What makes good research under the current fast-changing world situation? Prof Jia Weijia, Vice President (Research and Development) of UIC who took office in July 2020, said in an interview that liberal arts education is an important contribution to research, along with his opinion on how to develop research and postgraduate education at UIC and Zhuhai's positioning in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area.

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Vice President (Research and Development) of UIC, Prof Jia Weijia

Prof Jia explains how the world is changing rapidly, especially in 2020, so people need to have a richer knowledge and more complete ideas to deal with the rapid changes in society.

Prof Jia believes that there is still certainty amid the uncertainty brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, and that is the unchanged stance of doing good research. He explains that liberal arts contribute to good research, as research with high standards must be built based on extensive knowledge. He continued that many world-class universities have put a lot of effort into liberal arts to promote scientific research.

Previously Prof Jia worked in Hong Kong and Macau for more than 20 years and obtained his Doctorate of Science from the Polytechnic Faculty of Mons, Belgium. He was a Professor at the Department of Computer Science at the City University of Hong Kong. Between 2014 and 2017, he served as the Zhiyuan Chair Professor of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering in Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China. From 2018 to June 2020, he served as Chair Professor of the University of Macau and the Deputy Director of State Key Laboratory of Internet of Things for Smart City.

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Prof Jia has long been engaged in the research of computer science, enjoying a high reputation in areas such as AI and Big Data, Men-Machines-Things Knowledge Graph Completions, Smart City and IoT Designs, Next Generation Networking and Communications, and Fog Computing. With 14 books/chapters and over 500 top-tier journal/conference papers to his credit, he received over 9965 citations with an H-index of 52. As a successful fund-applicant, Prof. Jia had obtained substantial research funding as a Principal Investigator (PI). He also took on several journal editorships, including IEEE Transactions on Parallel & Distributed Systems, Computer Communications etc.

In acknowledgement of his scientific achievements, Prof Jia was elected as a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and a distinguished member of China Computer Federation (CCF). He is also a Member of Association for Computing Machinery (ACM).


Improving research


When being asked what aspects should be prepared for university research programmes, Prof Jia replied that it could be divided into two: basic theories and their applications. Prof Jia also mentioned that he is forming a scientific research team dedicated to the basic theoretical research of artificial intelligence and data science, and has published results one after another.

This year, the four UIC faculty members were funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NFSC). This is UIC's best performance in application work in the past three years. While improving the scientific research management incentive mechanism, enhancing rewards and supports for scientific research, and increasing teachers' enthusiasm for scientific research project applications, UIC also strengthens training, guidance services and supports for the application of scientific research projects.

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UIC has established research centres or laboratories in many fields such as mathematics, history and culture, food safety, media, and computers. Prof Jia said that future research focuses on the three fields of artificial intelligence, data science and future networks, and related research bases have been established.

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UIC Industrial-University Research Collaborative Centre in Zhuhai National Hi-tech Industrial Development Zone

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Institute for Big Data Analytics and Applications

Prof Jia plans to promote the application of artificial intelligence on campus, such as the project of robot inspecting books in the Learning Resource Centre (LRC); and the upgrade of information technology experiences, building the campus with a smart approach, and implementing integrated IT management across the school, to benefit staff and students in their daily life and give them new experiences.

Prof Jia explains that UIC is also cooperating with operators to strive to establish 5G base stations in UIC this year or in the early next year to promote 5G communications, and to achieve more smart services. Prof Jia continued that UIC is discussing with some well-known companies, promoting joint laboratories or cooperative research projects.

Also, Prof Jia believes that some research can be gradually oriented to the society, such as educational data collection and artificial intelligence processing, and provide services for universities, middle schools and primary schools in the future.


Upgrading faculty and graduate studies

Teaching and scientific research are the core driving force of the university, and building an international faculty and scientific research team is the top priority. The faculty of UIC comes from more than 30 countries and regions. Among them, 100% of the teachers at the level of lecturers and above have study or work experience in overseas universities, and many teachers come from Stanford University, Harvard University, Oxford University, Cambridge University and other world-renowned universities. In the past year, the school has introduced excellent talents from all over the world, continuously optimised and upgraded the teaching staff and scientific research team. Quite a few influential experts and scholars have also joined UIC.

Prof Jia said that UIC is developing more research cooperation with the BNU and HKBU. On the one hand, UIC is establishing an institute for advanced studies jointly with Beijing Normal University and will introduce high-level talents through dual employment. Now a few research centres have been established. On the other hand, when the epidemic in Hong Kong improves, he hopes to cooperate with Hong Kong Baptist University to build several research institutes. Nevertheless, UIC is intensively advancing the programme of independently training doctoral students.

In September 2020, UIC ushered in about 400 students of Taught Master Programmes, and the scale and quality of enrolment reached a new level. Pro Jia explained that in the future, UIC would cooperate with other colleges and majors of HKBU to provide more professional graduate courses. Prof Jia is also the Dean of UIC Graduate School and Director of Research Development and Knowledge Transfer Office. In the new stage of developing graduate education, Prof Jia hopes that each Division can independently educate doctoral students in the future. At present, the Ministry of Education has approved some quotas. Prof Jia introduces that UIC plans to promote independent training of Research Postgraduate Programmes in computers, statistics, mathematics, etc.

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UIC held an orientation for new postgraduate students on 20 September 2020

Prof Jia explains that the liberal arts education for UIC undergraduates has done very well. For graduate students, Prof Jia says that even if their long-term goal is not doing research, they must be prepared for the rapid changes in the future society. These preparations must have some research elements. It is the preparation for exploring the world, exploring social changes, and exploring the future.


Zhuhai can be a leading city.

Prof Jia, who has worked in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area for more than 20 years, analysed that the Greater Bay Area currently presents obvious East Coast and West Coast divisions. He thinks Zhuhai can be positioned as a leader on the West Coast and work hard in this regard. 

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Zhuhai Grand Theatre

Prof Jia said that UIC takes root in Zhuhai and can provide a lot of support for local economic and social development. Firstly, scholars and experts are more involved in social services and become the government’s think tank. Secondly, UIC encourages talents cultivated to stay in Zhuhai for their development, especially graduate students. Thirdly, it is to introduce talents from home and abroad, hoping that the Zhuhai municipal government will give support. What’s more, UIC injects research into the local industry, such as conducting industry-university-research cooperation with well-known companies.

Prof Jia also said that Zhuhai is a city with a fascinating environment, and now he thinks that they should vigorously develop education. He believes that the primary and secondary schools in Zhuhai are very distinctive. If faculty devote themselves to developing one-stop education for universities, primary and secondary schools, it can be formed in five or six years and will soon gain a reputation.

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Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge

For example, Prof Jia said that UIC and Beijing Normal University could put some advanced elements into the education of primary and secondary schools in Zhuhai. He gave an example, by saying that holding lectures tours of famous teachers in primary and secondary schools; jointly build influential majors, such as co-organising Turing Classes, or carry out artificial intelligence education and data science education for elementary and middle school students.


Editors: Samuel Burgess, Deen He, Cover Wang, Zhang Fan