WISE Girls Fly High

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Women Power

WISE Girls Fly High

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Dajung Kim achieved one of her dreams by learning to fly small planes.
Dajung Kim achieved one of her dreams by learning to fly small planes. [Download Photo]

“More women and girls in science equals better science.” This is the simple equation proposed by UN Secretary-General António Guterres during February’s International Day of Women and Girls in Science.

While women remain underrepresented in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, the last decade has seen more and more ambitious female students enter and advance in traditionally male-dominated technical professions. 

Two promising School of Engineering young women have benefited from HKUST’s pioneering WISE (Women in Science and Engineering) scholarship’s aim of enabling top caliber female students to realize their STEM dreams. Striving to make their marks in fields of aerospace engineering and computer science, the WISE students are an inspiration for younger girls who wish to use technology and innovation to positively impact our world.

A WISE Move for Taking Off 

Currently a postdoctoral researcher in Aerospace Engineering at HKUST, Dr. Dajung KIM was born in Busan to a traditional Korean family. Longing for a son, her parents did not expect much of their scientifically-oriented daughter than to find a husband. 

The young Dajung beat all odds to earn both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Aerospace Engineering. After spending seven years working in Korea’s defence and maritime sectors, she took the bold step of moving to Hong Kong and embarking on a PhD at HKUST in 2018. 

Upon admission, Dajung was awarded a WISE scholarship which ultimately proved invaluable in giving her the confidence and sense of responsibility needed to excel. “In striving to become a successful female engineer and scientist, I also believe in giving back to society.” 

As a devoted aerospace engineer, Dajung focused her PhD research on flight path optimization. Integrating operational data and flight dynamics physics models, the field’s ultimate aim is to minimize aircraft noise and fuel consumption. Towards the end of her studies, Dajung won the HKUST RedBird Academic Excellence Award for continuing PhD Students. “I was happy because it proved I could be competitive without the ‘women’ title.” 

At the same time, Dajung was giving back to society by inspiring younger students to realize their potential. As a teaching assistant during her PhD years, she always did her best to answer every single question raised in her classes. Her efforts paid off, and won her two Runner-up Best Teaching Assistant Awards.

Before moving to Hong Kong, Dajung’s remarkable accomplishments included the 2014 development of a ship collision avoidance system in 2014 for a large Korean maritime research institute. She even achieved one of her dreams by learning to fly small planes.

Having completed her PhD in 2022, Dajung is now conducting postdoctoral research into the incorporation of flight data into multi-disciplinary aircraft design optimization. She remains determined to become an engineering professor and inspire a new generation of female technocrats. Reflecting on her own experience, her advice to girls in aerospace engineering is, “Don't be disheartened if you feel that your upbringing did not prepare you for this field. You can always learn something unfamiliar and accomplish great things by continuing to work hard.”

Passion for solving real-world problems

Year 1 undergraduate YEUNG Wun-Lam, one of HKUST’s five WISE scholarship awardees for 2022, has a passion for solving real-world problems. “The award has encouraged me to work harder towards achieving my dream,” says the freshman who is planning to study Computer Engineering with an extended major in Artificial Intelligence. “My ambition is to be a product or software engineer and create a tech-related start-up to invent and develop sustainability-related products.” 

Describing her first semester as “productive”, Wun-Lam has received training from the HKUST Robotics Team and joined a group which recently won two awards in the Sustainable Smart Campus Student Competition. Asked for her advice for other STEM applicants, she says, “Join any related competitions to better understand how interested you are in your field and get a new perspective on it.” 

Be a WISE girl and pursue your dreams 

In the decade since the scholarship’s 2012/13 establishment, some 100 female students have benefited from WISE funding. All current and prospective students who are interested in applying for WISE support can click here for details.

(This story was adapted from the full story “WISE Girls Fly High” by HKUST Public Affairs Office.)