Hang Lung Mathematics Awards Interview – Follow your Passion and Embrace the Opportunity

Hang Lung Mathematics Awards (HLMA) encourages Hong Kong secondary school students to explore the exciting world of mathematics through research. Despite having a keen interest, many students have doubts about their abilities. Professor Shing Yu Leung, Associate Dean of Science at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) and Chair of Executive Committee of HLMA, encourages students to overcome their doubts and embrace the opportunity.

L: Professor Shing Yu Leung

H: What are the duties of the Executive Committee of HLMA?
L: The Executive Committee oversees the overall operation and administration of the competition, which includes managing registration, report submission and other related activities, while the secretariat is in charge of the general administration. Please feel free to contact the secretariat if you have any inquiries.

H: What kind of activities will be organized for secondary school students and participants in 2023 HLMA?
L: We know that many students are interested in HLMA, but don’t know much about the necessary steps and have no idea about research. HLMA will organize a series of workshops to guide students on how to select a research topic, conduct research, and write reports.

H: How can the activities and competition of HLMA benefit secondary school students?
L: Producing research results can be an advantage in students’ pursuit of higher education or a career in academia. Even if they cannot deliver excellent work, they can still learn a lot beyond their regular curriculum and explore more mathematics topics according to their interests. This is a precious opportunity for students to learn how to acquire new knowledge, which will undoubtedly benefit their academic and professional growth in the future.

H: What is your advice for secondary school students who have never conducted mathematics research before?  
L: Many students have doubts about their background and abilities and may feel that they must acquire all necessary knowledge and read all relevant books and articles before getting started. In reality, we often learn as we go, and look for additional resources from books and articles only when needed. So don’t worry. Just give it a go!

H: In your HLMA experience, was there a memorable moment?
L: During the 2021 HLMA oral defense, I had the chance to listen to students’ presentations for the first time, and was amazed by how outstanding they all were. Even undergraduate students may find their research challenging. Some reviewers even said that their work was on par with university-level research. I was very surprised! There are videos of past competitions on HLMA website for students who are interested.

H: Can you share your experience in doing research?
L: I once conducted a research with two different methods. I considered one of them relatively straightforward, yet, several years later, that particular report turned out to be the most cited one of all my research papers.  Many students may think that their work is too simplistic and wonder whether it is suitable for the competition. What matters most is not how you perceive your work, but how the reviewers interpret your report. We have heard of some past winners who, during their doctoral studies, further developed the research topics they explored previously and achieved greater success.  

H: Would you like to share some words of encouragement for the students who are considering participating in HLMA?
L: Don’t be afraid! Even if you cannot complete the research, the whole process will be a great learning opportunity. Second, it’s crucial to maintain a positive mindset. There will always be criticisms no matter how well you did. HLMA reviewers understand that the research is done by secondary school students, and most of their comments are simply advice to help you improve. Students should take it as a form of encouragement and support.