- Course: Machine learning PhD
- PhD title: Investigating the design of aircraft shapes based on reinforcement learning and computational fluid dynamics
Xue Sun is a visiting PhD researcher from Beihang University, China. Xue majors in aerospace engineering at Beihang, and is currently furthering her research in machine learning alongside Dr He Wang at Leeds. She is now part of the Visualisation and Computer Graphics research group, which is a team within Computational Science and Engineering.
Aerospace engineering meets computer science
Xue’s research is centred at the intersection between aerospace engineering and computer science. She explained how the two disciplines enter the scope of machine learning.
“Except for virtual reality simulation, I always thinking about combining traditional aerospace engineering with state-of-the-art technologies, such as machine learning,” Xue said.
“In general, the combination of advanced technologies or the cross-integration of different disciplines can always produce unexpected yet favourable results.”
She continued: “Fortunately, my supervisor Dr He Wang, who really helps a lot with my new research topic, is an expert in machine learning. We decided to realise the automatic design of aircraft shape using reinforcement learning, which is a good combination of aerospace engineering and computing.”
My goal is to figure out a new, more efficient method of aircraft design with reinforcement learning, which can be an effective supplement to traditional methods.
“Traditionally, this process needs designers to adjust the shape manually and calculate the aerodynamic results repetitively, which is time-consuming. So I am using technology to make this process more efficient.”
For part of her research, Xue is developing a ‘reinforcement learning network,’ which will determine the shape and design of future aircraft vessels.
Xue said: “Briefly, what I’m doing is coming up with a new method which involves designing a reinforcement learning network, and then feeding it with the 3D shape and corresponding Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) results. The aim is to make the machine design aircraft shapes automatically.”
She added: “My supervisor is a young expert in computer graphics, computer animation, computer vision and machine learning.
“He is always full of energy and willing to give pertinent guidance to students, and gives lots of advice on my research topic and specific implementation.”
My supervisor is... always full of energy and willing to give pertinent guidance to students, and gives lots of advice on my research topic.
A supportive community
Xue explained there is a lot of support available to postgraduate researchers at Leeds.
She said: “One of the greatest things here is that I can get almost all kinds of help I need.
“As we all know, it is not so easy to conduct research in relatively new fields. Dr Wang and my colleagues provide support with elements such as CFD and reinforcement learning, which aids me in carrying out my research.”
Xue continued: “Dr He Wang is also very kind in life and encourages us express our own opinions.”
She added: University of Leeds is an inclusive and diverse university with all kinds of outstanding researchers and advanced labs, and I can get all the support I need here. Also, the campus is beautiful.”
Visiting from Beijing
Having access to expert facilities on campus is just one of the reasons Xue decided to pursue her research further at Leeds.
She said: “My previous research in Beihang University mainly focused on the VR-based training for helicopter crews, such as a virtual reality environment and virtual simulation.
“The University of Leeds has a powerful virtual reality lab with advanced equipment, such as VR helmets, motion capture devices and so on, which provides strong support for my research.”
The University of Leeds has a powerful virtual reality lab with advanced equipment... which provides strong support for my research.
Pursuing a PhD is not only a means to further research interests, but also life experience, Xue explained.
“Enriching my experience in both academia and life is really an exciting part of my PhD life. It allows me to work with more excellent people, learn more knowledge and see different scenery,” Xue said.
She added: “University of Leeds is one of the top universities in UK, even around the world. And the school of computing is also famous. So it’s precious opportunity for me to study here as a visiting PhD student.
It’s precious opportunity for me to study here as a visiting PhD student.
Following her time at Leeds, Xue plans to continue her research back in China while also working with Dr Wang remotely in the long term.
She said: “I hope I can continue my current research after back to China, and continue to cooperate with Dr Wang and the University of Leeds in the long-term.
Academic exchanges between the University of Leeds and Beihang... is great for academic progress and cultural exchanges.
“Future prospects of academic exchanges between the University of Leeds and Beihang University excites me, as this is great for academic progress and cultural exchanges.”