Words from the Director

My first nine months as Director have been quite exciting. I have been learning about the history of the IAS and its tremendous achievements since its founding a decade ago, while getting to know all the wonderful members of the IAS family: IAS professors, visitors, researchers, and staff.

Even in this short time, there have been some significant changes at the IAS. I am delighted to announce that Prof George Smoot, Nobel Laureate in Physics, has become the IAS TT and WF Chao Foundation Professor and Chair Professor of Physics. We are excited to have such a distinguished researcher and educator joining us.

In June, Prof Che Ting Chan stepped down from his role as IAS Executive Director to take up the position of Director of Research Office. Che Ting has been instrumental in the growth and development of the IAS over the past seven years and we all owe him a tremendous debt.

The Gordon Research Conferences have just concluded their fifth summer hosted at the IAS. These conferences, along with other IAS activities, have allowed thousands of distinguished researchers from around the world to spend time here and become familiar with the research taking place at the IAS, at HKUST, and in Hong Kong and the wider region.

The IAS has always supported activities beyond scientific research, and we are continuing to expand our efforts in the arts. This fall, we welcome the renowned composer Bright Sheng as an IAS Professor-at-Large. Bright will be helping to enhance music activities at the IAS. We are also looking forward to the visits of several distinguished Chinese authors, including IAS Senior Visiting Fellow Liu Zaifu and Sin Wai Kin Visiting Professor of Chinese Culture Yan Lianke, who will be in residence this academic year and will help expand the presence of Chinese creative arts at the IAS.

2017 marked the 20th anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong’s sovereignty to China. The past two decades have seen huge changes in Hong Kong, and with these changes come new challenges: skyrocketing housing prices, a disaffected youth, and complex relations with mainland China, to name a few. Hong Kong is now at a crossroads as it seeks to understand its place in a rapidly changing world and its path forward toward an uncertain future

Hong Kong’s development over the past fifty years has been truly remarkable. But the keys to future success are unlikely to be found in the policies of the past. Hong Kong’s special place in the economic and financial life of the region is unlikely to continue unchanged as China’s development proceeds. And a focus on advanced technology, as some might advocate, is unlikely to be competitive when compared with the already developed regions just across the border.

However, there remains an arena in which Hong Kong can lead: education and knowledge creation. With a number of internationally renowned institutions of higher learning and a growing reputation for high-quality research, Hong Kong has the potential to become a home for the kind of research and creative activity that has always been a hallmark of the world’s most vibrant societies.

The IAS has a special role to play. Our mission is to nurture this kind of activity: to provide an environment that is attractive to the world’s most talented people, and conducive to the pursuit of research and creative activity of the highest quality. But this can’t be done independently from the further development of Hong Kong and the wider region. The IAS must reach out to society to promote the value of basic research in all of its forms, and to emphasize its potential for making long-lasting impacts on the city. It is my hope that the IAS can support the development of these activities not just at the IAS but throughout the nearby region, and participate in the transformation of Hong Kong society into a leading center of research and creative thinking.


Andrew G Cohen
Director and Lam Woo Foundation Professor
HKUST Jockey Club Institute for Advanced Study