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May 2020
Integration of Science and Humanities in Research

An Interview with Professor Guo Yike
HKBU Vice-President (Research and Development)

Professor Guo Yike, Vice-President (Research and Development) of HKBU, assumed office with effect from 1 January 2020. A world renowned pioneer scholar in data science, Professor Guo is one of the forerunners in the development of innovative technology for data analysis and machine learning. In recent years, he has focused his research on applying data science technology in the fields of life science, healthcare, environmental science and creative designing. Professor Guo was Professor of Computing Science in the Department of Computing at Imperial College London, UK, and the founding Director of Data Science Institute of the College. For his achievements in data science research and application, he was elected Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering and Member of Academia Europaea in 2018. A prominent scientist, Professor Guo has an outstanding track record in teaching, research and academic leadership, and has amassed rich experience in multi-disciplinary research collaboration. Professor Guo will lead the University in charting its overall research strategy and developing its research infrastructure, as well as postgraduate education. He will also help promote the transfer of research results of the University into impactful contributions to the community and foster research partnerships with institutions around the globe. During the interview, Professor Guo displayed full confidence in the research growth of the University. He said, “Hong Kong Baptist University has tremendous capacities in research, plus a team of very outstanding faculty and research staff, all of whom having excelled themselves in their respective areas of expertise.” To capitalize on the opportunities before us, Prof. Guo is dedicated to asserting HKBU’s global presence and our engagement with Mainland China in research.

Promoting Cross-disciplinary Research

Professor Guo believes that in modern days, research in science and research in humanities are inseparable. He is of the view that film, music, performing arts and media are in fact science-related, and in the quest for knowledge if there is no science, there won’t be arts, and vice-versa. Professor Guo also considers that the purpose of scientific research is for the advancement of the human race, and so it is of paramount importance to integrate science and humanities in research. He further elaborates that scientists should also study philosophy, pick up communication skills, and delve themselves into the media and creative industries to identify issues worthy of scientific pursuits. Along the same vein, the more artists and media practitioners can apply scientific innovations in their daily work, the better they can adapt to the new developments in their field. With this in mind, Professor Guo undertakes that he will strengthen cross-institutional research collaboration, facilitate multi-disciplinary research, sharpen our role in the community and promote the University in the global academic arena. He is now leading the establishment of six university-wide interdisciplinary labs to foster a new culture of cross faculty research and grand challenges.

Humanise Machine and Man More Humanised

While artificial intelligence (AI) can be found everywhere today, Professor Guo regards that “AI is not just about robots, but more about life.” He pointed out that AI can replace manual tasks previously performed by human workforce, so as to release time and energy for us to take up new tasks. Furthermore, the attributes of human beings such as creativity, drive, passion, emotion, empathy, can never be replaced by machines. Professor Guo trusts that if man can be “as human as possible”, be creative and compassionate, he will never be replaced by a robot. He is of the view that as a university that embraces liberal arts education, HKBU has been well placed in harmonising the machine-human interface. “Machine can be more humanised, and human beings, too”

Inculcating Inspiration

As a PhD in computational logic, Professor Guo was used to applying logical thinking in problem-solving as he majored in computing science. This trait led him onto the research path of data science. In fact, Professor Guo shared that in his past research endeavours, he had obtained a lot of inspiration from his mentors, among them are two who have the most profound influence on him: former Presidents of Imperial College London, UK, Sir Richard Sykes and Sir Keith O’Nions. Sir Richard had inspired him most during his early academic career at Imperial by imparting to him the importance of innovation in teaching and research, and the need to apply one’s research output to good causes outside of the laboratory. In 2002 when Professor Guo was setting up large-scale data mining company InforSense as the first spin-out company in computing from Imperial College, he got a lot of inspiration and advice from Sir Richard, who had been the Chairman of GlaxoSmithKline, once the largest pharmaceutical company in the world. As for Sir Keith, he was a good friend of Professor Guo and the President of Imperial College London after Sir Richard. Sir Keith was very supportive of Professor Guo’s research in data science at Imperial, and facilitated his initiative of setting up in 2014 the Data Science Institute there. Professor Guo recalled, “Sir Keith has helped widen my horizon in research and has been instrumental in fostering my leadership skill in building world class research organizations.” He is thankful to the two former Presidents of Imperial for their inspiration and steadfast support for his work there. Professor Guo promises that he will follow his mentors’ footsteps in helping others in their scholarly pursuits. At the same time, he is most thankful to President Roland Chin for giving him a chance to serve the University and open up a new chapter at HKBU.

On a Lighter Note

Professor Guo said that he is happy to be able to serve HKBU and to help foster its liberal arts education ethos, a mission in consonance with his beliefs. Surprising though, Professor Guo, being a computing science scholar, has also developed a passion in poetry, and has built up a very good foundation in literature. He co-authored the book On Complexity with his father, Professor Guo Fangzhong, an eminent thermodynamic scholar. This is a book to explain the complex systems such as society, life and brain with physics, mathematics, information science and their underlying philosophy. When young, Professor Guo was once the conductor of a children’s choir in Shanghai. Sharing with readers of BUddy Post, Professor Guo said, “My dream is that one day I could receive formal training in music and become a professional conductor.”

Professor Guo Yike
Professor Guo is a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering.
Professor Guo co-authored the book On Complexity with his father, Professor Guo Fangzhong.
Back to The BUddy Post May 2020

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