At the crossroads of a world emerging from a pandemic, the hottest keywords in recent times stand out: “Artificial Intelligence” and “ChatGPT”. As global communities strive for rejuvenation and order, a new wave of AI breakthroughs is sweeping in fast. As a renowned expert in computer science and engineering, Professor Martin Wong, the newly appointed Provost of Hong Kong Baptist University, has taken on a new journey to lead the University forward, leveraging his personal experience, insights on university management and artificial intelligence development.
Born and raised in Hong Kong, Professor Wong pursued his tertiary education in Canada and the US. After graduating with a BSc degree in Mathematics from the University of Toronto, he received his MS degree in Mathematics and PhD degree in Computer Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). Having dedicated his career to teaching and research at the University of Texas, his sense of loyalty and pride drew him back to his alma mater, UIUC. Taking up the role of Executive Associate Dean of the College of Engineering, he made his foray into higher education administration, leading 450-strong faculty members from around the world to take teaching and research to new heights.
Empowering Talents, Embracing Diversity
After decades abroad, Professor Wong’s passion in nurturing the young generation of his hometown of Hong Kong called upon him, so he assumed the role of the Dean of the Faculty of Engineering at The Chinese University of Hong Kong in 2019. He was pleased to encounter many promising young talents and a high standard of academic excellence in Hong Kong, which fueled his desire to take his career to the next level by joining HKBU as the Provost. He believes that his research background as an engineering scholar, combined with his wealth of management experience in the US and Hong Kong, will lead HKBU to a new milestone.
Among his top priorities for the university’s development, Professor Wong places a special emphasis on elevating its ranking and talent recruitment. “University rankings can help attract top-tier teaching and research experts, as well as prospective students,” Professor Wong says, “With HKBU’s brand deeply rooted in its core values and heritage, now is the perfect time to showcase it, particularly in transdisciplinary direction and research, creative arts, communication, Chinese medicine and computer science”. Recognising the pivotal role that recruitment and retention play in fostering a dynamic academic environment, he will always keep an open mind to listen and understand the manpower needs of different departments and find the right solutions.
AI: Fueling the Future of Education
Speaking of AI technology, Professor Wong sees it as both a force for transdisciplinary education and a key direction for university development. While he acknowledges the growing trend of integrating AI into teaching and learning processes, he remains cautious about its potential pitfalls. “Take the rise of tools like ChatGPT as an example,” he explains, “while these tools can undoubtedly aid students in their pursuit of knowledge, we must also ensure that the information derived is from reliable sources and upholds rigorous academic standards.”
Interestingly, Professor Wong found the similarity in the debates around AI technology and calculators, as there was also skepticism on the adoption of calculators decades ago. “Much like calculators, it’s not the tool, but how we use and harness it that matters,” he muses.
Professor Wong fondly recalled his passion for mathematics. Despite his divergence into the realm of computer science for his PhD, he found the challenge transformative. “The exploration of new avenues often leads to unexpected growth,” he shares, “Hardship and difficulties may sometimes be the forces helping you to find your true calling.” Outside the academia, Professor Wong is a big fan of intricate mathematical puzzles and enjoys the simplicity of nature through hiking.
A devoted educator at heart, Professor Wong encourages students to pursue their passion and dream with persistence. “Perseverance and hard work matter more than talents. Lay a strong foundation step by step, and success will follow,” he asserts.