Hong Kong · PhD · Uni

PhD at HKUST- Its more than just research!

I’m so sorry for not writing a blog in such a long time! I have been very busy settling into Uni and so haven’t had time for a proper sit down and write a post.

I thought I would give a bit of an insight into how PhDs work in HK as it seems very different to how PhDs in the UK are done. As I understand from my friends who have done/are currently doing PhDs in the UK, the majority of the PhD is research based. The PhD student spends most of their time in the lab/doing research and then there is some teaching assistant duties too, but mainly the bulk of the PhD course is spent doing research.

Here in HK (as I have recently found out), it is so much more than that.

Here are the different sections of the PhD in Chemistry course here at UST:

  • Qualifying Exam: There is a written and oral part to this exam. The written part includes exams which are set every month by different professors. The topic is known beforehand and each exam is worth 2 credits. In order to pass the written part of this exam, we must obtain 6 credits in 2 years. (Therefore, we must pass 3 exams minimum) The Postgraduate Studentship (PGS) amount is increased after the exam is passed. The oral part of the exam is a presentation on the proposed thesis.
  • Complete 12 credits of courses: Most courses/classes are 3 credits each so in general, I need to take ~4 classes over the course of my PhD. These classes do not HAVE to be in the Chemistry department but I must obtain a 2.85 CPA (Cumulative Point Average) to remain on the course so it would be best if I had some background knowledge on the course.
  • In addition to the 12 credits, I also need to take an english for science students course. The credits earned here do not count as part of the 12 credits above.
  • Professional Development Course (PDC): I must take courses to develop my skills not only in Chemistry but also in other things such as presentation skills etc, I must take these courses over the course of my PhD.
  • Chemistry Seminars: Unlike in Cardiff where the seminars are mainly optional (although they recommend you to go), here at UST, attendance at the seminars is taken and I have to submit a 1 page report after the seminar to show that I understood the seminar. I must submit 8 of these reports every semester except my last one.
  • Teaching Assistant duties: On average 36 hours per month will be spent on TA duties. (This is included in the amount of PGS I get so if I didn’t do these duties, I would get a smaller amount)
  • PhD thesis research: This is the most important part of the PhD.

There you have it! Not only do I do research, but I also have classes and seminars to attend, TA duties to do and exams to do. There are actually even more rules and regulations but I have stated the most simple things here.

The higher workload means that I have lots of things to think about, but it also means I have more ways to fail. In fact in our first week, we were told all the different ways that we could fail and be kicked off the course. These include:

  • Failing to complete the qualifying exam (written and/or oral) within 2 years.
  • Failing to complete the required amount of credits over the PhD course.
  • Failing to adhere to the 2.85 CPA minimum.
  • Failing the English course.
  • Failing to complete the required amount of hours of PDC.
  • Failing to submit 8 seminar reports per semester.
  • Failing my PhD thesis or oral defense.

You can now see why I am so busy and stressed. I knew from the very start it would be tough but it really is so much tougher than I thought. However, I am determined to pull through and to get through to the other side. This was the reason I chose to come to HK, in order to push my limits, so even though it will be stressful and my working hours will be tough, I am sure I will complete my course. I hope I haven’t put any of you off doing a PhD, or off coming to HKUST. It really is a great place and I love it but being HK, the high workload is to be expected.


3 thoughts on “PhD at HKUST- Its more than just research!

  1. Boy, I can’t wait for the time when you discover some exciting stuff that will benefit humanity for a few decades, and then spell the doom of our planet :p

  2. Oh God I had to do those seminar reports too… so annoying. Make sure you write them up AS SOON AS YOU FINISH the seminar… or you’ll just forget and get overwhelmed by having to do a few! 🙂 Good luck!! xxx

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