanding Early Career Researcher in the Faculty of Science and Health

School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering

Please explain your research in two sentences.

My research falls into the interdisciplinary area of intelligent autonomous systems by developing novel situation awareness, decision making and smart intervention algorithms to address the global grand challenges faced in transportation, agriculture, and environment.

I am now developing innovative solutions by leveraging artificial intelligence, Satellite/Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) remote sensing and intelligent robotics technologies to tackle the challenges (e.g. dynamics, uncertainties, constraints) in sensing, modelling, and operational environments in order to enhance system smartness, autonomy, safety and sustainability.

Why is your research important and what difference will it make?

The Industrial Strategy sets out four Grand Challenges (Artificial Intelligence and data, Ageing society, Clean growth and Future of Mobility) to put the UK at the forefront of the industries of the future, ensuring that the UK takes advantage of major global changes, improving people’s lives and the country’s productivity.

In particular, transportation, agriculture and environment are facing a number of common and pressing issues such as safety, energy-efficiency and sustainability. In order to properly address these issues, interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary research should be conducted, which requires knowledge and skills from various disciplines.

With a diverse educational and research background, I strive to develop novel autonomous intelligent systems by leveraging state-of-the-art algorithms and technologies in artificial intelligence, robotics and control, which significantly contribute to addressing these challenges in the short term and therefore help build a safe, smart and sustainable future society in the long run.

Please provide a summary of your research achievements

After joining Essex in September 2019, I was awarded a STFC project (£400K) by using Satellite/UAV remote sensing and artificial intelligence for crop disease monitoring and precision treatment. I have successfully delivered several prestigious research projects funded by EPSRC, STFC, BBSRC in the areas of Autonomous Vehicle and Smart Agriculture (£3+ Million in total). On these topics, I have published 40+ papers including 28 journal articles and have won a number of awards. I have been a Guest Editor for three journals, IEEE, SAGE and Frontiers, and have been a reviewer for CRC press, US-Israel funding body, 40+ journals and 20+ conferences in the area of autonomous intelligent systems.

What has been the biggest challenge in your research career and how did you overcome it?

Originally trained to be a mathematician in theory (only with a Bachelor of Mathematics in reality), it was quite challenging for me to make a transition from conducting theoretical research to practical one when I first started my PhD journey back in 2012. Because in addressing practical engineering problems, I lost the privilege of making a bold assumption but instead should carefully address problems under various constraints. My PhD and Postdoc supervisor, Professor Wen-Hua Chen at Loughborough University, helped me a lot by giving me precious opportunities to take part in interdisciplinary research projects and the chance to work with researchers from different backgrounds. Learning from others and field work did help me in changing my way of thinking. Now I am confident and happy to cross disciplinary boundaries and work with a team on multidisciplinary research projects.

What would be your top three tips for fellow early career researchers?

  1. Good research is by far the most efficient and safest way for short-term and long-term success in academia.
  2. It is too easy to stay within our own epistemological comfort zone, however, widening our expertise is more likely to open doors to the sorts of research collaborations we need to develop our careers.
  3. Visibility matters. Keep publishing, networking and building your profile. Meanwhile, also keep your profiles (Essex RIS, Google Scholar, LinkedIn, etc.)