Hong Kong University of Science and Technology president Paul Chu Ching-wu will step down when his contract expires in August next year. Announcing his decision not to extend his contract with the Clearwater Bay university, Professor Chu said he had decided to return to the United States to focus on his high temperature superconductivity research. 'Recent developments in my lab in Texas and in my research field are demanding an increasing amount of time and attention from me, and the trend is likely to continue in the years to come,' he said. HKUST extended the renowned scientist's contract for two years from last year. Professor Chu said it was a suitable time for him to return to research as several major tasks had been accomplished. These included the establishment of an institute of advanced study, preparations for tertiary education reform and the drafting of a development blueprint. 'I think now there is a solid ground for the university to move on without me,' he said. 'A number of research projects hosted by the US federal and Texas governments are waiting for me to offer a hand.' The 66-year-old physicist will return to the Texas Centre for Superconductivity at the University of Houston, where he previously served as director. He will also head a private think-tank on material sciences research. Professor Chu is also a member of a committee in the US responsible for selecting recipients of the National Medal of Science, the country's highest honour for scientific achievement. Marvin Cheung Kin-tung, the new chairman of the HKUST council, said a nine-member committee had been established to search for a successor and a global headhunt would be launched. Professor Chu succeeded Woo Chia-wei in 2001, becoming HKUST's second president. Students said they were sorry to see him leave and praised him for having raised the university's status. Student union vice-president Iris Lam Wing-po said: 'Under his leadership, we have gained increased global recognition.'