Dean's Message
Spring 2015 No.26
Ms & Mr Young Engineers
School of Engineering undergraduates have increasing opportunities to take part in enriching learning experiences apart from their studies, including internships at major companies and organizations and research exchanges with top global universities. Here, students and alumni discuss their beyond-the-classroom experiences
United Nations intern
Samantha Wing Man Kong
BEng, Chemical and Environmental Engineering (2014)
UN Headquarters, New York, Summer 2014

How did you feel about your time at the United Nations (UN)?
I spent most of my three-month internship at the UN Headquarters in New York City. It proved one of the most remarkable experiences I have had in my life and has deepened my passion for international relations. 
Was it difficult to gain the internship?
I was chosen as one of 10 representatives from all over the world, following two rounds of interviews. Here, I must also add a big thank you to HKUST Sustainability Unit, which oversees the University’s commitment to environmental stewardship and sponsored my internship.
What did you do there?
I worked as a Youth Representative for an NGO, which focuses on promoting environmental health and literacy. I was mainly responsible for attending and summarizing daily briefings held in the UN, covering areas such as sustainable development, technology, energy, peace and security. I participated in certain high-level meetings, for example, the drafting of Sustainable Development Goals with Member States, as well as seminars and briefings held by UN bodies and agencies, including the General Assembly and Security Council.
Who did you meet?
In addition to duties at the UN, we were given the chance to interact with diplomats on global issues. This offered first-hand interaction with decision-makers on developmental issues and practitioners of diplomacy. I also met Dr Margaret Chan, the Director-General of the World Health Organization, who previously served as Director of Health in the Hong Kong government. We briefly discussed the Ebola issue.
What did you gain from your time there?
I slowly built a clear understanding on various world issues and their relationship to my own interests. Meetings on the environment and sustainability were valuable resources to enrich my knowledge, which in turn inspired me to seek my current post as a Graduate Environmental Engineer at an international consultancy. In September, I will pursue a Master’s in Architecture, specializing in environmental design.
Corporate intern
Helen Yifang Liu
Industrial Engineering and Engineering Management (2015)
Goldman Sachs Investment Bank, Hong Kong, Summer 2014

Why did you want to go on a company internship?
I felt it was necessary to get hands-on experience in a particular industry before entering it. I thought it would help me to know whether I liked the field and whether my background was the right fit or not. More importantly, internship seemed to be an important stepping stone for joining larger companies.
How did you choose/were chosen to join this company?
I wanted to apply to Goldman Sachs because it is a major company and a fresh industry for an engineering student like me. The company chose me because of my engineering background, which could add more diversity to a finance firm.
What was your first day like?
The first day was orientation. We had to meet all the other interns and listen to company executives talk about the corporate culture, rules, and so forth. This helped to integrate the interns into the company.
What did you feel was the main benefit of the internship?
Getting to know an industry other than engineering. I found out how people deal with pop-up issues – problem-solving in an international company – as well as some of the dos and don’ts in a large firm. I was also able to meet great peers and mentors.
How do you think it will help you in your future career?
I believe it will really add value to my personal development and networking. I learned a large amount about the finance industry, which I felt would make it easier to enter such a field when I graduated.
What did you learn about yourself as a result of the internship?
I realized that my problem-solving skills built up during my undergraduate studies were not bad! And I could probably go further in this area.
HKUST-Harvard Undergraduate Summer Exchange Research Program
Micky Chi Yee Chan
Computer Engineering Program (2015)
HKUST and Harvard, Summer 2014

Why did you apply to join the pilot HKUST-Harvard program?
I believed it was a great opportunity for me to learn about cutting-edge technology and make new friends. I feel fortunate to have been selected with so many smart students in the School. I am not great at getting good grades but I love working on group projects. I like research because I get to explore some of the latest technologies. This program, which let me work in a multicultural team, really appealed to me.
How many people could join the program and how long did it last?
A total of eight students, four from each university, spent one month at HKUST and one month at Harvard.
What did the research involve?
The project centered on visible light communication and there were two project themes, one on door locking and one on mining. I worked on the latter. In Hong Kong, we mainly learned about the design process and did some brainstorming. At Harvard, we worked on a prototype, undertaking testing and debugging.
Did the project go smoothly?
Not always! We quite often got stuck on technical problems. When this happened, we would have a cup of coffee, discuss, and start over. I really enjoyed this learning process and the teamwork involved.
Did you have time for social activities?
In Hong Kong, we took our US teammates to see the sights. In Boston, at the weekends, we explored the city. We even took a four-hour bus ride to New York, where we visited the Brooklyn Bridge, China Town, Statue of Liberty, and other places.
What did you gain from the program?
I learned a great deal from the Harvard students, in particular, their passion. Over those two months, I realized how enthusiastic they were and not afraid to try new things. Although most of the US students came from mechanical engineering, the project was more focused on electronic engineering. I saw how they devoted a lot of time to research, learning about circuits, and testing. They failed many times, but didn’t give up and, in the end, we accomplished two amazing projects.
What will you remember most?
Achieving great things is not about how smart you are. It is about not giving up.