Manping Jia is a fourth-year Ph.D. student in electrical and computer engineering. She is a member of Marco Rolandi’s Research Group where she studies ionic conducting materials to develop novel bioelectronic devices with biomedical applications. Upon completion of her doctoral studies, she plans to pursue a career where she can utilize both her engineering expertise and materials science background.
Why did you choose the Baskin School of Engineering Electrical and Computer Engineering Ph.D. program?
Even though I have a bachelor’s and master’s degree in materials science, I’ve always been interested in bioelectronic device research and my career interests align with being able to develop tools or platforms for diagnostic and therapeutic applications. I applied to five or six universities in the U.S. for my Ph.D. studies. After my UC Santa Cruz interview with Professor Marco Rolandi, I knew I wanted to be a part of UCSC’s Electrical and Computer Engineering Ph.D. program. I was intrigued about the research happening in Professor Rolandi’s lab and truly believed the Ph.D. program would offer a collaborative and supportive culture to its students. I also chose UCSC because of its proximity with the Bay Area, and I fell in love with Santa Cruz’s culture and beauty.
What has been your favorite part of the program?
My favorite part of the program has been getting exposed to the diverse research faculty are working on within my department. There are many fields within electrical and computer engineering, and Baskin Engineering faculty are always willing to share their research with students in the program, provide research opportunities, and help guide their interests into career plans.
Describe the research you’ve been working on during your doctoral program.
During my Ph.D. program, I’ve focused on studying ionic conducting materials, by collaborating with chemists, and developing novel bioelectronic devices with biomedical applications, which have been used to control stem cell membrane potential and further their differentiation in a closed-loop manner. The combination of bioelectronic devices and machine learning mimics the biological feedback system, which has great potential in regenerative medicine and synthetic biology. This project was funded by DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) and has been published in the Advanced Intelligent Systems journal and highlighted by Science Daily.
In addition, I’m also working on another DARPA-funded project to develop a flexible smart bandage that can not only monitor the wounds but also stimulate healing as needed. A telemedicine platform using AI technology would use data from the sensors to adjust the healing stimuli and report the progress on a dashboard. The ultimate goal is to use a combination of mobile health, telehealth, AI, and regenerative medicine to improve wound healing and care management. I really enjoy working on interdisciplinary projects with researchers from diverse backgrounds. Collaborating together inspires creative ideas that seek to solve challenging problems.
You’re about to graduate. What’s next for you?
I would like to keep doing research, whether that be with a big company, or with a tech start-up, or with another faculty member at the university. I want to be able to use my expertise in materials science with my electrical and computer engineering doctoral degree. My dream job would be one where I could develop wearable bioelectronic devices for health monitoring.
What advice would you give students just beginning the UCSC Electrical and Engineering Ph.D. program?
Always work hard and never give up. Make sure you’re doing all that you can to build your expertise in your specific field. It’s also important to work with your peers to broaden your knowledge and develop creative ideas for future projects. And, make sure you’re enjoying your life by taking in the beauty of the campus and the city of Santa Cruz.
In celebration of Women’s History Month, do you have a woman scientist or engineer role model?
My biggest role model is the physicist and chemist Marie Curie. She worked very hard and obtained amazing achievements. I really respect her perseverance to keep pursuing her passions and make contributions to the field of science, especially during the time period she was from.
Tell me a fun fact about yourself.
I am a big fan of listening to music, but I am a terrible singer (ha) and don’t play any instruments. Listening to music brings me joy. Pop music is my favorite category of music, and I love the sound that comes from the cello instrument.