To Inspire. To Be Inspired. – 30 Stories on HKUST Faculty, Alumni and Students

19 Vox Amica Press to write a chemistry column in The Joyful Vanguard, a magazine distributed via the school network to primary and secondary students, he immediately said yes. The column “The Chemist’s Pilgrimage” is an innovative idea of Dr. Fire where he discusses chemistry topics in the context of visiting Catholic churches, such as colorful stained glass church windows, the smoke and aroma of frankincense and the green dome of a Venetian church, all with funny experiment videos to stimulate young readers’ interest in science. He has made it his personal mission to bridge the gap between popular perceptions of science and how much fun learning it can really be. In the HK SciFest 2019, organized by the Hong Kong Science Museum, he was enthusiastically joined by his students in hosting an interactive outdoor exhibition booth to share amazing stories and experiments of chemical elements with the public. It was the year that marked the 150th anniversary of Dmitri Mendeleev’s creation of his periodic table, which the United Nations commemorated in a worldwide, yearlong celebration: the International Year of the Periodic Table. Dr. Fire also devised a demonstration series at the Museum during 2019 that covered the entire Periodic Table, he particularly cherishes the moments where the participants were eager to receive one of his beautifully designed HKUST Periodic Table poster that he handed out after every Museum event. Back then when he headed to the UK after Form 3, Dr. Fire was fondly introduced to his new classmates as a “mad scientist” by the Headmaster. He followed his call, and headed to Cambridge University as an undergraduate and eventually completed his PhD in Chemistry at the University of St Andrews before he found his way to teaching at HKUST. Here, he found the right balance to thrive. “What I love about HKUST is that we have an amazing learning and research environment right here in Hong Kong that has the same intensity and character of the international institutions where I studied previously,” says Dr. Fire. Supported by HKUST, Dr. Fire continues to make his subject accessible and engaging, and provides a well-rounded approach to learning, with cross-faculty and cross-institutional collaborations. His commitment to teaching has been nurtured and recognized with the HKUST Common Core Teaching Excellence Award in 2016 and the UGC Teaching Award in 2018; while his contributions to the promotion of science in the community were recognized by a Commendation Award from the Secretary for Home Affairs in June 2022. He wants his students to embrace and love learning as much as he does. “Science is very important,” he says, “and we have to pass on this science education to the future generation with passion.” Through his lectures and media appearances, Dr. Fire shares his view of chemistry as a way of understanding the world around us. As he says, “We cannot escape chemistry. The air we breathe, the food we eat, the way our bodies function — chemistry really is all around us!”