I am delighted that this issue of In Focus highlights the achievements and views of several of our female engineering faculty, showing the extensive opportunities that exist for women who enter the profession and engineering academia today. One of the key factors that I see in evolving more of a balance between the genders in engineering is for high-flying young women to have role models to alter the still all-too-common perception that engineering is a man's world.
We need to attract more female students to all the different fields that engineering comprises by letting them know the significance of engineers in tackling the grand challenges – ranging from sustainable development to renewable energy, healthcare delivery systems to electronic device breakthroughs. With more women involved, greater diversity in approach and perspective can be brought to the task of finding solutions to these multifaceted and vital issues. It is also important to recognize how deeply engineers can impact at community level through the practical nature of their work and the problem-solving mindset with which they address social change and advancement.
I believe that working together with high schools is one valuable way to make sure female students are aware of the openings that await them in the technological arena. Indeed, by working with teachers and giving hands-on experience of projects to students, I feel we can make more young people – girls and boys – aware of the excitement in the engineering world and the impact they could have by pursuing engineering as a career.
To students who have already made such a choice and graduated from the School of Engineering, I would like to say: "Keep connected!" HKUST is now heading into its 24th year and alumni at the School of Engineering, the University's largest, total around 20,000.
Our alumni span the world in a multitude of roles covering a huge spectrum of fields. They have worked for world-leading technology companies, such as Google and Microsoft. They have started up their own globally renowned businesses, such as DJI, a drone technology leader. They build and improve infrastructure, and are employed in industry and finance. They serve as faculty members and researchers in top universities around the globe. They are sought by the Hong Kong government. And take many other meaningful roles.
We see our alumni as an essential part of our School of Engineering family and their experience and advice have a key role to play in nurturing future generations of HKUST engineers who will positively change the world. There are many ways in which our alumni can provide support. It may be to spread the word about the School and our achievements. Or to assist in a recruitment exercise in their part of the world. Or to serve as a mentor to current students, providing encouragement, input on courses and field work, and insights into the working world.
In line with this, the School as a whole will be placing emphasis on keeping our alumni in touch through activities, news, campus gatherings and get-togethers in different parts of the world. Working as a School, not only individual departments and programs, we will be seeking to provide larger events that draw alumni together from across departments and years. We will be strengthening the feeling of a SENG community involving all those with connections to the School – past, present and potential students – and enhancing bonds between faculty members, students and the School.
With our emphasis on gender diversity and the fortifying of our alumni as a community, 2015 is shaping up to be an invigorating and memorable year for the School of Engineering. I look forward to building the further connections that can take us forward in our quest.
Prof Khaled Ben Letaief
Dean of Engineering