Dean’s View

Dean’s View

Message from the Dean in e-In Focus

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e-In Focus (February 2024)

Soaring to New Heights in the Year of the Dragon

Happy Chinese New Year and welcome to the first issue of the School of Engineering (SENG)’s monthly e-In Focus in the Year of the Dragon! Looking ahead, it promises to be an exciting time at the School, with a number of pivotal initiatives on the drawing board adding further momentum to our endeavors.

Teaching and learning takes many forms at SENG and encompasses much more than traditional transmission of engineering knowledge and skills through lectures. Indeed, it is our core mission to identify the best ways for students and faculty to realize their full potential in their academic, professional and personal pursuits.

As such, one major plan is a new approach to student well-being, a critical topic right now across the Hong Kong education sector. This will be spearheaded by our signature Center for Engineering Education Innovation, known as E2I, which focuses on the design and delivery of novel and insightful ways for engineering faculty, students, and staff to enhance their development.

Why is the change needed? As communication patterns evolve in response to technological shifts and disruptive external events, such as COVID-19, students today seem to find it harder to use verbal interaction alone to develop supportive friendships and engage in conventional student-counselor or student-faculty advisory sessions. Instead, shared learning activities appear the cornerstone for young people to build social ties and discover where their interests lie.

Our goal is to introduce more activity-based means among SENG departments to help students adjust to university life, cultivate bonds with their peers, and foster a sense of belonging. All are important factors in dispelling feelings of loneliness and offering support to cope with stress.

In addition, SENG will be setting out to re-energize E2I into a platform that also garners attention internationally to our faculty members and School as an influential innovative force in engineering education.

Another major plan involves strengthening our connections with our alumni and the community through a revamp of the School’s Industrial Advisory Committee. The target here is to activate this forum to engage alumni in leadership roles in industry, alumni entrepreneurs, and other key members of professional circles in regular dialogue with the School to deepen understanding and ties with SENG students and faculty.

After all, engineering is not just about writing academic papers. It is also about collaborating with industry to deliver real impact by discovering and translating innovation into practical solutions for challenges large and small. Hence, the stronger the School’s links to the world beyond campus the more impactful it becomes.

With the two enterprising initiatives alongside our ongoing pursuit of global partnerships and collaborations, recruitment of top faculty and students, cutting-edge research, and significant societal impact through knowledge transfer, the Year of the Dragon is shaping up to be a time of inspiring connectivity and soaring opportunities.

Prof. Hong K. LO
Dean of Engineering

e-In Focus (November 2023)

Connecting Wider, Flying Higher

As we move toward Christmas and the end of my first year as Dean of the School of Engineering (SENG), it has been a busy final quarter. In the past few months, I have visited a host of leading universities in Australia, UK, Europe, and Southeast Asia, together with University delegations and individually as head of SENG, to reactivate the School’s international presence post-COVID.

I found a warm welcome and productive talks awaited, fruitfully reengaging with established partners and forging ties with new ones. There were useful discussions on research areas encompassing pressing topics such as sustainability, green-tech, and smart cities; opportunities to enter into dialogue with industry on cooperation and future needs; and occasions to meet up and strengthen bonds with alumni.

Such a positive reception has been echoed over the year by our ongoing faculty recruitment, which I am happy to report has resulted in over 40 new colleagues joining the School in the past two years. As we look to build on our strong foundations for the future, these talented faculty members, from the most eminent to bright young stars heading for the top, will help drive SENG’s expansion in areas of most-wanted demand, including microelectronics, nanotech, green-tech, health-tech, advanced manufacturing, and emerging fields. In doing so, we will not only keep drawing first-rate postgraduate and undergraduate students from around the world but take the School to new levels of achievement in contribution to society, which is what engineering is all about.

HKSAR Government initiatives have been providing valuable support for such goals. For example, the Global STEM Professorship Scheme, which seeks stellar talents, has assisted in attracting go-getting faculty such as former NASA atmospheric scientist Prof. SU Hui, who is featured in this issue’s Cover Story. Meanwhile, the newly launched Research, Academic and Industry Sectors One-plus Scheme (RAISe+), funding major university-industry R&D transformation and commercialization endeavors up to HK$100 million per project, has spurred multiple proposals from SENG faculty seeking to deliver societal improvements.

In 2024, I will additionally be setting out to reenergize the School’s links with the professional community to assist our students in branching out beyond the campus, in particular through deepening engagement with our 37,000 alumni. These connections can enhance the practical business knowledge of SENG’s aspiring entrepreneurs and potential industry leaders as well as keep them up to date with the latest developments locally and beyond. Likewise, established members of industry can stay abreast of next-generation talents and recent breakthroughs in the diverse engineering fields that the School spans.

All these developments, combined with the vibrant, internationalized research environment that is a hallmark of SENG and HKUST overall, thus make the outlook for academic excellence and real-world impact at the School highly promising for the year ahead.

Prof. Hong K. LO
Dean of Engineering

e-In Focus (September 2023)

Opening the Door to Engineering Diversity and Community Interaction

One of the questions often raised about an engineering education is the workload and how much time it allows potential undergraduates and postgraduates to fully experience university life. At HKUST, where there is so much to become involved in within and beyond the regular curriculum – exchanges, internships, entrepreneurial activities, community service, sports activities, student societies of all kinds, and more – it is an important concern to address.

That is also why the start of the new school year finds the School of Engineering (SENG) working hard to ensure our student experience and the many opportunities available are made accessible to more students.

In particular, we are striving to open different doors for different students in recognition that they can excel in many other ways besides high grade point averages as engineering undergraduates or by publishing papers at the postgraduate level. From final year projects to overseas exchanges to entrepreneurship, we are thus setting out to make it more straightforward for students to focus on their individual strengths and interests.

I believe this wider approach to be a key way for students to fully realize their potential, as well as alleviate academic pressure and widen the diversity of our graduates. It is also an important step toward our goal of a holistic and student-centric SENG experience. In the process, it should build confidence and a greater ability to tackle problems, innovate, and adapt to change regardless of the context. All are vital attributes for the versatile pacesetters that will be required and be successful in a future where nothing and no one will stay still for long.

As we open doors within SENG, we are also seeking new avenues to interact with the community and our alumni. In building deeper and more regular connections, we will benefit from understanding more about emerging needs and trends and how our research and education can contribute. Likewise, we will be better able to share our latest discoveries and technologies, as well as connect up the next generation of engineering talents with potential employers, mentors, and alumni go-getters.

This is a win-win outcome where everyone connected to the School – internally and externally – keeps on learning, keeps on innovating, as they recognize that change and tackling new areas are nothing to fear. Instead they are to be welcomed as ways to grow, personally and as a society. It is a mindset that I hope will develop into a SENG hallmark in Hong Kong and far beyond.

Prof. Hong K. LO
Dean of Engineering

e-In Focus (July 2023)

A Fresh Dialogue Begins

Welcome to the first issue of the School of Engineering (SENG)’s electronic In Focus! In line with the fast pace and interactivity of today’s world, this edition heralds the migration of our long-established print magazine to a new e-platform. e-In Focus will better integrate with the School’s other digital outlets and social media forums. The move will enable timelier updates through greater frequency, and open up a variety of formats to convey our news, such as audio and video. It will also present greater opportunities for dialogue and feedback from readers, including past, present and prospective SENG community members, industry and professional associations, as well as academic peers around the world.

In our inaugural issue, we appropriately highlight innovation and entrepreneurship. The figures for HKUST’s remarkable entrepreneurial performance speak for themselves. Members of HKUST have founded 1,600-plus active start-ups, the highest of any university in Hong Kong. Moreover, six of the 18 unicorns among Hong Kong-related start-ups were founded or co-founded by SENG faculty or alumni. The School is now seeking to build on this strong foundation to turn entrepreneurial training in skills and mindset into a pillar element of the SENG experience, alongside education and research. It is not expected that all students and faculty members will become entrepreneurs. However, I hope that it results in entrepreneurial attributes such as individual creativity and innovation, considered risk-taking, resilience to challenges and failure, and joy in success becoming part of our graduates’ DNA in whatever they undertake and a distinctive characteristic of the SENG community.

After taking up the role of Dean at the start of 2023, the School has also been working proactively on faculty recruitment and I am delighted to report robust achievements in our strategic hiring and the interest of megastar global names in joining SENG. The outcome highlights the on-going strength of HKUST’s reputation at the cutting-edge of engineering’s rapidly changing theoretical and technological landscape. We will be continuing our endeavors to extend and diversify our faculty across departments over the months ahead to take our research and teaching to the next level of academic and societal contribution.

The School is already planning to facilitate this by setting up transdisciplinary research clusters in quantum-tech (chip, communications, computing, sensing and metrology, etc.), health-tech (AI, IoT, data analytics, bioinformatics, etc.), green-tech (energy, water and waste management, sustainability, etc.), and advanced manufacturing (AI, robotics, advanced materials, etc.) over the next academic year. The strategy will provide more platforms and resources for faculty to work together across departments and scale up funding proposals. Furthermore, such clusters will help make our work more tangible for the community overall and easier for industry and organizational partners to connect and collaborate with the School in transforming research into real-world impact.

All these ventures bring inspiring and novel horizons to engage and journey ahead with the School. SENG looks forward to hearing from you!

Prof. Hong K. LO
Dean of Engineering