Star student wins place at Harvard

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 June, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 June, 2006, 12:00am

The sky is the limit for a former La Salle College student after winning a US National Science Foundation fellowship to study for a PhD at Harvard Medical School.

The prestigious award crowns a string of educational achievements for Dennis Ho Sze-long, including runner-up in the South China Morning Post 2001 Student of the Year awards, a 2003 AT&T Leadership Award and 10 As in HKCEEs.

Mr Ho, 21, of Tsing Yi, graduated from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in December with the highest possible grades after completing his biology degree six months early. He will now do cancer research at Harvard for his PhD after winning a graduate place in biomedical sciences. The fellowship is one of about 100 granted across the US in the biological sciences.

'It is a great feeling that I have so many opportunities in the field of biomedicine,' he said. 'I know that I will be able to work for the best researchers or for the top companies in the world.

'But it was a nerve-wracking moment when I heard that I had got the NSF award because they are life-changing results. When I was at La Salle, I never dreamed that I would be doing a PhD at Harvard.'

The high-achieving student has still found time to return to his alma-mater during visits to Hong Kong to give tips to younger pupils on how to negotiate the snakes and ladders of educational choices that they face.

Mr Ho said he worked hard on his HKCEEs when he was at La Salle and had been motivated by old boys who used to talk about what they had achieved. In Form Six, he had won places at three Ivy League universities and left for four years of undergraduate study at MIT.

'It has paid off for me to go to university in the US from Form Six,' he said. 'I don't think anyone wants to do another big exam two years after HKCEEs. If it is an obstacle to going to university and you have a means of bypassing that obstacle by going to the US, then go for it.

'My advice to students in Hong Kong is to think big,' he said. 'Everyone needs a dream. But if you only rely on being smart then someone equally smart but more hard-working is going to do better.

'But you want to organise your work so that it does not feel that bad. One summer, I was with a German pharmaceuticals company, so I got to do some travelling while I was working.'

Six students will be competing in the finals of this year's SCMP Student of the Year awards on Monday, with judges including Secretary for Education and Manpower Professor Arthur Li Kwok-cheung and SCMP editor-in-chief Mark Clifford.

The finalists are Vanessa Lam Wing-yun and Joanna Yu Tsun-yan, both of St Paul's Co-Educational College; Eric Li Lap-bong, of Diocesan Boys' School; Chiang Ka-yan, of St Mary's Canossian College; Brian Lo Ka-chun, of Li Po Chun United World College; and Michelle Vickers, of Sha Tin College.