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Education

Annual Hong Kong student awards on March 17 to honour city’s best teens

A judge for the science and maths category is Science Museum director Paulina Chan, who is looking for youngsters with ‘passion’ and purpose

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 21 January, 2018, 9:01pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 21 January, 2018, 10:56pm

The Hong Kong Science Museum plans to feature more locally-done research to encourage young Hongkongers to pursue a career in the sciences, its new director has said.

But in addition to government support for research and innovation, Paulina Chan Shuk-man said she hoped more people would hone their curiosity and understanding of science.

These are two qualities that Chan will look for when she judges the scientist and mathematician category of the South China Morning Post Student of the Year Awards.

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The 37th edition of the awards, which will be held on March 17 at Kowloon Shangri-la Hotel, honours secondary school students for outstanding achievements in academic subjects, sports, the arts, personal growth and contributions to the community. One of the nine categories is the grand prize for Student of the Year.

The awards are supported by the Hong Kong Jockey Club and the Education Bureau.

Earlier this month, Chan told the Post of her passion for science as a youngster and how it led her to becoming the head of the museum.

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“After graduating with a biology degree, I did not immediately enter a related job,” she recalled. “But I did not give up on my passion for biology.”

After several administrative jobs, she joined the Hong Kong Museum of Arts, which led to a job as curator at the Science Museum. This year, she became its director.

Chan said her previous work experience had helped her in her current role, and this was a message she wanted to share – that those keen on a science career but who lacked the right opportunities just yet should view every job as a learning experience.

In judging the awards, she would look for a student who has “passion for the sciences and has the mission to spread this.”

Specifically, she would be looking for someone who could demystify science – as something interesting and helpful to the masses – and who possessed good communications skills.

Chan added that she also hoped to see innovative ideas from the candidates that could change Hong Kong’s research and development scene.

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Local researchers have often lamented that Hong Kong’s R&D spending lags behind that of developed countries, with Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor setting a target for the city to double this expenditure to 1.5 per cent in her term.

But Chan said besides resources, people needed to take a greater interest in science. While there were more after-school science activities for students now, there were also more distractions for students, such as the use of smartphones, she said.

Chan said the museum would do more to demonstrate the opportunities available to youngsters if they wanted to pursue a career in the sciences.

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She highlighted a current exhibition on graphene – a planar form of carbon that is super lightweight, highly conductive and ultra-strong – featuring research from Polytechnic University and an upcoming exhibition featuring a solar car developed by students from the Vocational Training Council.

For the community contributor category, one of the judges, Scarlette Leung, executive director for corporate planning, communications and membership at the Jockey Club said she would be looking for someone who is both self-aware and socially-aware.

“Knowing your own strengths and weaknesses enables you to empathise with others and puts you in a practical position to help them,” she said.