Student Researcher Stories: 3Qs with Sheng-Hung Lee, IDM & MechE '22

Student Researcher Stories: 3Qs with Sheng-Hung Lee, IDM & MechE '22

"Since sustainable-related problems are complex challenges, as a designer or student researcher, we need to learn how to acquire capabilities (e.g., communication skills, leadership skills, team-building skills) to solve these tough questions."

MITOS's students researchers develop meaningful work to advance a sustainable campus at MIT and to build their professional experience in institutional transformation. Read Sheng-Hung's insightful answers to 3Qs about his experience.

Picture of Sheng-Hung Lee
Sheng-Hung Lee
IDM & MechE '22, Safe and Sustainable Labs

Sheng-Hung joined MITOS in summer 2021 to focus on Safe & Sustainable Labs. Sheng-Hung Lee is an MIT AgeLab researcher, MIT xPRO course experience designer, and Chair of Industrial Design Society of America (IDSA) Boston Chapter. He is trained as an industrial designer and electrical engineer, and his approach to problem solving is influenced by his passion for how design and technology impact and can be integrated into society.

He is inspired by multiple domains of knowledge, different perspectives, and he thrives on creating new value for clients on multi-disciplinary teams. Lee has been focusing on organizational designs that create systemic impacts. He was invited to be a jury member for multiple international design competitions including IDEA, Spark Design Award, IDA Award, and A’ Design Award and Competition. Lee graduated with a double Bachelor’s degree (Hon.) in Industrial Design and Electrical Engineering from National Cheng Kung University (NCKU), Taiwan. His work has won prestigious awards including IDEA Gold, Braun Prize, Core77 Design Award, Red Dot (Best of the Best), Spark Design Award, European Product Design Award (Gold), and iF Award. His works have also been showcased in Dubai Design Week, Venice Design Week, and the Cooper Hewitt museum. Lee taught product design at Fudan University Shanghai Institute of Visual Art and Detao Masters Academy as an adjunct Associate Professor from 2015 to 2019.

What was your favorite project/story/assignment/ event that you worked (or working on now) on in your time as a Student Researcher? Why?

I’ve been focused on material flow for Safe and Sustainable Lab (S2L). The purpose of the study is to explore disposable lab material flow on campus using Human-centered System Design. We used the MIT campus as a testbed to conduct the experimental study for sustainable innovation. We selected four types of labs: biological, chemical, material, and mechanical engineering, and two makerspaces to interview principal investigators (PI) and shop managers about building safe sustainable labs. 

Besides field research, we also launched a survey of lab pipette tip boxes as a case study to have more in-depth material flow information from procurement to disposal. The aim of the study is to refine lab material purchasing, inventory management, recycling, and disposal to identify pain points and opportunities to make lab material flow more sustainable and safer on campus.

I enjoyed going on a field trip to a lab to work on this project. it was such a great experience to talk to lab PIs, EHS representatives, and faculty members to understand their pain points, celebrate their stories, conduct interviews with in-person observation.

students and MITOS staff visit lab

In what ways has your experience as a MITOS Student Researcher influenced your career at MIT and/or beyond?

I received great mentorship and support from my advisor Dr. Julie Newman and the team. They’ve really helped me grow to make me become a better researcher in academics and trust in me to unlock my potential in design. I am very lucky to contribute my creativity and design to the team and make a difference. 

Regarding my career, I want to pursue academics as my next step. Luckily, I’ve got two Ph.D. offers for programs studying product design and human behavior that I am deciding between MIT and Cornell University. The MITOS student fellowship experience has already transformed my skill sets, mindsets, and cultivated not only my hard skills but also my human skills.

In short, I am very lucky that I have an opportunity to organize my learning, work closely and collaboratively with my advisor Dr. Julie Newman, and integrated with the human-centered design approach to submit the conference paper—Envision Safe and Sustainable Labs by Human-centered System Design—to the 2022 World Design Organization (WDO) design for the unimagined conference and get accepted.) Another conference paper—Carbon Neutrality in Makerspace: Circular Makerspace Evaluation Toolkit (CEMT)—published by Industrial Designers Society of America was also inspired by MITOS fellowship work.

What advice would you give to other students to make the most out of the MITOS Student Researcher experience? 

I would say make sure to stick to your original goal and trust your intuition. You may have questions during the MITOS journey, it is normal for everyone on the road toward sustainable change. All you need to do is to ask for help and be open-minded. Since sustainable-related problems are complex challenges, as a designer or student researcher, we need to learn how to acquire capabilities (e.g., communication skills, leadership skills, team-building skills) to solve these tough questions.

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