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Three Young Musketeers from the Summer Research Programme 2023 (SRP2023) –
The Future of Data Science Research is In All of Our Hands

HKU IDS was proud to introduce to you the three humble, yet talented, gentlemen (aka. Our Young Musketeers of the first batch) with extraordinary performance at the Summer Research Programme 2023 (SRP2023) who were hosted at our Institute from June to August 2023. The SRP2023 is organized by the Graduate School, with over 1,000 applications received this year. Only 92 participants were shortlisted. HKU IDS got 3 out of 5 nominees receiving the award in our first year of participation.

Looking back at the 10-week programme, our three participants made remarkable progress as future data science researchers who are dedicated in their fields. We are sure the experience at SRP2023 will remain to be a solid driving force that helps our students gear towards their research aspirations and career goals. Let’s revisit all the fond memories.

Mr Bryan Choy from University of California, Los Angeles

Bryan in discussion with Dr Kirkley on a research project about network science
  • Title of Research Project: Panel Clustering for Urban Scaling Analysis
  • Mentor: Dr Alec Kirkley
  • Outstanding Achievement: Conditional offer of HKU Presidential PhD Scholarship among the 30 recipients

What Bryan cherished the most as an amateur data scientist who got exposed to unique HKU IDS activities during SRP2023? 

Recently, I had the privilege of participating in the 2023 Summer Research Programme (SRP) at the University of Hong Kong (HKU). Anticipating my summer in a place so different from my home in the U.S. filled me with initial hesitation. Yet, the SRP unfolded to exceed all of my expectations. I was very fortunate to have joined the Institute of Data Science (IDS) at HKU under the supervision of Dr. Alec Kirkley. My research this summer was in a field I had little exposure to before. However, the steadfast luminance of Dr. Kirkley’s guidance helped me navigate the intricacy of data science’s applications in the once-foreign realm of urban research. Dr. Kirkley’s sagacious mentorship not only enriched my understanding but also honed my aptitude as a diligent and discerning researcher.

Bryan exploring various outreach programmes at HKU IDS as the Master of Ceremony for our inaugural Summer Institute

Although the IDS is still modest in size and relatively new compared with other departments, I was immediately astonished by the immense support everyone at the IDS displayed throughout my stay in Hong Kong. From devoting time to come out to each other’s presentations to celebrating birthdays together, the people at IDS always went above and beyond – in research and in terms of community. Under the leadership team at the IDS, they have successfully fostered a collaborative, supportive, and welcoming environment conducive for the brightest scholars to work on groundbreaking research. The IDS administrative team’s commitment to the development of the institution is unparalleled, and I am especially grateful for the support and learning opportunities Assistant Director Ms. Maggie Chan has given me during the SRP. I had the honor of being the Master of Ceremonies for the IDS’s inaugural summer institute program and the signing ceremony with the Shanghai Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. The overwhelming trust and support from the IDS allowed me to fully immerse myself in their vision and partake in the institution’s trailblazing path. I strongly believe that the IDS is making history and will soon rise as a leader in Asia.

While conducting research was a key highlight of the SRP, the people I have met through the SRP and IDS are what I cherish the most. The SRP is a congregation of a diverse intellectual community and a fellowship fostered to support our keen interests in research. The people I have met inspire me, and there is always something new to learn from our conversations – from their life studying in Europe to growing up in Asia and the aspirations that motivate them as researchers in their respective fields. Outside of academic discourse, I enjoyed the time spent with my fellow SRP participants at the tram party through the lively city of Hong Kong, the courts playing badminton together, and the seafood dinner at Lamma Island. I have many fond memories of laughter and joy.

Joyful moment of Bryan in being awarded the conditional offer of HKU Presidential PhD Scholar Programme for his outstanding performance
We all <3 HKU IDS!

The Summer Research Programme at the University of Hong Kong’s Institute of Data Science has given me so much in such a short time. It gave me life-long friends, the confidence to pursue a future in research, and a summer I will never forget. Thank you to everyone I have met, the graduate school for giving me this opportunity, and the Institute of Data Science for the warm hospitality this summer. While I am still unsure of what the future holds for me, one thing I am sure of is that I will definitely be back.

Mr Pei Zhou from University of California, San Diego

Pei in discussion with Dr Yang on a research project about embodied AI
  • Title of Research Project: Levering Foundation Models for Embodied Artificial Intelligence
  • Mentor: Dr Yanchao Yang
  • Outstanding Achievement: “Best Poster Presenter Award”

What has the interdisciplinary nature of HKU IDS impacted Pei as a young scholar through SRP2023?

After the project ended, as I look back on my experience with the Summer Research Program (SRP) at the Institute of Data Science (IDS), I’m truly impressed by the progress I’ve made in my research-based innovative thinking during this period. My personal growth and the strong friendships I’ve formed with like-minded friends have also left a deep impact on me. All these factors together form the essence of this odyssey.

From day one, I was filled with excitement in the IDS office. Everyone around me were peers who shared the same enthusiasm for data science. Together, we eagerly delved into exploring the most cutting-edge theories and applications in the field of data science. These theories and applications were incredibly interesting and held immense value for the real world.

Pei's unique SRP experience with Bryan in being the Masters of Ceremony of the signing ceremony of the research collaboration agreement between Shanghai AI Lab and HKU IDS

During the summer research program, the mentors and instructors from IDS played a crucial role in creating an excellent learning environment. They are all highly skilled and experienced researchers. They were dedicated to imparting expertise and offering guidance, ensuring that every participant had the necessary support for academic development. Their insights and feedback were invaluable, greatly aiding our growth.

Additionally, this research program at IDS has taught me the significance of collaboration on the academic journey. Working and engaging in discussions with peers from diverse backgrounds and perspectives has been truly enlightening. Especially in the field of data science, interdisciplinary approaches often yield the most innovative solutions. IDS provided us with a platform for interdisciplinary exchange that not only sharpened our technical abilities but also encouraged us to question, challenge, and redefine the boundaries of what we thought was possible.

Pei sharing the joy with Dr Yang for being awarded the "Best Poster Presenter Award"

Beyond academic research, this program has provided opportunities for personal growth. From transferable skill retreats to seminars, the program prioritizes students’ holistic development. These experiences have not only broadened our knowledge and perspectives but have also introduced us to many excellent peers who want to make a positive impact on the world, which is good for potential future collaborations.

Pei as a helper in the HKU IDS Summer Institute activity

Overall, I’m grateful to be part of this research program. The knowledge and friendships I’ve gained from this program at IDS will encourage me to keep going in the field of data science and other related areas. I strongly recommend this program to anyone eager to explore the world of data science. This summer research program at IDS encourages us not only to become skilled professionals but also to become thoughtful innovators. 

Mr Henry Wang from Oxford University

Henry working diligently on his research project at the HKU IDS office
  • Title of Research Project: Review on Mind-reading: Reconstructing Images from fMRI
  • Mentor: Dr Xihui Liu

How has Henry perceived the HKU IDS as a hub of research excellence?

Undoubtedly, my time at HKU IDS during the summer has been nothing short of extraordinary. Reflecting on this experience, I am profoundly thankful to IDS for granting me the opportunity to be a part of the SRP program, made possible through their nomination and subsequent admission by the graduate school. What began as a novice’s journey was skilfully guided by Dr. Xihui Liu, whose tutelage led me to a comprehensive understanding of the diffusion model’s principles and applications.

Our 3 Young Musketeers having diverse cultural exposure in Hong Kong at the tram party organised by HKU Graduate School

Amidst this enriching academic environment, one individual stands out – Maggie Chan. Maggie’s vibrant and amiable leadership has added a remarkable dimension to my time here. Beyond her professional role, she has fostered a sense of camaraderie among us, often organizing recreational activities and culinary explorations. Her thoughtful gestures, such as the distribution of IDS-related tokens, have contributed to a collection of cherished memories. Through her adept photography, she has etched our shared moments into a lasting testimony of our beautiful days together.

Henry having fun with Ms Maggie Chan, Assistant Director (Administration), at the poster presentation session after days of hard work

To aspiring students considering IDS programs, I implore you to seize the opportunity with confidence. Within this institute, you will encounter rigorous professors who ignite intellectual growth, like-minded peers who share your passion, a contemporary and comfortable workspace that fuels productivity, and an atmosphere brimming with warmth and support. Embrace the chance to become a part of the IDS family – a decision that promises not only academic advancement but also the forging of lasting connections and unforgettable experiences.