HKUST Appoints Prof. Nancy IP as Fifth President

Today, the Council of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) unanimously approved the appointment of Prof. Nancy IP as the next president of the University with effect from October 19, 2022, succeeding Prof. Wei SHYY who will step down from the position. Prof. Ip is the first woman to be appointed to this position since the founding of HKUST in 1991. 

A world-renowned molecular neuroscientist, Prof. Ip has grown with HKUST. Joining the University in 1993, she progressed steadily through the ranks, first to Head of Department of Biochemistry in 2000, then Dean of Science in 2011, and more recently in 2016, Vice-President for Research and Development (VPRD), a position she held until last month.  During her tenure as VPRD, Prof. Ip set new research directions, streamlined and enhanced the efficiency of the University’s research facilities, oversaw strategic development of research projects, and increased external research collaborations and funding opportunities.  In 2018, she took the initiative – alongside other Hong Kong-based fellows of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Chinese Academy of Engineering – to request the Central Government to relax the flow of Mainland funding and resources into Hong Kong for research purposes, catalyzing many local research projects and bringing in new opportunities.

Prof. Ip, Morningside Professor of Life Science at HKUST, has also made outstanding contributions to science development, globally and locally, and significantly advanced the neuroscience field through her pioneering research. Not only has she made prominent breakthroughs in the development of diagnostic and prognostic tools for Alzheimer’s disease but has also steered research policy on a global level.  She is currently a member of the Leadership Group of the Davos Alzheimer’s Collaborative, a coalition focused on driving global scientific, business, policy and financial coordination in Alzheimer’s preparedness.  She also serves on different councils of the World Economic Forum to drive positive outcomes in the areas of brain science and precision medicine.  Furthermore, she manages national and international research projects related to neuroscience and serves as the director of the State Key Laboratory of Molecular Neuroscience as well as the director of the Hong Kong Center of Neurodegenerative Diseases.

Prof. Ip is globally recognized for her notable achievements and contributions.  She is Member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, International Member of the US National Academy of Sciences, Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Fellow of the World Academy of Sciences, Member of The Academy of Sciences of Hong Kong, and Council Chair of The Greater Bay Area Association of Academicians.  Her other honors and awards include the National Natural Science Award in 2002 and 2011, the L’Oreal-UNESCO for Women in Science Award in 2004 - making her the first honoree in life sciences from China, and the Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite from the French government in 2011.  

Prof. Ip’s appointment as president is the result of a rigorous global search process. Spanning many months, this process was overseen by a search committee with the support of an independent search firm, which took into account the desired attributes of a new president as expressed by the University’s students, faculty, staff, and alumni in an online survey.  These include the ability to lead the University to the next level of excellence, identify new opportunities amid a challenging and competitive environment, conduct effective advocacy for the advancement of higher education, as well as enhance innovation and knowledge transfer locally, regionally, and internationally.  The committee conducted several rounds of interviews to shortlist a global pool of eminently qualified candidates and made their recommendation to the Council after careful reviews and thorough deliberations. 

Announcing the appointment, HKUST Council Chairman Mr. Andrew LIAO Cheung-Sing said that the University was thrilled to appoint its first woman president.  “Nancy is a one-of-a-kind combination of an accomplished scientist, a seasoned university administrator, and an HKUST-grown leader. With her immense executive experience, her extensive networks, as well as her national and global standing, I am sure she will enhance the diversity of our university and bring about different ideas to broaden perspectives and inspire innovation,” he said. “With the opening of HKUST(Guangzhou) just around the corner, I am confident that Nancy will be able to take advantage of every opportunity presented under the “Unified HKUST-Complementary Campuses” umbrella to bring the University to greater heights of achievement.”

President-designate Prof. Ip said she was greatly honored to be selected for the post.  “I have had the most amazing journey at HKUST alongside talented and passionate colleagues and students. I have witnessed the growth of HKUST into a world-leading center of excellence in teaching, research, and knowledge transfer in just three decades. I am humbled by the trust placed in me, and will work tirelessly to build upon our foundation of excellence as we embark on HKUST 2.0, the next chapter of our university’s development. Once our new campus in Guangzhou opens in September, we will have expanded capabilities and resources, wider expertise, and stronger support for both exploratory and mission-encouraged research, all of which will be available to our members on both campuses.  Moreover, with the launch of our new and innovative academic framework across the two campuses, we will continue our mission to provide quality education to shape the next generation of leaders.”

Also welcoming the appointment, President Prof. Wei Shyy said, “I congratulate Nancy on her appointment.  I have known and worked with her since I joined HKUST in 2010.  I wish her all the best in the coming years and trust that our community will continue to render their support to Nancy as well as the University.”

Born and raised in Hong Kong, Prof. Ip received her secondary school education at St. Mary’s Canossian College before earning a bachelor’s degree in biology and chemistry with distinction from Simmons College in Boston, US.  She completed her PhD in pharmacology at Harvard University in 1983, after which she worked as a senior staff scientist at Regeneron Pharmaceuticals in New York, US, before returning to Hong Kong in 1993. 

Over her scholarly career, Prof. Ip has made numerous important contributions towards understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying brain development and synaptic plasticity, and their dysregulation in neurological disorders, which are paving the way for the development of effective diagnostics and therapeutics for related diseases.  Prof. Ip has also served at different public organizations, including the Advisory Committee on Innovation and Technology to the HKSAR Government, the University Grants Council, the Research Grants Council, and the Board of Directors of the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks. She is also a Hong Kong deputy to the National People’s Congress. (Please find Prof. Ip’s CV here)