A beautiful mind

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 September, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 September, 2002, 12:00am

Engineering students are nerds - or so goes the folklore on campus. Meet their antithesis.

Quintina Leung Ching-man, a second-year information engineering student at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, is bright, outgoing and bursting with energy.

A broad smile shines from her face, tanned from four months' intensive rowing training.

'I try not to be a nerd. Studying is not everything in life,' says the 20-year-old.

The only break she took from rowing was a week in July, when she visited the headquarters of Bell Labs in New Jersey, United States, with 59 Global Scholars from around the world.

The Global Science Scholars Programme was established by Lucent Technologies Foundation in 1998 in order to encourage young people to pursue careers in information and communications technologies.

Winners are strong in mathematics, science and engineering, and with a good overall academic performance.

In addition to the trip to New Jersey, they have also been offered internship places in Lucent Technologies in their home countries, as well as a US$5,000 (about HK$39,000) financial award each for their tuition.

'I was surprised. My academic results are not very good,' Ms Leung says.

She suspects it was her enthusiasm for science and sports that eventually won her the award.

Thanks to a 'very slow' computer bought 10 years ago, Ms Leung was intrigued by the technology that enabled her to connect with people all over the world. It prompted her to major in information engineering.

She also enjoys reading science magazines, especially those with articles on astronomy, and hopes to minor in physics, focusing on quantum mechanics.

As well as rowing, Ms Leung is on the university volleyball team. The former is fun because 'eight people have to row in the same rhythm with the same force', the latter because 'you have to help each other to achieve what the coach asks for.'

Most of all, however, she enjoys the evaluation after each contest. 'There is always room for improvement, even for the best player,' she points out.

When Ms Leung speaks of the technology she saw at Bell Labs, or talks about sports, her eyes suddenly light up with passion.

'If you don't have passion, you can't do things well. Passion motivates you to give your very best,' she says animatedly.

When asked whether this passion is long lasting, Ms Leung pauses.

'It depends on what you mean by long lasting,' is her reply. 'I'm interested in mathematics, but I will not be satisfied studying one topic. I want to learn as much about mathematics as possible.'

Her strong desire to try everything is also reflected in the way she plans her future. She says she is likely to switch courses in her career.

Right now though, Ms Leung hopes to become a researcher, but is keeping her options open in that field: 'Maybe soon I'll read about some other interesting technology and want to work in that area!'