Enthusiastic enrollment into the University’s signature Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) shows that many bachelor students at HKUST are interested in starting early a life of discovery under the guidance of the University’s faculty members. In the Mr Armin and Mrs Lillian Kitchell Undergraduate Research Awards, held in April, those taking part in UROP had the opportunity to showcase what they have learned and to be recognized for their achievements.
Launched in 2005, UROP enables students to work alongside faculty and research teams on projects ranging from the latest science and engineering developments to humanities to gain hands-on research experiences. “Undergraduates can make big contributions to research as well,” HKUST President Prof Tony F Chan said at the award ceremony. “With their fresh perspectives, young students may ask questions which even senior researchers haven’t considered.”
Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP)
Academic Year 2012-13
No. of participating students
No. of participating faculty members
UROP projects on offer
Prof Michelle Yik, Division of Social Science and Director of UROP, highlighted further advantages. "UROP is unique in its faculty-led research, research-embedded teaching and in breaking down the boundary between School and department," she said.
Two of the award-winners share their experiences below.
HO TAT LAM
Undergraduate Research Award Champion
Physics Year 2
Project: “Damage Spreading on Network”
Supervisor: Prof Kwok Yip Szeto, Department of Physics
“I really like Physics as it has the power to predict,” said Ho Tat, who was admitted to HKUST at just 16 and has been involved in UROP since his freshman year. “The most exciting part is when you develop a theory, which is then verified through experiments.” For his winning UROP project, Ho Tat spent six months working out formulae to understand the spreading process of damage on a network. “UROP is a program of creativity, innovation and curiosity to me. I have been able to learn essential research skills, such as collecting data, asking the right questions and writing science papers for publications, all of which will be very useful for my further studies. I also fully appreciate the close working relationship with my supervisor Prof Szeto, who has encouraged me to collaborate with my seniors and to come up with my own project.”
Before becoming an undergraduate, Ho Tat was familiar with the HKUST approach as a member of the Hong Kong Physics Olympiad team being trained by members of University’s Department of Physics. “Unlike other types of training programs, HKUST professors didn’t just focus on solving formulas or calculations. Rather, we were encouraged to read up about theories and understand how they were conceived.”
Having written two research papers, the 17-year-old will head off to conferences in Poland and Canada to explain his work to other academics this summer. He is aspiring to be a Physics professor, just like those who inspired him.
Undergraduate Research Award First Runner-Up
Marketing Year 3
Project: “Untrammeled Brushwork: Huang Binhong’s Late Landscape Paintings”
Supervisor: Prof Flora LT Fu, Division of Humanities
“I want to major in art history in my graduate studies, so I sought out Prof Fu after taking her art course in my foundation year,” Xiao explained. “We both felt this project would be meaningful and hence I decided to apply to undertake it through UROP.” Together with Prof Flora LT Fu, Xiao studied the paintings by Huang Binhong (1865-1955) during the different stages of his career and analyzed the changes in the artist’s approach as he worked his way toward developing his own personal style.
Xiao discovered that her engagement in humanities research has benefited her ability in doing business case studies with a logical and critical mind, and at the same time improved her academic writing. Through communicating and working with Prof Fu, she has also gained valuable advice on studying abroad, pursuing postgraduate studies, and other subjects.