UCL News


Spotlight on Kenneth Tong

27 February 2019

Serial innovator Dr Kenneth Tong (Department of Electronic & Electrical Engineering) talks about some of his external collaborations that have had an impact on research, education and the wider world.

Spotlight on Kenneth Tong

What is your role and what does it involve?

I am a Reader in antennas, microwave and millimetre-wave engineering in the Department of Electronic & Electrical Engineering. My daily job, like most academic members, involves teaching, research, enabling and knowledge transfer etc. As an engineer, I particularly enjoy research and knowledge transfer, as there’s nothing better than seeing how your research enables people to have a better life.

How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?

I joined UCL on 1 January, 2005. This is my fifteenth year at UCL: not particularly long when compared with many colleagues here; but not short in one’s life either. Previously, I had worked at the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NiCT) in Japan for almost five years before joining UCL. To me, it was a step change in culture to move from NiCT to UCL.

What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?

I am very proud of the recent School Air Monitoring (SAM) project, where we worked with 10 PhD students across UCL and the Institute of Education (IoE), engaging with 32 pupils in year eight from three schools in London and Kent (one of the schools is on the UCL widening participation list). This STEM education and citizen science promotion project ran during April and June last year around the subjects of air pollution, sensor and wireless technologies. It was so satisfying to see our PhD students and pupils work together to build and install a wireless sensor network in their school to measure and deliver real time air quality data that was collected and analysed over the summer. The IoE colleagues provided training to the UCL PhD students on developing the lesson plans with a focus on how the pupils could pro-actively contribute to their community through engineering. We hosted a celebration event where pupils, PhD students, head teachers, local government, professional bodies, SMEs and charities came together to celebrate the success, view the data and discuss the outcomes of the project. The project was a great success with excellent feedback from those involved.

Tell us about a project you are working on now which is top of your to-do list?

My team and I are working on an ‘agri-tech’ project using our long range, low power radio technique. Some preliminary work has been supported by funding from the EPSRC’s Impact Acceleration Account (IAA) – which was facilitated by UCL Innovation & Enterprise. The top of my to-do list is to set up and demonstrate an Internet of Things (IoT) farm with our strategic partner Rothamsted Research, at their base in rural Hertfordshire. We will wirelessly connect all the things – the soils, crops, animals and equipment – in a farm to better understand the relationships between the parameters, so we can ultimately increase the efficiency of harvests and maximize crop yields under the changing climate.

What is your favourite album, film and novel?

  • Tat Ming Pair – an experimental ‘cantopop’ duo from Hong Kong. Their music is deeply influenced by the styles of British rock and electronic music. The content of their songs involves politics, society and emotion.
  • Mr Bean’s Holiday – Rowan Atkinson is one of my favourite actors.
  • Animal Farm by George Orwell is my favourite novel. The way it reflects things happening in society could not be more accurate.

What is your favourite joke (pre-watershed)?

Not a particular one, but I like the English comedian Russell Howard.

Who would be your dream dinner guests?

Again, not a particular person. I like having BBQ dinners with friends and family.

What advice would you give your younger self?

I would like to use a quote from Bruce Lee to advise my younger (and older as well) self: “You will continue to suffer if you have an emotional reaction to everything that is said to you. True power is sitting back and observing everything with logic. If words control you, that means everyone else can control you. Breathe and allow things to pass.”

What would it surprise people to know about you?

I lost 20kg when working in Japan … but gained it back in the UK!

What is your favourite place?

Hokkaido in Japan. I took a two-week break to drive from the east to west of the island before joining UCL. The food, the nature and the people are just fantastic, highly recommend, and don’t forget the open air onsen (hot springs) with snow!