The PAIR Distinguished Lecture delivered by Prof. SHI Yigong, President of Westlake University, China, was successfully held on 6 December 2022. The webinar attracted over 420 participants from over 40 countries and regions, including Australia, Belgium, China, Canada, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Russian Federation, Singapore, Sweden, the United States, the United Kingdom, etc. The lecture was also broadcasted live on multiple social media platforms, including Bilibili, Baidu, Weibo and Weixin, and viewed by over 131,000 online audience in total.
The webinar was attended by senior administrators from local and overseas universities, who had a short exchange with President Shi before the lecture. They include:
(in alphabetical order by last name)
- Prof. Kevin ASHFORD-ROWE, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Digital Learning) of Queensland University of Technology, Australia
- Prof. Patrick CHAU, Vice Provost for Research & Knowledge Exchange of the University of Nottingham Ningbo China, China
- Prof. Geoff CRISP, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Vice-President (Academic) of the University of Canberra, Australia
- Prof. Simon EVANS, Interim Vice-Chancellor and CEO of the University of New England, Australia
- Prof. GAO Song, President of Sun Yat-Sen University, China
- Prof. Paul LAM, President of Hong Kong Metropolitan University, Hong Kong
- Prof. LIU Bin, Senior Vice Provost (Faculty and Institutional Development) of National University of Singapore
- Prof. LUO Xishen, Vice President of the University of Science and Technology of China, China
- Mr Eric NG, Vice-President (Administration) and University Secretary of The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
- Prof. Catherine SUN, Senior Vice President of Hong Kong Shue Yan University, Hong Kong
The webinar was hosted by Prof. CHEN Qingyan, Director of PolyU Academy for Interdisciplinary Research (PAIR), Chair Professor of Building Thermal Science in the Department of Building Environment and Energy Engineering at PolyU. He briefed the audience about PAIR’s commitment to addressing societal challenges and responding to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations.
In the welcome speech, Prof. TENG Jin-Guang, President of PolyU, thanked President Shi for giving a lecture for PolyU, which sheds light to the future of higher education. He stated that the role of universities is not confined to teaching and learning per se. “Universities are responsible for generating solutions through research and technology transfer to great societal problems we are facing … Westlake University aims to become a global leader in frontier scientific research and a reformer in higher education. Their objectives are to take on the greatest challenges facing humanity in the 21st century and vow to find scientific and technological solutions”, Prof. Teng added.
Prof. Christopher CHAO, Vice President (Research and Innovation) and Chair Professor of Thermal and Environmental Engineering at PolyU, then introduced President Shi, giving the audience a brief background about Westlake University and President Shi’s academic and career accomplishments in the higher education sector.
President Shi began the lecture by providing a brief historical background about China’s education reform in the 1970s—millions of Chinese students enjoyed the new opportunities for overseas education brought by China’s reform and opening up, and students returned home with the knowledge that significantly impacted China’s development in education, science, and technology. President Shi also stressed that China always has a role in human civilisation—as indicated by the four inventions in ancient times. Thus, the Nation should contribute a large share of scientific and technological breakthroughs to the humanities and the world through exchange and collaboration.
President Shi further explained the distinctiveness of the Westlake University. The university pioneered a new model of a world-class university strongly supported by the government, philanthropies, and the private sector. The central government, the provincial government of Zhejiang, the municipal government of Hangzhou, as well as the local government of the West Lake district provided enormous support for the development of the university. The university also established the Westlake Education Foundation to raise funds from all sectors of society, integrating societal resources for promoting the establishment and development of the university.
After that, President Shi talked about the interdisciplinary culture of the Westlake University and gave illustrative examples in terms of the composition of its Board of Trustees and international advisors, global faculty recruitment, as well as student education.
To conclude the lecture, President Shi presented some recent cutting-edge scientific and technological achievements at Westlake University which benefit the world and humankind. These include the analysis of the structure of the receptor of the SARS-CoV-2; the development of an anti-COVID-19 oral drug WPV01; the deciphering of the structure of CatSper, the mammalian sperm cation channel complex; the discovery of the crucial role of bacteria in breast cancer metastasis for the first time; the revelation of the chemical catalytic process before oxygen formation in photosynthesis; as well as the design of a new strategy to improve the stability of perovskite solar cells.
A question-and-answer session moderated by Prof. Chen followed. The audienc was inspired to have a fruitful exchange with President Shi on the challenges of higher education reform, the positioning of Westlake University, the criteria for higher education success, global faculty recruitment, the importance of governmental support, and student recruitment.
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