The PAIR Distinguished Lecture Series was successfully held on 22 April 2022. We are honoured to have renowned scholar Prof. Catherine P. Koshland, Interim Executive Vice Chancellor & Provost at University of California, Berkeley, USA, as the invited speaker. The webinar attracted over 350 participants from over 10 countries and regions. Honourable participants include:
(In alphabetical order)
- Prof. Chetwyn Chan, Vice President (Research and Development) of The Education University of Hong Kong
- Prof. Leonard Kwok-hon Cheng, President of Lingnan University
- Mr Richard Leung, Council Member of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU)
- Prof. Paul Poon, Vice Chancellor of CLP Power Academy
- Prof. James Tang, Secretary-General of University Grants Committee Secretariat
- Prof. Christian Wagner, Provost of City University of Hong Kong
- Prof. Wang Wei, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (China) of Edith Cowan University; and
- Prof. Kwan-Leung Wong, Associate Academic Vice President (Teaching & Learning Development) of Hong Kong Shue Yan University.
The webinar was hosted by Professor Qingyan Chen, Director of PolyU Academy for Interdisciplinary Research (PAIR), Chair Professor of Building Thermal Science of Department of Building Environment and Energy Engineering at PolyU. He briefed the audience about the establishment of PAIR with the aim to address societal challenges as outlined in the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the United Nations General Assembly, Agenda 2030. “Universities have traditionally been places where scholars and students delve into individual research topics. Their research has been conducted along disciplinary lines in various faculties and departments, with the aim of expanding knowledge within disciplines. However, this approach cannot meet the needs of today. Thus, PolyU established ten Research Institutes (RIs) and five Research Centres (RCs) under PAIR that aim to generate unique knowledge, develop joint innovative projects, and achieve the SDGs” he explained.
Prof. Koshland was then introduced by Professor Jin-Guang Teng, President of PolyU. “I remember that in 2009, when I was the Dean of the Faculty of Construction and Land Use (now, it has been renamed as Faculty of Construction and Environment, FCE), we had invited Prof. Koshland to be the guest of honour in the PolyU 15th Congregation Ceremony. I am very pleased to meet her again today and would like to thank for her great support to PAIR.”
Using UC Berkeley as an exemplar, Prof. Koshland gave us a distinguished lecture on ‘Lighting the Way with Interdisciplinary Research since 1868’. One of the hallmarks of UC Berkeley has always been engagement of its faculty and students in research and education that expand in cross disciplines, joining on multiple approaches to address major challenges facing the world today, which is also what we are seeking to do at PAIR of PolyU. Moreover, Prof. Koshland shared with us the ways in which individuals and institutions can engage in interdisciplinary and multi-disciplinary research and education and how they can be creatively intertwined.
At the beginning of the webinar, Professor Koshland briefly presented the collaboration of co-authored and published of over 45,000 papers in peer reviewed journals with colleagues at over 6,000 universities and research institutions in the world including PolyU. She then explained why, when and how to establish interdisciplinary academic structures and research collaborations in UC Berkeley. “Obviously, to address a problem, you can’t solve without a diverse team, and no single individual can do that, and again, those efforts require collaborative efforts,” she claimed. She further explained that such interdisciplinary team can develop a powerful tool or method that can address many questions across many disciplines.
After that, Prof. Koshland talked about the importance of establishing Organised Research Units, connecting with other world leaders via transformational partnerships and transforming the professoriate to recruit the best minds to define new fields of collaborative research. UC Berkeley faculty can engage in collaborative, multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary research through its 50 multidisciplinary institutes and centers, 41 UC Natural Reserve sites, and 7 Research Museums. The University also engages a lot with national laboratories, UC San Francisco and even National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Such transformational partnership with NASA not only enables collaborative research in aeroscience, astrobiology, space and earth sciences, AI for flight systems, etc., but also helps attract new faculty and student talent to the University.
To conclude the lecture, Prof. Koshland gave advice on opening competitions between faculty members which can help identify the best ideas, and top management should lead with faculty ideas and strengths. It is also important to invest in a sizable and manageable set of initiatives strategically.
A panel discussion session was followed. The session was moderated by Prof. Christopher Chao, Vice President (Research and Innovation) and Chair Professor of Thermal and Environmental Engineering at PolyU, and joined by two panellists, Prof. Xiang-dong Li, Dean of Faculty of Construction and Environment and Chair Professor of Environmental Science and Technology at PolyU as well as Prof. Yuguo Li, Associate Dean (Research) of Faculty of Engineering and Chair Professor of Building Environment at The University of Hong Kong. The audience was impressed and inspired by Prof. Koshland and had a fruitful discussion with her in the areas of teaching capacity and compensation of faculty members, key factors of success in interdisciplinary research and education, how can faculty and students overcome the barrier of communication.
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