SOTY 2014: Candidates need to 'stay hungry, stay curious'

By Young Wang

The Scientist and Mathematician award is a new category this year. Three members of the judging panel talks about their expectations and advice they have to offer to the Student of the Year candidates

By Young Wang |

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Bien Perez, Senior Reporter, Technology

What do you expect to see in the contestants?

Perez: I hope to witness their passion and hear a clear explanation of the subjects they are most interested in. I want to learn from the candidates, too.

What core qualities should the Scientist and Mathematician award-winner have?

Perez: They must possess solid knowledge about their chosen field and adequately communicate ideas to others. More importantly, they should have a sense of humour.

What would your one piece of advice be?

Perez: Be prepared. It comes from a well-known Scout motto that advocates discipline; being ready in mind and body to do one's duty, job or responsibility.


Karen Sit Man, museum director, Hong Kong Science Museum

What do you expect to see in the contestants?

Sit Man: Academic results are an important factor. However, different schools have different standards. Contestants should also actively take part in activities outside school, for example the Mathematical Olympiad, and innovation competitions in the science field, locally and internationally. To me, creativity and innovation demonstrated in the competitions [are more important] than the final results.

Passion is also vital. I'd like to see them participating in activities to promote maths and science.

What core qualities should the Scientist and Mathematician award-winner have?

Sit Man: Genuine interest and curiosity. A passion and desire to explore the world around him and to get into the bottom of everything. I also hope the winner will choose science as his future career; there's a wide range from physics to chemistry to medicine. They don't need to be inventors; they could be researchers. Nonetheless, persistence is the key in science. Overnight achievement is not expected in this field. Long-term research and lots of effort are required, even though success is not guaranteed.

What would your one piece of advice be?

Sit Man: Be creative, be bold. Go ahead and have a crazy idea, and if you stick to it, it might come true!


Allen Ma Kam-sing, Chief Executive Officer, Hong Kong Science & Technology Park

What do you expect to see in the contestants?

Ma: What I look for in contestants, or any students who are preparing to get into university, is a purpose in life, a mission. They have to know why they are studying. Many successful people have gone through the same journey: build up purpose in their teenage years, define their mission, find their passion to acquire knowledge and [continue to make themselves better]. What they do in their lives normally aligns with the [goals they set earlier].

What core qualities should the Scientist and Mathematician award-winner have?

Ma: Hunger and curiosity. To twist Steve Jobs' famous quote, "stay hungry, stay foolish", I would say "stay hungry, stay curious". Hunger will push you to acquire new knowledge while curiosity is essential for science and technology. We should always remain curious about nature; without curiosity, many of the great inventions we admire today would never have been created.

There's another quote from Steve Jobs: "Think different." Don't blindly follow mainstream views. There might be factors that others overlooked. If mainstream views were never questioned, there would be no progress in technology or society. You might agree with them after careful consideration, but don't be a blind follower from the start.

What would your one piece of advice be?

Ma: Empathy, listening skills, the ability to reconcile differences, being able to paraphrase other opinions. Collaboration is more and more important in innovation.

It's not about one single man locked up in a laboratory for five or 10 years ... and boom! a great invention or discovery. For cross-subject innovations that are more and more [evident] today, everyone is linked up through technology to co-innovate, so you have to work together with and rely on the core skills from experts in other fields.