Student Spotlight

Yun-An Lin

Structural Engineering Master's Thesis Student

January 2020by Andrea Lin, third year undergraduate Structural Engineering student

Yun-An Lin is a current graduate student pursuing her Master’s degree with specialization in Structural Health Monitoring & Nondestructive Evaluation in the Structural Engineering Program at UC San Diego. The Master’s program in Structural Engineering offers a thesis or coursework track. Yun-An chose to do her Master’s degree with a thesis track as she felt this suited her personality and interests more.

Yun-An’s Background

Yun-An graduated from high school and college undergrad in Taiwan. In high school, all Taiwanese students must take a national exam and the scoring would determine which university and department you best fit into. Based on her results, Yun-An chose to go to one of the best Taiwanese universities for Civil Engineering. Going through the program, she learned concepts such as Geotechnical Engineering and hydraulics, but she felt the program did not have enough depth with materials engineering. After graduating in 2018, she was accepted into UC San Diego’s Structural Engineering Graduate School Program for Fall 2018.

Description of Yun-An’s Master’s Research Project

After speaking with several professors, Yun-An was interested in Professor Ken Loh’s research based on human structures, since it fit her interest in human motion monitoring and medical technology. She also found it intriguing that he incorporated material science into his research which she thought was just an aspect of Chemical Engineering at the time. Professor Loh and the ARMOR Lab has a structural focus with material science, allowing Yun-An to work alongside her interests in materials without having to learn an entirely new major.

For her research, Yun-An is continuing and expanding upon a previous PhD student’s research project. She is investigating the damage in structures by creating “sensing skins” that utilize the conductive properties of materials to monitor stimulation. “Sensing skins” are cloth materials with spray-on graphene and a conductive grid of wires that send electrical signals to data acquisition systems. Specifically, these “sensing skins” can be worn to safeguard human subjects by monitoring pressures, their respiratory rate, and body temperature.


Pressure is applied onto the fabric sensor prototype used to monitor distributed pressure on a soft surface. This donut-shaped sensor is meant to be integrated into the socket prosthesis where the residual limb makes contact with the base of the prosthesis. It is envisioned that, by knowing where the pressure hotspots are, amputees can adjust the position, alignment, and the tightness of the prosthesis, thus preventing unwanted wounds and further complications from occurring.

During Yun-An’s first year of graduate school, she attended Structural Engineering classes and conducted tests on the previously made “sensing skins”. During her current second year, she is working on furthering the ink formulation of the spray-on graphene and optimizing the “sensing skin” to meet goal such as flexibility, low-cost, and comfortable to wear.

To learn more about wearable nanocomposites, visit the ARMOR Labs website.

Why Yun-An chose Structural Engineering at UC San Diego

Before graduate school, Yun-An was part of the International Summer Research Training Program (ISRP). This was a collaboration between UC San Diego and her university in Taiwan. It was a 7-week program during her junior year summer where she conducted research under UC San Diego’s Structural Engineering Professor Joel Conte. During the program, she helped test full scale timber structures and performed damage inspections.

Initially Yun-An wanted to do Earthquake Engineering, especially due to the large number of earthquakes in Taiwan. This summer program helped her realize that she was not particularly interested in Earthquake Engineering but gave her the opportunity to explore different options in Structural Engineering.

After attending UC San Diego, she learned that UC San Diego’s Structural Engineering undergraduates have a more in-depth understanding of structures than her civil engineering peers. UC San Diego provides classes with topics such as dynamics and vibrations as well as classes that focus on Earthquake Engineering, which would have been beneficial for her to have these course options in her undergrad as introductory courses. Most students in her university would have to learn these topics in graduate school. Yun-An asserts that UC San Diego’s Structural Engineering Program is very unique and special.

What is Structural Engineering to Yun-An?

Yun-An Lin says Structural Engineering is an approach to solving problems in type of functional structure, where structures are anything from a cell to a civil structure.