Grades don’t define you, but what you do afterward does

My PhD research is on miniature flexible and wearable sensors for healthcare application. The sensor I am working on particularly aims to act as a sensing medium for breathing patterns in patients with obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS)

Amardeep Singh with his award – Photo: Shanno Randhawa
By Amardeep Singh Dhillon 100 SCIENTISTS OF MALAYSIA |

I graduated with SPM with only 2As.

I thought it was the end, and I did not know what to do! To gain admission to public universities in Malaysia, you need good results, and my family was not financially able to support private college education. It wasn’t easy, but I managed to apply for a 3-year Diploma course in electronics engineering in a public polytechnic.

During my diploma, I worked hard and was awarded the best student in my faculty! I continued with a Bachelor’s degree in Electronics Engineering and participated in many extra-curricular activities and competitions. My undergraduate achievements won me the Vice-Chancellor Award and allowed me to enter a fast track PhD program without completing a Master’s degree.

Getting a poor grade is a major bummer. But here’s the important part: the grade does not defines you, but what you do afterward does. Getting a bad grade does not make you any less of a student and it does not mean you are the only one. After all, you wouldn’t expect someone to brag about or Instagram a photo of their D- term paper, would you?

I know getting a bad grade can make you feel like you’re all alone, but trust me—you aren’t. Some students deal with it by getting away from it for a bit. Don’t ignore it. Instead, hit the pause button temporarily and ease your mind with some exercise or a lunch date with a friend! Sometimes all you need is a quick bite to eat, and then you’re ready to tackle the situation head-on. Other students jump into action when it comes to bouncing back from a poor grade and immediately putting together a game plan to get back on their feet. Whatever your preferred method, don’t just avoid it completely. Eventually, you’ll want to analyze the reason behind the bad grade and start to formulate a plan for how you can fix it.

My PhD research is on miniature flexible and wearable sensors for healthcare application.

Flexible sensors hold great promise for various innovative applications in fields such as medicine, healthcare, environment, and biology. For flexible sensors attached to the human body or its organs, the active materials’ biocompatibility and flexible substrates, including long-term toxicity analyses, is a crucial research area, especially for invasive applications. Innovative utilization of device designs, materials, assembly methods, and surface engineering, as well as interface engineering, can address these challenges. The development of new materials for active layers, substrates, and conductive layers can give rise to soft, stretchable sensors; this emerging paradigm can extend the scope of current technologies for different sensing functions. Improvement of both flexibility and sensitivity is another challenge for state-of-the-art flexible sensors. The development of novel elastic materials for flexible and stretchable substrates, geometrical electrode designs, combinations of molecular designs in organic materials, and conceptually novel materials could optimize the trade-off between sensitivity and flexibility.

The sensor I am working on particularly aims to act as a sensing medium for breathing patterns in patients with obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS). OSAS is a sleep disorder when one’s breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep. Various respiration models have been created, but none have been efficient enough to detect the early symptoms. If successful, our miniature sensor can be placed under the nose, and with any change in breathing pattern via humidity change, the sensor can detect the OSAS of the person in real-time.

In my first year, I was responsible for running a simulation software to see which material and the sensor design would be optimal for product fabrication. The next step in this PhD will be to fabricate the actual device, which can be a long process. If the results are significant, we will be able to commercialize the device for healthcare uses!

I am where I am today because of my family.

When I was 7 (and my brother was 5), my father was involved in a bad road accident and has been bedridden since then. My family went through a very tough period after that incident; it was hard to move forward. But we persevered and supported each other throughout. My mother, especially, is a true driving force.

What I have achieved in life so far, I dedicate it to her.


Amardeep Singh Dhillon
PhD in Engineering, Monash University Malaysia

(The article appeared at 100 Scientists of Malaysia, a Facebook-based platform which features profiles of Malaysians in Science Technology Engineering Mathematics (STEM) research. Its goal is to raise visibility of Malaysians in STEM, showcase diversity in the STEM fields and inspire Malaysians to pursue STEM regardless of their background.)



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