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Experiential Learning

The Faculty of Science

Overview

The Faculty of Science comprises six departments/school, they are School of Biological Sciences, Department of Earth Sciences, Department of Mathematics, Department of Physics, Department of Chemistry, and Department of Statistics & Actuarial Science.

In addition to classroom and laboratory teaching, the Faculty of Science is engaging students in experiential learning through participation in both the laboratory and in the field. All students are required to take at least one form of experiential learning activities (the workload of which is equivalent to that of an advanced course of at least 6 credits) within their 3 years of study.

Purpose is to enable students to:

  • to gain working experience in a real-world workplace environment
  • to have diverse learning experience
  • to integrate theory and practice, and to understand limitations of their current knowledge
  • to engage in research in their majored science discipline
  • to prepare for their life-long career
  • to broaden their social and cultural experience, and to develop their social and cultural values
  • to work in a team and to collaborate with people with diverse background

These experiential learning activities include:

  1. Project-based learning
  2. Field Studies
  3. Internship and Professional Preparation Programme
  4. Exchange studies
  5. Other form of EL

Final Year Project Directed Studies Seminar Course Field Studies Field Course Environmental Science in Practice Discipline Internship Essential Skills for Statistical & Risk Analysts Quantitative Tools in Physics Exchange Studies ILOP


I. Project-based Learning

Final Year Project
Students who have taken adequate advanced-level core courses may engage in an in-depth study or research on a specific topic under the supervision of a staff member. As the work involved a high level of academic well-preparedness and intellectual maturity, usually only final year students are allowed to enroll. These projects, which usually contain an element of originality, will give students an early experience of conducting serious scientific research.

Yr 3 FYP
Thomas Lam

Task Performed & Reflection
My research is on poison released by fungus and how it affects the food chain and on humans.

I have learned how to be independent. I have to manage my timetable; I have to be disciplined; I have to plan my priorities; I have learned how to collaborate with others, to communicate with others; I have to learn how to engage and discuss with others. I would say interpersonal skill is important.


Yr 3 FYP
Ian Chong

Task Performed & Reflection
I did meta-ergonomics for my FYP. Once when you’re in the lab doing experiments, you don’t want to leave, you just want to finish it.

I can say that I have to relearn everything again. The lab skills that you have acquired from your lab courses are just not sufficient. We can be cross with our normal lab courses, but we can’t do so for our FYP. We have to proceed carefully in steps. Courses are theoretical in nature, by the time when you do your FYP, there are a lot of practical issues that you have to consider and you will come to realize that you are not familiar with a lot of lab skills or techniques.

I am able to manage my time wisely. You have to know how to prioritize your work, develop a plan for yourself.

Directed Studies
Students will undertake a self-managed study under the supervision of a staff member. The directed study can be a critical review or a synthesis of published work on the subject, or a small scale project on a specific topic of the subject, or a laboratory or field study that would enhance the student’s understanding of the subject.

Seminar Course
Students are required to undertake private study of material designated by the teacher. They are required to take turns to give presentations in class meetings, and to participate in discussions during such meetings. Students will acquire core learning skills such as literature searching and reviewing, self-managed study, synthesizing and presenting the material, and analyzing and critiquing the material and views presented by their fellow students.

Research Fellowship Programmes
The Research Fellowship Programme includes two Schemes: Summer Research Fellowship (SRF) Scheme and Overseas Research Fellowship (ORF) Scheme. Students with good academic standing will be awarded a fellowship and expected to work full time in a research laboratory or engage in a research project for at least two months in the summer (June to August) under the supervision of a Faculty member either within the Faculty/University or in an overseas university or institution. Upon completion of the research, the student is expected to submit a written report and to give a Poster Presentation on the work performed in September/October.

Cases of SRF

Yr 1 Summer Research: Light pollution in Hong Kong
Christy Leung

Task Performed
Christy LeungMy summer research was light pollution in Hong Kong. I wanted to find out its characteristics and its linkage with spectral-graph. I wanted to find out its chemical reaction with other celestial bodies. I wanted to understand more regarding their chemical substances therefore, went about doing this research.

We have to think of ways to solving our own problems and such solutions or problems had never been mentioned in lectures. To do a research, I needed a lot of hard and soft ware, and it was through this research was I given the opportunity to learning these skills. At lectures, I am only learning theories. It was only when I got the chance to implement taught knowledge had I known different difficulties would show up. This experience has taught me how to think of ways to solving problems on my own, and such problems were out of my expectation. This experience has given me a strong sense of direction for it has prepared or shown me which way to go if I were to do research related to astronomy in the future; such as what computer skills do I need to acquire, etc.

I wanted to know what research was like. I wanted to know how to perform certain computer skills, how to run data, and how to operate equipment. I have never thought of using my research to educate the general public, it is more like to learn, to plan and how to do a research.

Reflection
Light pollutionWe had to meet with our supervisor weekly: me with some post graduate students and MPhil students. We had to report our weekly progress to our supervisor, s/he as well as other students would provide advice or feedback to us, it was somewhat like an exchange of views and ideas. Even though, others might be doing a very different project than mine but I could still learn and pick up what they were doing, I could see their fruitful results. I’ve learned to ask humbly, which is a kind of communication skill.

Able to do it during summer without any other (academic) worry is a luxury. We don’t have any classes during summer. We can think of our research anytime, even at home.


Yr 1 Summer Research: Solar energy
Tim Lo

Task Performed
Tim LoI’m in chemistry, mainly involved in doing a lot of experiments. The objective of my project was to produce a substance applicable in batteries operated by solar energy.

The work was very different from that of at normal lab classes for we had to take things and handle things seriously. In my research, I needed to perform a range or a series of chemical reactions one after another, everything had to be cleaned and pure, no contamination of any substances were allowed. If I contaminated the first reaction, the whole range of experiments that were to follow could be counted as useless.

We only had 2 months. By the time as I moved forward, I began to realize that things weren’t as easy as I thought. My attitude began to change from inventing something to learning as much as possible throughout the research project. I wanted to do research in the future. This experience has taught me to learn and equip myself as much as I could, such as learning and operating certain equipment.

At lectures, we were trained intentionally to think in various directions. In assessment, we were told not to write one solution but to write at least 2 solutions to the problem. But hands-on experience has taught me that one or two solutions aren’t enough, I have to think of many ways to solving a problem.

Reflection
Textbooks taught me that mixing substance A & B would get a C, but that wasn’t true for there was a lot of rules and regulations that we had to abide to in the laboratory. We could not deal with poisonous substance and so I had to use a similar substance to substitute it. Such situations had I had learned to be careful and serious. I’ve learned how to be responsible. My project is related to environmental protection and recycling. In the past, I would put things into recycling bins but would think less for hardly would I pay much attention on this aspect. But now, I would like to divert my attention on this aspect, hoping I can do something in the aspect of environmental technology.

This research has taught me a very valuable lesson. Not being able to achieve what I had anticipated didn’t mean I had employed an inappropriate route, it might as well related to my thoughtlessness and carelessness. It was only by trial and error and keep on trying, refining the process could I proceed onward. I’m building positive experience over negative experience. Even though the experiment had put me into countless failure, I think this has taught me how to overcome failure. And in reality, this is what it will look like when doing a research.

II. Field Studies

Field studies provide students with first-hand, on-site learning which is not possible inside a classroom or a laboratory.

Field Course

Environmental Science in Practice
Students are expected to recognize ways of environmental science in practice, gain knowledge of current environmental problems and solutions, and be able to present and communicate their field observations and findings.

III. Internship and Professional Preparation Programme

Discipline Internship
The discipline specific internship course aims to offer students the opportunities to gain work experience in the industry related to their major of study.

Yr 2 Summer Internship
Wong Ka Tat

Task Performed
I worked for the Hong Kong Science Museum during my summer internship. I was given one theme to work on and this theme would involve a couple of experimental demonstrations. Each experiment will last for 20 to 25 minutes. Audiences would be the general public with a standard of no higher than Form 4 educational background. After designing all experiments, my task was to present a run down of all experiments to staff at the Science Museum. The staff will adapt or make good my experiments so as to make it more attractive to the general public, and will have them shown according to its programme or seasonal schedule. My supervisor told me that since all experiments were meant for the general public, therefore every steps and oral explanation had to be crisp and clear.

Reflection
I have to think of each experimental steps and the placement of all tools and equipment, as of what comes first, what comes next. I have to think clearly all hierarchical steps. Since my audiences were the general public, I had to find a way to present things simply, use easy-to-understand examples to convey complex scientific knowledge. I was able to learn how to convey my message neatly and simply yet correctly without making any mistakes.


Yr 2 Summer Internship
Rebecca Chung

Task Performed
I worked as an intern in Cathy Pacific for almost 2 months. I worked in their Production Line responsible for data entry, and I had to assure food quality by constantly cross checking lists and food temperature, which was similar to what I had wanted to do in the future. I was able to know how a big company operated and ran its food production line. One of the seniors showed us the procedures for performing hygiene check on food, which we could never learn from books. The experience was practical and useful, and had directed my attention towards this career path.

Reflection
I realized that working is very different from studying. Even if we are late for assignments, we can still hand in our assignments, only that we are being penalized by deducting a few marks, but working is another thing. We have to meet deadlines and we have to accomplish our task before deadlines, if not, we will be blamed. Internship allows me to know my weaknesses and strengths. I know how to interact with others. I have to solve problems on my own, handle problems on my own.

Service Learning Internship
It is offered in the summer to all BSc 1st and 2nd year students. Aim is to have students to actively participate in organized service activities and to help develop their social consciousness and commitment so as to become a responsible citizen.

Career Development Programme for Science Students
This course is offered in two semesters each year, aim is to allow students to acquire competence and confidence in pursuing their career aspiration and personal development. The programme comprises activities of diverse forms such as lectures, workshops, forums, and company visits, which are centered around the themes of Career Preparation, Personal Management, and Social Skills. Contents of the course are jointly designed by the Faculty and CEDARS and tailor-made to cater for students of different science disciplines.

SCNC programme
Chan Ka Chuen

Task Performed
I was able to know techniques for hunting jobs. Such as what we needed to do, what preparation did we need, what to do in an interview, etc. Through this programme, we know more about the employment info of HKU students and / or science students. Sometimes seniors are invited to come in and share their working experiences with us. They will also teach us how to write our CV and resume, give advice as of how to polish them. This workshop lasts for one semester, held once every week. The message was positive for we’re told we had plenty of outlets.

Reflection
For students who haven’t engaged in internships, this workshop provides a good chance for showing us how to write CVs and resume, which is good for our future as well as letting us know what we ought to do in the future.

Essential Skills for Statistical & Risk Analysts
Offered to students majoring in Statistics or Risk Management. It aims to enhance students’ IT knowledge and skills which are not covered in the current curriculum but are essential for career development of statistical and risk analysts.

Summer Course: STAT 3989
Lo Po Ki

Task Performed
The course was about software / tools: tools tailored for statisticians or risk analysts. We would never learn these tools in normal lectures / courses. The Faculty intentionally opened this course for us to study in the summer.

Reflection
Some of my peers forgot what they had learned right after class, whereas I would try to apply those tools in my statistical projects.

Quantitative Tools in Physics
Offered to students majoring in Astronomy; Mathematics/Physics or Physics. It aims to enable students to use a few quantitative software packages that are commonly used in physics computation, experiment and presentation through mainly hands on projects.

IV. Exchange Studies

At least 1 semester (1st semester or 2nd semester), the exchange study must be through the HKU Worldwide Exchange Programme or Science Faculty/Department Level Exchange Programmes.

Arthur Cheung

Task Performed & Reflection
I had my exchange in Norway. I took Climatology and we were required to do a presentation at the end. It was the first time for me to present in front of a class of foreigners.
I’ve learned how to cook, how to survive on my own. After knowing how to survive, I began to plan for trips, going and visiting here and there. I went to Scotland alone for 10 days, able to experience what life was about.

As a science student, we should travel around visiting various places to see and study different landform. Each area has different stone formation, which is a very interesting fact.


Chan Ka Chuen

Task Performed & Reflection
I went to the Korean University for exchange. I studied Physics, Economics and Korean. I stayed there for less than 2 months. I went around exploring and I observed its culture. Able to venture in another country is good. It had widened my views through this exchange.

The biggest difficulty being communication for I couldn’t find a common language with the locals. But in terms of living, the country was nice. Exchange allows me to see the world, to see places other than Hong Kong, allowing us to understand more of the locals and their culture.

VI. Other Form of EL

Intensified Learning Opportunity Programme (ILOP)
The programme is mainly for second year students. Application is usually in October each year. It provides training in personal development, global citizenship, social equality and advocacy, and cultural awareness. It also includes an overseas internship and a mentorship scheme.

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