As a mechanical engineering major, Jinglun Li chose Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute because of “its high reputation in the engineering field and its great location.” She had many offers, but liked the fact that Rensselaer is close to Albany. And being surrounded by companies such as General Electric, IBM, and Global Foundries, she said, “gives students valuable opportunities to collaborate with industry.”

Last year, Li worked with Diana-Andra Borca-Tasciuc and John Tichy, both professors of mechanical, aerospace, and nuclear engineering, in the development of a predictive model for a device that could transform subtle mechanical vibrations into electrical energy used to power wireless sensors and actuators. These could be used in anything from temperature and occupancy monitoring in smart environments to biosensing within the human body. The model was designed by Li.

In addition to completing her doctoral studies, with a concentration in smart sensors that can be applied to wireless sensor networks and autonomous driving, Li also met her future husband, got married, and had a baby. They met when he was a researcher in her lab and they worked together. He is now a third year Ph.D. student and will graduate next year. Their son was born last year, during the pandemic, and is almost a year old. Balancing work and family has been a struggle, but she appreciates that Rensselaer offers maternity leave for doctoral students and that she has been able to work from home.

Li said she loved her classes, and the TAs and professors at Rensselaer were “very caring, professional, and willing to help.” She has also received strong support from her advisers and committee members who are “helpful and passionate.” Li remarked that she has learned a lot from them on how to solve problems, which is a lifelong skill.

Finishing up school and beginning a family during a pandemic is difficult at best, but Li said she has learned to respect life, treasure everything, and try to help others as much as possible. “And most importantly, believe in science, wear face masks, and do exercise regularly.”

Originally from the largest city in central China, the next stop for Li and her family will be Chandler, Arizona, where she will join NXP Semiconductors.