Web Date: March 1, 2011
Hong Kong Launches International Year Of Chemistry
About 150 people attended a ceremony officially kicking off the International Year of Chemistry in Hong Kong (IYC 2011) on Feb. 26th. The event at City University served to highlight the vigor of chemistry in this trade and finance metropolis.
"Hong Kong is an economically-driven society," says Pauline Chiu, an associate professor of chemistry at Hong Kong University who is co-chair of IYC 2011. "Through our activities, we hope to interest young people in science rather than just the stockmarket and the economy." Chiu is also secretary of the local chapter of the American Chemical Society.
Hong Kong researchers are exceptionally well-recognized internationally. For the period 1996-2009, they were 7th in the world in terms of citations per paper. Yet Hong Kong has a total population of just over 7 million people.
"The Hong Kong government supports research," explains Raymond W.Y. Wong, chairman of the Hong Kong Chemical Society and a professor at Hong Kong Baptist University. Further boosting research capabilities, Hong Kong universities successfully attract several of China's brightest graduate students, he adds. Moreover, Hong Kong-based researchers collaborate with other top chemists throughout China where they can use advanced instruments that aren't always available in Hong Kong. Wong is the other co-chair of IYC 2011.
In addition to providing generous funding to universities, the government of Hong Kong is also an enthusiastic supporter of high school chemistry, says Anna Lee, a former chemistry teacher who is now chief scientific curriculum development officer for the Hong Kong Education Bureau. "There may not be that many chemistry jobs in Hong Kong, but it's important that during their education, our students gain a basic knowledge of science," she tells C&EN.
In global rankings, Hong Kong high school students regularly rank high in science achievements, Lee notes. Earlier this month, Hong Kong student Ashley Chan placed first in chemistry in the International General Certificate of Secondary Education.
Chiu says IYC 2011 will be a vehicle to further enhance the image of chemistry. Organizers have launched a website in Chinese (www.hkedcity.net/iyc2011), she says, and there will be special symposia, conferences, and presentations in high schools. A local advertising company might use television screens in public buses, trains, and ships to broadcast chemistry messages.
The launch of IYC 2011 was held jointly with the announcement of winners for the Hong Kong Chemistry Olympiad, a combination of events that ensured the attendance of chemistry students from all seven local universities.
IYC 2011 could be already producing encouraging results. David Lee Phillips, an HKU professor of chemistry who is also president of the local ACS chapter, says that 51 U.S. high school students in Hong Kong will take the test to represent the U.S. at the next International Chemistry Olympiad. "It's the highest number we've ever had," he says.
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