Above and beyond

Dr Yuen Yong received both the Vice-Chancellor's Award for Research Excellence and the Pro Vice-Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Research Performance in 2014, a 'double' that is believed to be a first for the Faculty of Engineering and Built Environment.

Dr Yuen Yong with the VCThe Vice-Chancellor's Award recognises the commitment of researchers who consistently go 'above and beyond' to deliver exceptional results. The Pro Vice-Chancellor's Award recognises the demonstrated excellence of an individual researcher in their field.

"It is humbling to be part of the outstanding nanosystems and mechatronics research groups at the University. I am deeply honoured to receive these awards and thrilled that my research has been recognised at both the national and international levels. Winning these awards really encourages me in my future research and I hope that the attention will generate more interest among students to conduct research higher degrees in this field", says Dr Yong.

Following her initial appointment to the University as a research academic in 2007, Dr Yong was appointed as a Postdoctoral Fellow in 2012 and then to her current position as ARC DECRA Fellow in the Laboratory for Dynamics and Control of Nanosystems in 2013, where she is the Lab Manager. Her current position enables her to pursue her research interests including the design and control of nano-positioning systems, high-speed atomic force microscopy, finite-element analysis of smart materials and structures, sensing and actuation, and the design and control of insect robots.

Dr Yong has established partnerships with academics and industry not only from Australia but also from the USA, Germany, Switzerland, India and the UK. Her current research is focused on the design, modelling and advanced control of high performance nanopositioners for Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM), and she and her colleagues have had international success in their endeavours with a world-first innovation of a high-speed nanopositioner. The design addressed speed and position accuracy, the shortfalls of nanopositioning devices at that time, which are crucial for high throughputs positioning applications at nanometer scale. The resulting paper is the most cited in the journal since its publication in 2009.

One major shortfall of AFM is its slow imaging speed, often taking more than four minutes to obtain a high-quality image of a sample. To overcome this hurdle, Dr Yong and her colleagues were the first in the field to develop two novel scan patterns for high-speed AFM applications, the first of which improved the imaging speed of a commercial AFM by 100 times, the second of which allowed them to achieve high-quality video-rate AFM images at nine frames per second and 18 frames per second, speeds which cannot be achieved by existing commercial AFMs.

"The Atomic Force Microscope (AFM) has revolutionised nanotechnology research and the way researchers study the smallest aspects of life," explains Dr Yong. "AFM can be used to interrogate and to manipulate matter at the atomic scale. With its extreme magnification capability, AFM has created a whole new level of excitement to researchers, not only in the area of life sciences but in semiconductor manufacturing, nanofabrication and high-density data storage systems. My research work has been aligned towards enhancing the performance of AFM by improving its precision, accuracy and speed. It is both motivating and rewarding to know that my research outcomes have contributed to the cutting edge research of nanotechnology."

With a notable profile that includes more than 24 journal publications, 27 conference papers and one book chapter, Dr Yong has established her position in the field. She received the 2008 IEEE/ASME International Conference on Advanced Intelligent Mechatronics (AIM) Best Conference Paper Finalist Award, is a member of the Technical Program Committee of AIM, the International Conference on Manipulation, Manufacturing and Measurement on the Nanoscale (3M-NANO), and IEEE Multi-Conference on Systems and Control, and is an Associate Editor of the International Journal of Advanced Robotic Systems.

To her impressive early career achievements, Dr Yong adds her 2014 awards for excellence, recognition from the University for her results-driven commitment to her field of research.

The University of Newcastle acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands within our footprint areas: Awabakal, Darkinjung, Biripai, Worimi, Wonnarua, and Eora Nations. We also pay respect to the wisdom of our Elders past and present.