Joseph Lee Hun-wei, president and chair professor of Macau University of Science and Technology. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

With its mesmerizing “East-meets-West” cultural landscape and strategic crucial role in the nation’s development blueprint, Macao is ideally suited to be a cradle of talent with a broad international vision.

In the city’s new journey of integrating into the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area as well as diversifying its economy, Macau University of Science and Technology (MUST) — the first private institution in Macao since the special administrative region’s return to the motherland — is poised to take the lead in developing the brightest minds for society.

As a young tertiary education institution founded in 2000 and supported by a nonprofit foundation, MUST has witnessed stunning growth into the largest multidisciplinary university in Macao, with an abundance of international recognition.

According to the Times Higher Education World University Rankings released this year, MUST ranked among the top 250 universities. In May 2022, it also became the first university in Macao to receive full institutional accreditation from the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education — an independent body governing the standards and quality checks of higher education in the  United Kingdom.

Data Center for Science and Application of Macau Satellites at Macau University of Science and Technology. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

The reason, according to Joseph Lee Hun-wei, president and chair professor of MUST, is that the university has set the correct strategy for fostering research and teaching strengths, into which proper resources have been poured. 

After building a basic academic system during the first decade, MUST has devoted itself to delivering and pursuing academic excellence in Chinese medicine as well as lunar and planetary sciences over the past 12 years.

Following the establishment of the State Key Laboratory of Quality Research in Chinese Medicine in 2011, the university launched the State Key Laboratory of Lunar and Planetary Sciences seven years later — both of which represent the first State key laboratories in their field of study.

“Those early ventures led us to lead the pack in the two areas, with a lot of strengths as manifested by national and international recognition,” Lee said. 

Among a series of MUST’s achievements in Chinese medicine are the “Taxus chinensis siRNA new drug techniques”, which constitute a combination of therapeutics and drugs used to treat cancer.

The entrance to the University. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

Also riding high on the nation’s space mission, MUST has participated in space projects since the lunar expeditions in 2005, Lee said, adding that next year the university will launch Macao Science 1 — the first satellite from the Macao Special Administrative Region — to carry out scientific missions in space. 

“In a way, the national recognition in Chinese medicine and space science embody a lot of our strong research strength in other subjects like clinical medicine, computer science, earth sciences, and system and control engineering,” Lee said.

The eloquent testimony to Lee’s statement is that there is also a national observation and research station of coastal ecological environments, five key research bases of the Ministry of Education of China, and more than 20 cross-disciplinary research institutes at MUST, on top of the State key laboratories.

For universities across the globe, there are always tensions between research and teaching as a large proportion of fresh graduates turn to the job market, rather than the academic sphere.

However, MUST’s broad-based education model of nurturing innovation and quality follows a basic idea: to provide fundamental training that shapes students’ minds and prepares them for the rest of their lives.

“Both research and teaching are emphasized in MUST and they are not in conflict with each other,” Lee said. “I think the role of the university is to train the fundamentals, so that the skills of our graduates and lifelong learning will not be outdated, especially since we are in a time where things change so fast.”

The University’s Satellite Earth Station. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

MUST is now embarking on its third phase of growth, where the university is branching out in a broad spectrum of subjects, dovetailing with the Macao Special Administrative Region’s bid to develop nongaming sectors, said Lee.

For decades, Macao has been known as the world’s gaming capital. In 2021, the gaming industry contributed around half of Macao’s GDP, employing one-fifth of the city’s workforce, as shown by government data. Today more focus is being put on innovation and technology, cultural tourism, Chinese medicine, conventions and exhibitions.

“What makes MUST distinct from other universities in Macao is our comprehensive programs. We are the largest comprehensive university in Macao now with about 19,000 students,” Lee said.

“We also have very agile management in terms of developing academic programs that address the needs of society,” he added.

Currently, MUST has seven faculties and three schools, namely Innovation Engineering, Law, Chinese Medicine, Medicine, Hospitality and Tourism Management, Humanities and Arts, University International College, the School of Business, Pharmacy and Liberal Arts as well as the Department of General Education.

To equip students with hands-on work experience before entering the labor market, MUST has been ramping up efforts to offer a wide range of internship programs as well. For instance, students studying tourism and hospitality have the opportunity to partner with Macao’s gaming industry, while for information technology and computer science, the university provides internships with tech giants like Huawei Technologies.

The plaque unveiling ceremony of the first affiliated hospital of the Faculty of Medicine of Macau University of Science and Technology on Sept 11, 2021. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

Lee said that MUST, which is located in one of the key cities of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, boasts the ability to tap into the vast opportunities on the Chinese mainland.

The 11-city bay area, with a population of more than 86 million, is considered one of the world’s wealthiest city clusters with a GDP that hit 12.6 trillion yuan ($1.83 trillion) in 2021.

Lee said the university has been capturing many of these opportunities by building various overarching alliances within the Greater Bay Area. It’s a telling example that the Zhuhai People’s First Hospital became MUST’s first teaching hospital in the Faculty of Medicine last year. 

“Our medical students can receive internships and clinical training in Zhuhai, which is a great thing both in terms of resources and education because there are a lot more clinical cases in the Chinese mainland than in Macao,” Lee said.

With the Zhuhai People’s First Hospital and other institutes on the mainland, MUST has also participated in a lot of joint research in cutting-edge subjects such as artificial intelligence and robotics in intervention surgery and regenerative medicine stem cells.

In the midst of the global drive to develop the digital economy, Lee said he believes MUST can leverage its world-class research base and enhanced ties with its mainland peers to beef up innovative applications in fields like financial technology, algorithm trading and cybersecurity law.

“The DNA is right for collaboration,” Lee said. “Our experience in fundamental research, international reputation, and links to the global world, coupled with the Chinese mainland’s support in research and development will create a win-win situation.”