President Chan assumed the presidency of HKUST on 1 September 2009. Under his leadership, HKUST’s global visibility and recognition has significantly increased, with wide international media coverage, strategic partnerships established with world-renowned institutions, and invitations to global platforms such as the World Economic Forum in Davos. The University’s global ranking has improved consistently — currently 36thin the world (QS), 4th in Asia (QS), 2nd in young universities globally (QS & THE), and 13th in the Global Employability University Ranking. The University has transitioned smoothly from a three year to a four year curriculum, with major changes such as adopting a university-wide core curriculum and School-based admission. In the most recent (2014) UGC-led HK-wide Research Assessment Exercise, HKUST has 70% of its achievements rated world-leading or internationally recognized, 19% higher than the next highest. He also championed the use of new technology in education and HKUST was the first university in Asia to offer MOOCs on both Coursera and EdX. The percentage of undergraduates who exchange overseas for at least one semester has increased from about 30% to over 50% and HKUST has the highest % of international undergraduates of all universities in HK (about 10%). He led the development and fund raising to build several new major infrastructure projects for the university to achieve its academic and research mission, including three major academic buildings, a Conference Lodge, a 500-bed graduate residence hall, a water sports center, a 2nd Sports Hall, an innovation building and a 1000-seat multi-purpose auditorium. The number of endowed professorships increased from 8 to 36. He led the development of two 5-year Strategic Plans, as well as the University’s first set of Core Values. He has led the further development of the University’s Institute for Advanced Studies (IAS), including recruiting 2 Directors and several prominent IAS professors, and bringing the siting of the Gordon Research Conferences and the International Secretariat of the Association of Pacific Rim Universities (APRU) to IAS. Since 2014, he has been writing on higher education and innovation & technology in a weekly magazine column.
Before joining HKUST, President Chan was Assistant Director of the Mathematical and Physical Sciences Directorate at the US National Science Foundation from 2006 to 2009, the largest directorate at NSF, and guided and managed research funding in astronomy, physics, chemistry, mathematical science, and material science. He received his BS and MS degrees in Engineering from Caltech and his PhD in Computer Science from Stanford University. He pursued postdoctoral research at Caltech as Research Fellow, and taught Computer Science at Yale University before joining UCLA as Professor of Mathematics in 1986. He was appointed Chair of the Department of Mathematics in 1997 and served as Dean of Physical Sciences from 2001 to 2006. He was one of the principal investigators who made the successful proposal to the NSF to form the Institute for Pure and Applied Mathematics, and served as its Director from 2000-2001.
President Chan is a member of the US National Academy of Engineering, an IEEE Fellow, a Fellow of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He has served on the editorial boards of many journals, including SIAM Review, SIAM Journal of Scientific Computing, the Asian Journal of Mathematics, and is one of the three Editors-in-Chief of Numerische Mathematik. He co-wrote the proposal to start a new SIAM Journal of Imaging Sciences and served on its inaugural editorial board till 2012.
President Chan is currently a member of the Board of Trustees of the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia, President’s Advisory Council of the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, Scientific Advisory Board of the University of Vienna, International Advisory Board of Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Board of Trustees of Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology in Russia, RIKEN Advisory Council of Japan, and the United States Committee of 100. He is also a Founding Member and Board Director of The Academy of Sciences of Hong Kong, the President of the Hong Kong Institution of Science, a Fellow of the Hong Kong Academy of Engineering Sciences and a member of the Committee on Innovation, Technology and Re-industralisation of the Hong Kong Government. He was a member of the Selection Committee for the Shaw Prize in Mathematical Sciences in 2012 and 2013, and a member of the Advisory Committee on Innovation and Technology of the Hong Kong Government for 2015 to 2017. He is the Chair of Nevanlinna Prize Committee for the International Congress of Mathematicians 2018 (ICM 2018) (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil). He holds an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Strathclyde.
President Chan’s professional field is computational mathematics, with interests including image processing and computer vision, physical circuit design and computational brain mapping. He has published over 200 refereed papers and was one of the most cited mathematicians in the world. He has mentored over 35 PhD students and 25 postdoctoral fellows.