The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) has taken a significant step to further enhance its interdisciplinary research and education by turning its Interdisciplinary Programs Office (IPO) into the Academy of Interdisciplinary Studies (AIS), which will serve as a hub to drive new pedagogy and interdisciplinary research in emerging areas such as Art Tech and Biodesign with flexibility and agility.
As a research university, HKUST is committed to supporting Hong Kong’s advancement into an international innovation and technology hub, and the key to achieving this lies in interdisciplinary talent development. To help attract, nurture and retain such talent, HKUST founded AIS as a hub to better support the University’s efforts in recruiting cross-disciplinary talent to steer its six research focuses1, and nurture students who could tackle the complex and multi-faceted challenges of the society nowadays.
As a new tenure home to faculty, the new-found academy will not only enjoy greater flexibility in hiring interdisciplinary faculty in new and emerging areas, it will also launch a new Master’s program in Technology Innovation, and expand existing academic initiatives to allow further integration and knowledge exchange for students from different schools, on top of the 11 undergraduate and postgraduate interdisciplinary programs that it now manages.
HKUST President Prof. Nancy IP said, "Interdisciplinary approaches have become increasingly important in education and scientific research, as traditional single disciplines are no longer sufficient to address pressing global issues such as population aging and climate change, which require cross-fertilization among multiple disciplines. The elevation of IPO to AIS not only conveys our commitment to nurturing interdisciplinary talents in support of Hong Kong’s advancement into an international I&T hub, but also marks a significant milestone for HKUST as we embark on our HKUST 3.0 journey towards becoming an eminent institution for learning, discovery, and innovation.”
HKUST Provost Prof. GUO Yike said, “In addition to nurturing new interdisciplinary programs and research, AIS will serve as a hub to drive outcome and impact of interdisciplinary studies to achieve institutional goals with flexibility and agility such as hiring faculty in emerging areas and supporting cross-campus programs to strengthen the collaboration with HKUST(GZ).”
HKUST Dean of the AIS Prof. QU Huamin said, “AIS will enhance and expand current focus areas such as environment and sustainability, public policy, and integrated system design, and further explore new pedagogical, teaching and research initiatives in emerging areas such as AI for Education, Metaverse, Art Tech, Biodesign and Interdisciplinary Scientific Computing. I am thrilled to witness the collaborative efforts of our world-class faculty members and top-notch students in generating innovative ideas and societal impacts for a better future.”
Designed by Prof. LI Zexiang, an HKUST Professor of Electronic and Computer Engineering and a legendary entrepreneur who helped nurture five unicorns and numerous startups, AIS plans to launch the new Master's program in Technology Innovation which seeks to train a group of professionals with both technical capabilities and marketing skills, in order to bridge the gap between research findings and their transformation into products and solutions for the society.
AIS will also enhance the outcome and impact of interdisciplinary studies in support of the strategic plan of HKUST, including HKUST(GZ). That includes revamping the University’s Common Core Curriculum and expanding its signature Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) into a new initiative called UxOP. UxOP allows students to apply their knowledge and competencies and exchange with others from different disciplinary backgrounds through experiential research, teaching, internships, and the study of global challenges and opportunities. Meanwhile, the scope of “Major+X” – an academic framework HKUST launched in 2021 that allows undergraduate students the flexibility of blending a traditional major with emerging hot topics such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Digital Media and Creative Arts (DMCA) will also be further expanded, with new extended majors to be added.
On research, the AIS will drive breakthroughs through interdisciplinary collaboration, especially in new and emerging areas such as Interdisciplinary Scientific Computing – developing advanced algorithms and software systems that can be applied in physics, chemistry and environmental science; Biodesign – combining engineering and biology to develop new medical devices, therapies and diagnostic tools, and Art Tech – exploring the intersection of art and technology to create new forms of artistic expression and address social and cultural issues.
The new development was built upon IPO’s 15 years of solid experiences in interdisciplinary education. Established in 2008, IPO was the first academic unit in Hong Kong that provides novel and innovative study experience by bringing together different academic disciplines. Its Individualized Interdisciplinary Major (IIM) program, launched almost a decade ago, was the first program in Greater China that allowed students to tailor-make their study programs by combining courses from different departments and schools at HKUST and even other universities.
1 The six research focuses include 1) Biomedical Science and Translational Medicine, 2) Material Science and Future Energy, 3) AI, Future Computing and Electronics, 4) Innovation for Business Management and FinTech, 5) Environmental Science, Sustainability and Green Tech and 6) Art Tech and Humanities.
About The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) (https://hkust.edu.hk/) is a world-class research intensive university that focuses on science, technology and business as well as humanities and social science. HKUST offers an international campus, and a holistic and interdisciplinary pedagogy to nurture well-rounded graduates with global vision, a strong entrepreneurial spirit and innovative thinking. Over 80% of our research work were rated “Internationally excellent” or “world leading” in the Research Assessment Exercise 2020 of Hong Kong’s University Grants Committee. We were ranked 3rd in Times Higher Education’s Young University Rankings 2022, and our graduates were ranked 30th worldwide and among the best from universities from Asia in Global Employability University Ranking and Survey 2022. As of early 2023, HKUST members have founded 1,645 active start-ups, including 9 Unicorns and 11 exits (IPO or M&A), generating economic impact worth over HK$400billion. InvestHK cited QS World University Rankings by Subject 2021 to demonstrate the performance of five world’s top 100 local universities in several innovation-centric areas, among which HKUST ranked top in four engineering and materials science subjects.