Experiencing the excitement of discovery Through the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program


Lam Ho Tat

Year 2, major in Physics

HKUST is well known for its Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP), which encourages students to gain early research experience with distinguished professors. UROP is not officially open to freshmen. However, in the first week of the first semester in Year 1, I decided to email Prof Kwok Yip Szeto in the Department of Physics to express my interest. Very fortunately, he decided to accept me and I started doing theoretical physics research under his supervision.

I am interested in many areas of theoretical physics because of its power of precise prediction and amazing ability to connect up different aspects of the world. Particle physics, for example, can be used to understand the evolution of the universe. Within the past two years, I have worked on three different projects, involving complex networks, damage spreading, and quantum random walkers respectively. I have also published two conference papers as the first author.

Before I began my UROP research, I thought that scientists only worked in labs or spent all day doing endless calculations on paper. In fact, research is mainly devoted to thinking and questioning. Scientists spend most of their time looking for a good question. After they locate one, they then try to find the answer or a solution.

Indeed, research is a journey of imagination, exploration and innovation. As my supervisor Prof Szeto says, it is always important to follow your interest and remain curious.

I also now know that research is certainly not a smooth process. In my projects,I encountered many challenges along the way; confusion over the outcome of experiments and contradicting theories to name just two. At the same time, such challenges made undertaking research more exciting. Theoretical research is full of uncertainty because physics is an experimental-based subject. But all the hard work pays off when a calculation or experiment does confirm a theory. This is definitely the happiest moment in such research.

 UROP student, Vctor Lam is presenting his research findings in a classroom
UROP student, Vctor Lam is presenting his research findings in a classroom