Young Hong Kong scientists offered mentorship from industry elite

About 100 selected pupils will be taken under the wing of 30 top scientists for a two-year period

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 October, 2017, 8:02am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 October, 2017, 8:02am

Hong Kong secondary school students will get a chance to mingle with the city’s scientific and engineering elite under a soon to be launched mentorship programme.

The idea, according to the Academy of Sciences of Hong Kong – the group behind the scheme – is to expose youngsters to top-level science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) research and pique their interest in pursuing careers in such fields.

About 100 selected pupils will be taken under the wing of 30 scientists for a two-year period.

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Mentors include former University of Hong Kong chief Tsui Lap-chee, University of Science and Technology president Tony Chan Fan-cheung, microbiologist Yuen Kwok-yung and organic light-emitting diode (OLED) inventor, Ching W. Tang.

Selection criteria will be whether the student is genuinely interested in science and their academic performance. Mentors and mentees will submit a progress report at the end of each year.

Tsui, the academy’s president and a geneticist by trade, said it was possible the scheme – dubbed “Distinguished Masters, Accomplished Students” – could produce the city’s the next great scientist.

“We don’t know whether all 100 students will be successful. There’s no formula,” Tsui said. “But when we do manage to identify one, it makes us [academics] very happy.”

He recalled an experience during his tenure as a professor in Toronto when a passionate tenth grader came knocking at his door with a query about cancer research.

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“I referred him to one of my postdoctoral researchers so he could ‘help out’,” said Tsui. “By the time he was in 12th grade, he was accepted to Cambridge medicine. Before he finished his degree, he was accepted to Johns Hopkins, where he completed a PhD in just two years. He’s now a professor.”

The academy is working with the Subsidised Secondary Schools Council to select candidates and aims to launch within the next two months.

“They will learn a lot from working with a top level scientists. Students will be encouraged to get to know the scholar’s field well and ask questions along the way,” said council chair Dr Halina Poon Suk-han.

The mentorship is one of the schemes rolled out by the Academy of Sciences, the Academy of Engineering Sciences and the Institution of Science, as part of a month-long exhibition to promote public awareness on the importance of science to daily life, opportunities for future, and career prospects for youths.

Eleven public talks will be hosted at the Science Park over the next few weeks covering topics ranging from the birth of the universe from nothing to challenges engineers face constructing the airport’s third runway.