Dr Jason Chan of the Chemistry Department is passionate about sharing knowledge with the new generation, but underpinning this obsession is love and respect for chemicals.
He might look like an ordinary professor but Dr Jason Chan is a lively spark. The Hong Kong native is in the limelight promoting chemistry on TV shows including TVB’s “Scoop” and “Sidewalk Scientist”. However, he got a start in very humble beginnings, with home experiments in his washroom.
“I’m a collector of the elements, and as a high school student I was once making bromine, a very corrosive liquid, for my elements collection and after sealing the liquid into glass ampoules, I found one had not been sealed properly,” he says.
Jason says the bromine spilled on his finger, which burnt his skin and landed him in A&E. “It taught me an important lesson which I always share with my students – respect the chemicals and get to know their personalities – with good chemistry training, you will know how to handle them properly,” he adds.
The early experimentation led Jason on a path from Hong Kong to Cambridge and St. Andrews, and back to HKUST as a popular teacher and winner of the Common Core Teaching Excellence Award 2016. Here, he has clearly found the right balance to thrive. “What I love about HKUST is that we have an amazing learning experience in Asia, that has the intensity and character of the international institutions which I studied in,” Jason says.
Jason sees the key to innovation, discovery and inspiring students as providing a well-rounded approach to learning, something that HKUST encourages with cross-faculty courses. “I love the opportunities to teach with colleagues in Physics and Mathematics where we focus on helping students develop into good, innovative science educators,” he says. Learning can also come from the most interesting of avenues, and Jason uses unusual activities to inspire love of chemistry. “Students will be more motivated to learn science if they find the subject interesting,” Jason says. “I show them different chemical reactions in my lectures. And I would let them carry out experiment with an everyday chemical subject together as a group such as crystal growing and tofu pudding making, which helps teach pure science principles but in a relaxed atmosphere that is almost hobby-like. The students who complete the best projects will also get a prize,” he adds.
For Jason, it is something desperately needed in Hong Kong. “Public science can be developed much better, with more resources placed into innovative use of media to remove the traditional boundaries,” he says.
It is clear that Jason’s mission to bridge the gap is just beginning. “I am passionate for experiential learning, where students can be fully engaged in a personal and hands-on project and be inspired by the experience.”
With Jason here, HKUST’s science students can look forward to having a love for science in their lives.