Faculty of Science and Engineering

City University of Hong Kong

Faculty of Science and Engineering - City University of Hong Kong

Faculty of Science and Engineering

Message from the Dean

April 15, 2005 marked the beginning of my 10th year service at the City University of Hong Kong (CityU). I came back to Hong Kong in 1996 after spending 18 years in the US, first as a student and later an academic. My original intention was to stay in Hong Kong for two years to experience first hand the reversion of her sovereignty to China. I found CityU a young and dynamic place with well-stocked laboratory facilities, excellent young recruits and some world-renowned scholars such as Professors Stephen Smale and Alec Gambling, Member of US Academy of Sciences and Fellow of Royal Society, respectively. I also enjoyed the company of Professor Ken Mei, a pioneer in computational electromagnetics, whose results I often used in my research and assignments for comparisons and validations during my graduate studies. The opportunity to partake in building a great university outweighed the uncertainties faced by the newly established, unprecedented Special Administrative Region (SAR) and the decision to stay at CityU in fact was not a difficult one.

Now almost a decade has flied by. These giants had retired from our Faculty for some time and the SAR has her ups and downs during the political and economic turbulences. Our aspiration to win international recognition as one of the best science and engineering faculties in the Asia-Pacific region firmly remains and is indeed gradually materializing. We continue to attract the best people to join and stay, which has made our Faculty the envy of our peers. A notable example is Professor Philippe Ciarlet, an applied mathematician holding membership of six National Academies. His work has profound impact on the broad fields of science and engineering, including new buildings and aircraft designs, which help improve the quality of human life.

In the past 10 years, the group led by Professor S T Lee has emerged as a world leading team in nanotechnology research. Their achievements drew the attention of Shimon Peres, the former Prime Minister of Israel and the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, whose concern about the potential benefit of nanotechnology to his home country brought him to visit Professor Lee's laboratory in March 2004. During the same period of time, a young scholar embarked on research on coding for telecommunications. Rising through the ranks to professor, Li Ping has developed a coding technique, approaching the ¡§Shannon limit¡¨, which has significance in satellite and mobile communications, bringing people closer and making the world smaller. More recent recruits included Dr. Shih-Hsien Yu, who has offered new insights to Boltzmann Green's function. His work reactivated interest in this century-old problem and may lead to revolutionary ways of designing new high altitude aircrafts and semiconductor materials. Ground-breaking research is happening in abundance here, thanks to my predecessors, Professors P S Chung and Roderick Wong, in identifying and recruiting the most suitable and capable people.

Having the right talents only completes a small part of the jigsaw for a great university. There are more challenges to overcome as we are witnessing the rapid changes to the local higher education landscape: the declining interest in science and engineering studies among the secondary school students calls for urgent attention; the advocacy of whole-person development requires a great deal of efforts to turn our students into all-rounders; last but not least, the threat of continuous budget cuts prompts us to be more aggressive in sourcing financial support.

Teaching is the primary function of a university but teaching alone is not sufficient. Good teachers should also conduct research to constantly update themselves with the latest developments in the field, and hence be able to impart the state-of-the-art knowledge to the students. Otherwise the students would only be learning technologies that are as old as their age. Learning to learn is far from sufficient. Our students should be learning to become learned. It is our job to make our students acquire the knowledge, understanding it, integrating and applying it to the benefit of mankind.

How good a teacher is cannot be reflected by the scores of his or her teaching evaluations. The true testimony is the ability to generate graduates who later enjoy a happy and fulfilling life and who would confess that they owe their success, at least in part, to that particular teacher. We should teach with passion, inspiration and understanding. A teacher should take great pride in producing students who can accomplish more than himself or herself. In 2004, one of my students competed with students from Georgia Tech, Stanford, Michigan, etc in a paper contest of an international conference held in the US. Before he clinched the first prize, I told him not to wake me up in the middle of the night as I had a hunch that he was going to win. This is the same student who in 1999 burst into tears when he found out his JUPAS application led him to CityU, a university far from his first choice. Each student, given the opportunity and the right kind of tutelage, can be transformed. It is our joy to inspire our students and turn them into learned persons.

Many secondary school students are intimidated by the rigorous and demanding curricula of science and engineering programmes. This is compounded by the wrong perception that the migration of the factories to the Pearl River Delta region has left very few jobs for scientists and engineers. On the contrary, the demand for technical professionals is surging as many industrialists have realized that they would not be able to maintain their profit margins by simply continuing with their practice of labor intensive OEM (original equipment manufacturing) or ODM (original design manufacturing). They need to engage in OBM (original brand manufacturing). As such, they need more scientists and engineers to perform research and development, to design new products and to carry out engineering management. To rectify the situation, the Faculty is now joining forces with industry, the Education and Manpower Bureau, professional and learned societies and funding agencies that support science and engineering development in Hong Kong, to attract more secondary school students to pursue studies in science and engineering. Scholarships and grants are offered to students with good achievements.

Here in this Faculty, we have an array of activities to supplement and enhance students' learning experience. The Undergraduate Student Entrepreneurship Scheme, Elite Development Programme, Academic Exchange, Industrial Attachment Scheme and Co-operative Education Scheme are the special programmes already in place. Students not only receive professional training in their respective fields but also have ample opportunities to develop their leadership, communication and interpersonal skills, all being necessary attributes for the scientists and engineers to succeed in the 21st Century. The reputation of a university grows with the quality of the students it produces and the success of its alumni. To this end, we will strengthen our effort in cultivating strong linkage with our alumni. Alumni have been invited to serve as mentors to our students. I look forward to seeing stronger participation of the alumni to help shape the future of the Faculty. The tripartite efforts of students, alumni and staff must be orchestrated in unison to move us forward.

The dwindling government funding for higher education has affected our mode of operation. To maintain our momentum for achieving international competitiveness, we have to respond appropriately to the changes in the wider environment. Our efforts in reaching out to local industry have borne fruit as over HK$ 8 million have been donated by our industrial partners recently to support our educational work and ventures into new research areas. Many joint projects with local industry have already led to commercial products being launched in the market. We also organized many tailor-made training courses for our industrial partners to upgrade their employees' knowledge. Our Engineering Doctorate programme has an overwhelming success in attracting senior executives to enroll. Over time, it will build up a very influential alumni base for the Faculty.

The rapid growth of market economy in the Mainland China has led to the emergence of big industrial corporations. Government funding for projects with national interests are also in abundance. Tapping into these industrial and government funding can offset the declining support available locally. We have been very fortunate to receive HK$ 1 million donation from a Mainland company which is impressed with the uniqueness of our research. We are also able to receive funding from the Ministry of Science and Technology and the National Natural Science Foundation of China. To play a more active and visible role, we must align ourselves to the technological developments in the Mainland.

Many colleagues wonder why I always look so cheerful. The answer is simple. I feel young and energetic as I always work with my students, despite the fact that my hairline is receding and my hair turning mostly grey. To see the students maturing and becoming learned professionals makes me happy. To see them winning awards locally, nationally and internationally makes me even happier. Colleagues in the Faculty work extremely hard in their teaching and research. Sharing the joy of their receiving big grants, honors, awards and accolades makes me happy.

I hope we continue to feel young and be cheerful while working hard to build a great future for ourselves and CityU.

Professor C H Chan
Dean, Faculty of Science and Engineering

May 2005

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