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Flying lessons

Published on Friday, 21 Dec 2012
PolyU vice-president Alexander Wai sees plenty of teaching and research jobs opening up with the university’s new aviation-focused centre and academic programme.
Photo: PolyU

Hong Kong International Airport hosts close to 6,400 flights a week, making it the third busiest international passenger airport and the busiest international cargo facility in the world. It is also home to leading maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) facilities, with more than 6,000 people working for the three major MRO providers.

To support the city’s booming aviation industry, the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) is keen to roll out a relevant full-fledged academic programme.

“We have been trying to build an aviation programme for years now. We have applied [to the University Grants Committee for permission] to open such a programme, and we are hiring,” says Professor Alexander Wai, PolyU vice-president for research and development.

A further boon to aviation will be Hong Kong’s Aviation Services Research Centre (ASRC), jointly backed by Boeing and PolyU’s Industrial Centre. It is expected to spur aviation-related industries and jobs, including the creation of up to 100 posts for applied industrial research, when it opens early next year.

Attached to PolyU’s Industrial Centre – the school’s engineering department –  the ASRC will also open up training or job-placement opportunities for undergraduates, and co-operation in Master of Science (MSc) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) programmes.

“After partnering with Boeing, we are in a stronger position to build up an aviation programme. With the growth of aviation in Greater China, there are big opportunities. We are the right place to come to for aviation-engineering studies,” Wai says.

A third of the Industrial Centre’s 25 professors are connected with aviation, and undergraduates can already take specialised courses focusing on aviation and aeronautical engineering. For instance, two MSc courses in mechanical engineering focus on aeronautical engineering and aviation.

“But there is no full-fledged academic programme,” Wai points out. “We are building it up, both in teaching and academic research.”

Wai says they are looking for professors, and associate and assistant professors, in both aeronautical engineering and aviation. “We will probably be hiring four people, depending on what we find. We want to get the best talent,” he adds.

While aero-engineering is more general and science-orientated, aviation is more on the operational side. Those who study in the field of aviation are more likely to end up working for airlines instead of teaching and doing research.

“It is easier to find someone for the former than the latter – but we need both,” Wai says.

He says their vision is to achieve excellence in teaching and research with a global impact. To do this, Wai says the department is looking for high-potential young people and internationally known experts.

The basic requirements are a PhD and several years of experience in teaching and research, including curriculum development.

Wai says they are keen on teachers with a wide network to facilitate the development of high-level applied research collaboration and consultancy projects between PolyU and institutions in the industry.

Associate professors should have successful research and publication records, while professors should be able to raise or secure research funds, and must have outstanding achievements and excellent reputations as leading scholars.

PolyU welcomes applicants from all around the world, so long as they can show strong communication skills, good relationships with students, and fluency in English as the medium of instruction.

Duties involve teaching and tutoring, programme development, undertaking research that leads to publication in top-tier journals and awards of research grants, and helping in departmental administration.

“We take teaching very seriously. The majority of funding from the government is for teaching, and it is very important,” Wai says.

He notes that it is easy to quantify research, but much more difficult to identify the best teachers. Hence, applicants may be asked to do a seminar to showcase their teaching skills.

Young faculty members with no track record will get a lot of support, Wai says. They can attend courses at PolyU’s Education Development Centre to hone their teaching skills. They can also expect constructive feedback from colleagues and class representatives. “We give young colleagues six years to prove themselves,” Wai says.

PolyU offers very competitive remuneration packages, with the appropriate fixed-term contract, depending on the applicant’s experience, Wai adds.

 

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