A Natural Choice
Sophie Law was a sub-degree holder who wanted to become a medical laboratory technician. But she also knew that she would need to know a great deal more in science to have a successful career. So she looked to the Natural Sciences (NSCI) programme at CUHK whose flexibility in selecting courses would expose her to different disciplines in science and thus broaden her horizon in various fields.
Sophie had come to the right place. Prof. Kwan Kin-ming, Director of NSCI, said, ‘NSCI has built a strong tie with the 12 science programmes in the Faculty of Science of CUHK. The quest for new knowledge and skills is mainly driven by the faculty members in the respective disciplines. Our programme allows students to study a multiplicity of science courses, which helps them acquire the ability of solving problems with cross-subject knowledge.
‘This senior-year programme, first launched in 2014, offers a platform for the sub-degree local students to pursue academic studies in relation to their interests. Students are allowed to focus on a concentration and study the science courses of their interests as electives.’
The programme admits 50 students each year. Professor Kwan said that those admitted are genuinely interested in science and eager to learn and succeed. Admission scholarships are offered on the basis of academic and interview performance. Applicants selecting NSCI as their first-preference will be automatically considered. The value of each admission scholarship ranges from HK$5,000 to HK$10,000. Besides, NSCI is locally accredited at Level 5 of the Qualifications Framework, so NSCI students are eligible to apply for financial assistance including the TSFS and NLSFT by the HKSAR government, if necessary.
To ensure new students adapt and thrive in their studies, the NSCI orientation session is arranged before the commencement of the first term. The students do not only have a better understanding of the programme and the study plan but also a good chance to meet their classmates. Some current students and graduates are also invited to share their university lives and study strategies.
Extra guiding sessions and administrative support are always in place to help the new students choose and register for courses. Other supporting activities are organized for them: research courses briefings, staff-students consultative meetings and gatherings with academic advisors to foster a sense of belonging.
The care shown and showered on the students were not missed by Sophie. ‘The staff and the students are close as family members and I enjoyed time in this big family. I was deeply impressed by the professors, who are enthusiastic in research and passionate about teaching. Also, they provide great support and supervision to us in academic matters and help us get used to university life.’
She continued, ‘During the past years in CUHK, I made a lot of friends. My friends come from different programmes and they are really nice people. We do projects and study together. We do not only learn together but also support and grow with one another. They are all my treasures.’
This programme provides greater flexibility than other programmes can. While students are required to study a set of required courses within their chosen concentrations, they are also allowed to study other science elective courses, which are sometimes not available to non-major students. For example, a student in the concentration of Biological Sciences may take courses from the Risk Management programme.
Professor Kwan highlighted one of the bonuses offered by NSCI: ‘The biomimicry course is exclusively offered to all year-1 NSCI students. Biomimicry is a multidisciplinary and emerging subject that guides students to learn from nature and to solve a real-world problem in a sustainable way. Only the NSCI students have the opportunity to study in a course fully designed for this new discipline at CUHK.’
Sophie, a beneficiary of NSCI’s curriculum flexibility, said, ‘I used to think that the branches of science were independent of one another. After taking courses organized by different departments, it dawned on me that all of them are indeed highly integrated.’
NSCI has closely collaborated with other science programmes to offer internship, mentorship and exchange opportunities for the students. Some of the students have done field trips in environmental science, while others have gone on exchanges through the Faculty, the Colleges or the University.
More than half of NSCI graduates have started their careers in the science industry, 20% of them working in the government or public organizations, the remaining have entered the business world. A few are even pursuing postgraduate studies in PhD, MPhil and MSc.
Sophie is confident about the training of laboratory technique and research methodology she has received at NSCI. Apart from a challenging academic life, she tells the prospective student who’s considering to join NSCI: ‘You could also join different activities organized by the programme and the Colleges. You could definitely enjoy a fascinating university life here. Do not hesitate to join our big family.’
Published: Summer 2017
Last Updated: Summer 2018