Graduate Profile: Huidi Ji

Huidi JiCurrent Position: SIMULIA Research and Development, Senior Development Manager

Undergraduate Degree: Naval architecture, Shanghai Jiaotong University, 1997

Graduate Study in Computational Mechanics: PhD, Duke University; Thesis: Using the extended finite element method to model phase transformation and growth of hydrogels

Advisor: John Dolbow

What do you do at your job?

In my role as a senior development manager, I develop finite element software that performs structural analysis.

How did your time at Duke prepare you for your current job?

During my time at Duke I was able to enhance my skills in programming by taking undergraduate courses from the computer science department, and I was also able to acquire knowledge in both linear and nonlinear finite element analysis in the civil engineering, computer science and biomedical engineering departments. My thesis was also very helpful—the time I spent developing finite elements software for that project allowed me to easily take on development tasks at my current job.

What was the most valuable part of your Duke experience? 

The problem-solving skills I learned were the most valuable part of my Duke experience. For example, I learned how to solve a problem starting from deriving a linearized solution, which I implemented into the finite element code and then validated the results with published data. This is essentially the workflow of my job as a development manager, so getting that experience at Duke was very helpful to me. 

Why did you want to study computational mechanics? 

I always had an interest in math and programming, so I knew that I wanted to work in a field that combined the two. The interest definitely grew as I got deeper into the program. The problem solving part was the most attractive part. The definition of “enjoyment” is different from a common feeling, like enjoying food, music or a particular sport. The joy comes from months of hard work, developing an approach, understanding its advantages and disadvantages, finding bugs in the program, and eventually getting results because of your belief in the method. Computational mechanics is not for everyone, for sure. A student will not enjoy the program unless they have perseverance, welcomes a challenge, and appreciates the final outcome. For my current job, seeing customers using the code I developed for their daily work is a big reward. 

What advice do you have for other students who want to pursue a degree in computational mechanics?

I advise anyone who wants to study computational mechanics to develop a strong foundation in the field and build from there. So ensuring that you have solid skills in math and physics goes a long way in helping you achieve success. I also think that it’s necessary for students to understand the real-life applications of the science, as it serves as a great motivator for the work.

Why did you choose Duke for your PhD degree? 

I chose Duke for my PhD because of the strength of Duke’s academic reputation, and because I felt that there was a lot of interesting work happening in the Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) department. The initial interview with my advisor was also helpful in my decision-making process, as the interview helped me see that we would work well together.

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