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Department of Engineering

PhD student’s academic and extra-curricular achievements honoured with award

PhD student’s academic and extra-curricular achievements honoured with award

PhD student Shirley (Xiaoqi) Liu has won a British Education Award in recognition of her achievements during her Cambridge Master of Engineering degree (MEng).

My undergraduate journey has been transformative and enjoyable. I’m happy that I cherished and made the best use of my time at Cambridge as an undergraduate student as much as I could. And now, the story is to be continued!

Shirley (Xiaoqi) Liu

Shirley won the England Zone 2 Degree category at the 2020 British Education Awards (BEA). She was nominated for the award by Dr Fulvio Forni, her former Director of Studies at Newnham College.

In his nomination, Dr Forni described Shirley as “a resourceful individual and a role model for all engineers”. He added that her extra-curricular activities are also noteworthy, including producing innovation work on data mining and automation software development, being invited as a project leader at the Micro Distance International Youth Forum (an outreach programme for high school students hosted in China), as well as undertaking numerous other charitable activities.

Shirley is now pursuing a PhD in Information Engineering at the Signal Processing and Communications Laboratory, working with Dr Ramji Venkataramanan, Lecturer in Digital Communications and Signal Processing, on high-dimensional statistics. Together, they have been developing an efficient algorithm to extract structures from large sparse data matrices. Such algorithms underlie many applications including, for example, the system that streaming services use to recommend films to users based on the users’ past film ratings. 

Shirley is also a teaching assistant for third year undergraduate courses in information theory and coding, and data transmission. 

“Having had many intellectually stimulating discussions with my peers and supervisors in my supervisions, I'm glad that I'm now giving back to the community by providing supervisions myself,” she said. 

“From someone who was nervous in her first year about speaking up in supervisions to one of the best IIB project presentation prize winners, and from someone who used to feel uneasy at formals and social events to one who has made a few lifelong friends and now feels at home at Cambridge, my undergraduate journey has been transformative and enjoyable. I’m happy that I cherished and made the best use of my time at Cambridge as an undergraduate student as much as I could. And now, the story is to be continued!”

The BEA identifies and celebrates individuals who have excelled within our British education system. The Award recognises the value and importance of education and learning as the foundation to a good quality of life and for the future success of our Nation.

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