Dean's Message
Fall 2015 No.27
Engineering Students Take Internship @CSIC
CSIC headquarters in Madrid, Spain
HKUST’s first internship link with the Spanish National Research Council (Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, CSIC) in Spain was established in 2015, offering Master of Science students research exposure in the largest research network in Spain
A pilot research internship program was inaugurated in early 2015 between HKUST School of Engineering and the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) in Spain. With a desire to promote scientific, academic and cultural exchanges between the two institutions, over 70 internship positions were offered from CSIC’s 123 state-of-the-art national laboratories. Eight Master of Science (MSc) students from the MSc Programs in Civil Infrastructural Engineering and Management (CIEM), Environmental Engineering and Management (EVEM), Intelligent Building Technology and Management (IBTM), IC Design Engineering (ICDE), Mechanical Engineering (MECH) and Telecommunications (Telecom) took the opportunity to live and work in Spain for six months under this inaugural program.
CSIC is the largest public research institution in Spain and the third largest in Europe, boasting leading research under a wide breadth of fields from the humanities to chemical science. It has eight fields of knowledge and 220 researchers. As national labs with sophisticated equipment, CSIC has deep-seated connections with Spanish universities across the country.
The program saw the students travel to Madrid, Seville, and Oviedo to conduct research in mechanical exoskeletons, cooperative indoor personal localization, and autonomous navigation for quadcopters, among others.
Experiencing the Spanish culture, language, and lifestyle was another highlight of the internship. Research groups selected to host the MSc students were composed of individuals from diverse backgrounds. The cosmopolitan environment was excellent training for the researchers and students in their research or career development.
Students also made a mark on cutting-edge research. Their labs found HKUST’s student interns to be excellent and creative researchers making important and meaningful contributions in advancing the field of their study. In many cases, their works have provided invaluable experimental evidence and have driven the direction of the research.
Prof King Lun Yeung, Associate Dean of Engineering (Research and Graduate Studies), HKUST, and Prof Antonio Javier Sánchez Herencia, Deputy Vice-President of Scientific Programming, CSIC
CSIC First Opens its Door to Non-Spanish University
“The School of Engineering is very pleased to have established a strong link between the largest public institution dedicated to research in Spain and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology School of Engineering.” Prof King Lun Yeung, Associate Dean of Engineering (Research and Graduate Studies), said. 
In 2013-14, he initiated the joint network with Prof Miguel Angel Bañares of CSIC, the former Deputy Vice-President of Scientific Programming. The CSIC network, the third largest in Europe, first opened its door to a non-Spanish academic institution. “We are truly proud of our students being recognized as high quality and welcomed by their research laboratories. The first batch of students were offered 130 research projects to choose from,” Prof Yeung added.
“I saw valuable mutual benefits from training of Hong Kong students and transferring knowledge and techniques of what we are using at CSIC that are relevant to HKUST. HKUST is an attractor to high-level people within and around Asia and is an epicenter of knowledge for neighboring Mainland China, Taiwan, India and Malaysia, attracting the best and brightest from the region.” Prof Bañares recalled why CSIC first connected with HKUST.
“Students not only benefit from having interaction with our top-tier scientists on research, cultural learning from people from Spain and research group members from other parts of Europe would create intangible value for them to take away.” Prof Bañares also offered tips to future students, “We expect students to take more initiative and be more proactive. Never be afraid to ask questions or to propose something, or have coffee with a colleague, discuss the work and come up with new ideas. That’s great for everyone.”
Students Work in State-of-the-Art Robotics Lab
The Centre for Automatics and Robotics (CAR) is one of the laboratories in which the MSc students worked. Led by Prof Pascual Campoy, the lab aims to provide unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) with the highest degree of autonomy by exploiting the powerful sensor of vision. Achieving technology transfer on image processing and control techniques to unmanned aerial system (UAS) civil applications is the laboratory’s major mission.
Prof Campoy has already developed robust tracking techniques to aid air-to-air refuelling for aircraft as well as improved helipad detection and recognition to aid autonomous landings. For his work in pose estimation of aircraft and trajectory control, his group has won First Prize in the IMAV 2013 international competition, as well as Best Obstacle Avoidance Award and Best Trajectory Controller in IARC14.
Prof Campoy’s team has two professors, five senior researchers & PhDs, three PhD students in addition to four master’s students, six graduate students, a backup pilot and a project manager. Our students are exposed to a fully internationalized research environment with people from the US, UK, France, Austria, Sweden, Netherlands, Portugal and China.
(From left, front row) Prof Miguel Angel Bañares, former Deputy Vice-President of Scientific Programming, CSIC; Ms María Colmenares, Coordinator of Postgraduate and Specialization Department, CSIC; Prof King Lun Yeung, Associate Dean of Engineering (Research and Graduate Studies), HKUST; Prof Antonio Javier Sánchez Herencia, Deputy Vice-President of Scientific Programming, CSIC; Prof Pascual Campoy, Director, Computer Vision Group, Center for Automatics and Robotics, Joint Venture Technical University Madrid-UPM and CSIC; Prof Angel Alvarez, Associate Vice-Rector for International Relations with Asia UPM Madrid; (first left, back row) Ms Diana Liu, Head of Communications and External Affairs, School of Engineering, HKUST; (first right, back row) Ms Mandy Sin, Executive Officer of MSc and Professional Programs, School of Engineering, HKUST; and MSc students in the CSIC internship program
Student Perspectives: Hear from MSc students who went on this internship last year!
The Academic Route
Why did you participate in this internship?
“It provided an excellent insight into what a research career or a PhD program would be like.”
Anand Sreeram
What did this learning experience teach you?
“I had the opportunity to use sophisticated equipment during my research project. I believe it was very beneficial to learn these experimental techniques and material characterization methods. This knowledge is invaluable particularly to young scientists. The research aspects of the internship will certainly assist my future assignments or prospects.”
Anand Sreeram
What impact did you make to your lab?
“The project that I began in Spain will be continued by other members of the research team. They are confident that they can produce a conference paper or publication soon about this subject.”
Anand Sreeram
“For example, I explored a novel algorithm for wireless nodes to self-locate their position in a process called cooperative localization. This was an unfamiliar direction for the laboratory. Based on the results that I collected, they decided to proceed in this direction.”
Xufei Zheng
Why did you participate in this internship?
“The MSc program has taught me the theory, and the internship offered me hands-on experience in applying the theory.”
Chunxu Wang
What did this learning experience teach you?
“I believe the hands-on experience from this internship and exposure to working in a multicultural environment will greatly benefit my future career.”
Yizhi Jiang
“This internship offered a slow transit point from studying as a student to working. It taught me more about living independently, communication with others, and working as part of a group - skills that will be useful in the workplace.”  
Weiyan Jiang
“It was an opportunity to grow as an individual. I improved my communication and organizational skills through working as a team.  I also improved my analytical skills through analyzing my experimental results.”
Run Tian
“I discovered that I am very interested in this field and I would like to find a job in this area!”
Tongyu Liu
Why did you participate in this internship?
“I wanted the opportunity to experience living and studying overseas while working in the most advanced lab in Spain.”
Weiyan Jiang
What did this learning experience teach you?
“Universally, the Spanish people work extremely hard and are passionate about their research. They work with quite high efficiency and are happy.”
Weiyan Jiang
“During my work with researchers coming from across the world, the internationalized environment enabled me to be  a better person. For example, I learned to communicate with others better and struck a healthier balance between work and life.”
Weiyan Jiang
What were some unforgettable experiences?
“I took the opportunity to travel around Europe during my internship. I finally managed to achieve my dream of travelling to Paris!”
Chunxu Wang
“This experience taught me the beauty of Spanish culture; I went to the lab by bus like any office worker, went to the bar at the weekend, and watched a game of Real Madrid. I went to the basketball arena to watch a Paul Gasol game, drank coffee with researchers every workday, and heard plenty of Spanish jokes.”
Xufei Zheng
“The internship in Spain allowed me to sample the delights of Spanish cuisine and wines across the country. For example, I tried paella, gazpacho, and tortilla espanola. I even found the time to travel to different European countries!”
Run Tian
“I enjoyed life there. I visited the museums, saw a flamenco show, and tried different food. Summer there has 14 hours of daylight; I have plenty of time to see what I want.” 
Run Tian
What you will need in preparation for this internship? Any advice from previous interns at CSIC?
“Most students found that Spanish was quite an important language to learn prior to the internship. It may come in useful when talking to the landlord, your neighbours, or when ordering food. (Restaurants don’t have menus in English.) Certainly, this is more important outside of the two big cities, Madrid and Barcelona.”
Anand Sreeram
“Some preparation in cooking for oneself is advised as the Spanish tend to dine outside less often. Study Spanish food names is most important and practise cooking.”
Chunxu Wang
“Make sure to find accommodation with functioning air-conditioning. Summer months in Spain regularly reach the 30 degree range. Ensure travel plans are aligned with the weather also; parts of Spain or Europe may be less pleasant in the summer weather.”
- Weiyan Jiang
“Contact the supervisor early to gain a better idea of what is expected. Consult alumni who took the CSIC internship and seek advice on work and travel plans.” 
- Tongyu Liu
“You can find anything in Madrid. Just make sure to pack your spirit of adventure and curiosity!” 
- Yizhi Jiang
CSIC Internship
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