At TUMCREATE, as we prepare to conclude our research in Phase Two – Towards the Ultimate Public Transport System, we would like to highlight our researchers who continue to make significant contributions to the programme. Through our interview series, People behind the Science, we talk to our researchers to discover more about them and their stories.
We have Meng Xie, research associate from the team Rapid Road Transport (RRT), with us today.
Meng Xie has started living in different cities to study at a young age of 13. Being exposed to different worlds at such a young age, she learned to appreciate the many things in life and really likes traveling, food and music. She mentioned that one of her best decisions was to take up violin. Known to be full of life, she likes to keep herself active by taking jogs and swims and she always tries to dip her toes in areas that she finds interesting such as dance, movies, philosophy and psychology.
Q: Tell us about yourself and what you do…
Hi, I am Meng Xie, also known as Sophie by my peers, and I am from the team RRT. I got my bachelors in Highway and Bridge Engineering at Southeast University and my masters in Transportation Systems at the Technical University of Munich (TUM).
I am interested in dynamic public transport priority, V2X communication techniques, simulations, and modelling. My research focus is on proactive transport management, which makes use of the V2X communication techniques to optimize the usage of road space between public transport and private vehicles.
Q: What made you come to Singapore, and how has it been like living here?
The cultural tolerance and the beautiful sunny weather! From my experience, Singapore is one of the few countries that embraces different cultures and seeks a neutral balance among them, and I really appreciate this a lot. Also, the sunny weather is so wonderful that you can almost, always enjoy summertime here. It’s also a good spot to travel around Southeast Asia.
I was not that into fitness before but after coming to Singapore, I got more into it and even participated in a half-marathon! It started at midnight around Marina Bay and jogging with a backdrop of the skyline and lights, while enjoying the chilled weather, allowed me to experience a different side of Singapore. I have lived in Singapore for about three years now and so far, I am enjoying my life here a lot.
Q: Who or what inspired you to be in your field of research?
I guess the ‘nerdy girl’ in me is always interested in stuff that cannot be explained easily. How did some things happen? Why did it happen in one way but not the other? What is behind the phenomena? I always have questions like these. I cannot really say if it were just someone or something that inspired me but instead, I would say that it was because I have always been someone who is curious and sceptical about how things work.
Q: What are some of the challenges for you in your field of research?
Well, to be honest, there are quite some challenges in research. When you’re doing a research, it’s also like a process of self-reflection in getting to know who you are, what you can achieve, what are your limitations and what are the areas that you have never explored before. This is exciting but also challenging because it’s even harder to figure out. Apart from that, you also need to deal with your inner struggles on any self-doubts along the way such as questioning if your research makes sense, will it truly make a difference and is it applicable in real life.
Q: Tell us about your work and journey in TUMCREATE…
I joined TUMCREATE as a research assistant in 2017 and I have learned a lot from my colleagues during then. After finishing my master thesis, I was lucky and honoured to join RRT as a research associate and started to focus on my research project on Virtual Right of Way. This project is a cooperative dynamic bus lane system that aims at improving bus operation while minimizing potential negative impacts on private vehicles. It creates a flexible bus priority lane that is only activated on demand with the advanced information and communication technologies, which can maximize the usage of road space. Recently, I am preparing for this concept to be conducted in a field trial and I’m really excited about it.
Sometimes, research can get frustrating when I meet some obstacles along the way, but it is nice to have other fun researchers around which makes things easier. I have made some nice friends with my time here in TUMCREATE.
Q: What are some of your plans in the future?
For sure, I would like to accomplish my research targets in my PhD study. After that, I want to use what I have learned to help others in ways that I can. I always think that we are really lucky if we are able to learn what we are interested in and further apply it to contribute to the world and people. On the side, I would like to keep on playing the violin and hopefully I will make more progress in the near future.
(There are so many fictional inventions created in books and shows, which might be a scientist’s favourite?)
Q: What fictional invention would you like to see happen in real life and why?
Definitely the invention of Time Machine! I would love to observe and experience life in different time dimensions and periods. How do people think there, what do people eat, what are the entertainments they have? Do infinite dimensions really exist in which everything is different? If so, will there be one where animals will be able to talk and will there still be unbreakable barriers among different species? I have so many questions which can be answered if there’s a time machine.
Also, I would want to go back in time when I can see Edward Hopper and his ‘Nighthawks’ and attend concerts of The Beatles, The Doors and Niccolò Paganini! Above all, I would want to meet my grandma when she was young and have a nice chat with her. I would like to tell her that she is so pretty and that she will have a nice granddaughter who will do her proud in the future.
We definitely got to know more about Sophie through this interview! We can’t wait to see the fruition of her research work’s field trial and, in due course, a violin performance in the office.