Dean and Chair Professor of Life Science
“I wanted to delve into the mystery of life and find out the causes of different diseases to hopefully make some contribution to the health of mankind.”
A veteran neuroscientist with more than 30 years' experience, Professor Nancy Ip Yuk-yu became a member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in 2001. In 2004, she was given the L'OREAL-UNESCO For Women in Science Award and, in 2010, became the first academic outside North America to be accepted as a councillor of the Society for Neuroscience.
Professor Ip was born and grew up in Hong Kong and received her PhD in Pharmacology from Harvard. In 1993, she joined the Hong Kong University of Science & Technology and is now its Dean of Science. Speaking of her passion for life science, she says: “I wanted to delve into the mystery of life and find out the causes of different diseases to hopefully make some contribution to the health of mankind.”
At university, chemistry and biology were her major subjects. Her graduation thesis was about pharmaceutical synthesis, which sparked her interest in pharmacology. As demand for drugs to treat dementia rose amid continuous growth in the number of dementia patients, Professor Ip was keen to put her knowledge into practice to achieve something. Relentless research in the field led her and her team to discover various forms of interaction between brain cells. The result prompted her to investigate the power of Chinese medicine to enhance brain cells' efficiency in communicating messages to strengthen a person's memory and learning ability. Research of this kind helps Professor Ip to recognise the importance of applying theoretical research to pharmaceutical development.
In the early years of her career, Professor Ip carried out her research in the United States. In 1993, she returned to Hong Kong, which marked the beginning of a challenging career.
“At the time I had to start from scratch: The hardware in the laboratory was not good enough. The research team was not that established and needed guidance in many ways.”
Professor Ip did not let all that get to her though , as she always believes "knowledge is to be accumulated ". This can-do spirit has brought her fruitful rewards at work, including funding from a variety of institutions and programmes. With such external aid , she has been able to focus on her research projects.
“Decades ago, Hong Kong was not considered a place for scientific research but merely a financial centre. Today our development in scientific research is widely recognised by academics around the world. Hong Kong often hosts international academic conferences and it has become an important international platform of exchange for scientists.”
Prof Ip is the recipient of a number of prestigious awards, including the National Natural Science Award and the L'Oreal-UNESCO for Women in Science Award , which she won in 2004. Taking up the deanship of the School of Science in 2011, Prof Nancy Ip's vision for the School is to be "a premier research-intensive School, through leadership, innovative education and cutting-edge research." A world renowned scientist and dedicated educator, Prof Ip is a strong advocate of undergraduate research and the importance of exposing students to a variety of disciplines.
“We believe that through multi-disciplinary training, we can nurture our students to have passion for learning, to be independent and critical thinkers, and essentially equip them with the skills they need to meet future challenges.”