Prof. Nancy Ip is the fifth President of HKUST, and the first female president among the eight universities subsidized by the University Grants Committee in Hong Kong. Get to know more about her…


I always celebrate our alumni because I am so proud of them. I want them to feel HKUST is always their home, no matter where they are.

The Morningside Professor of Life Science Nancy Ip took office as the first female president of HKUST on October 19, 2022. As a world-renowned molecular neuroscientist, Prof. Ip has grown with HKUST as it became a heavy hitter on the world stage, and now has taken the responsibility of moving our community forward.

Hailing from the fragrant harbor

Hong Kong born and bred, Prof. Ip progressed from being a student at St. Mary's Canossian College to studying at Simmons College and Harvard University in the United States. She joined HKUST in 1993 and has risen steadily through the ranks, first to become Head of the Department of Biochemistry in 2000, then Dean of Science in 2011, and most recently in 2016, Vice-President for Research and Development.

During her time at HKUST, things have changed quite a bit. Prof. Ip recalls that it was a struggle in the beginning because resources were limited while most people had not even heard of the University. “It was like a start-up where everyone contributed and we worked so hard to get the University recognized. Now, HKUST ranks among the top universities globally. Along with this, we have a revolutionary new campus in Guangzhou (HKUST GZ),” says Prof. Ip.

Rooted in medical excellence

Prof. Ip started her career at a biotech company, Regeneron, now one of the best in the world. Finding treatment for diseases has always been her goal. Her major research interests include neural development and function as well as drug discovery for neurodegenerative diseases.

Prof. Ip has established different platforms to bring her neuroscience research studies on the world stage. She is the Director of the State Key Laboratory of Molecular Neuroscience at HKUST, which she established with the objective to gather an interdisciplinary team of experts to tackle neurodegenerative diseases. More recently, she is serving as the Director of the Hong Kong Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (HKCeND) set up in 2020. The Center has made promising breakthroughs in the early diagnosis and therapeutic treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. To take forward the research efforts, the Center has fostered strategic collaborations with Stanford University and University College London as well as various universities and hospitals in Hong Kong and across the Mainland.

Connecting the East and the West, and leveraging data and expertise from Asia, forms a core part of the HKUST experience. “We want to bring the University to the next level of success by focusing on people at the core. One of my major goals is to recruit and nurture the best talent. I believe in diversity, bringing together individuals of international backgrounds, and strengthening humanities along the way. Furthermore, while we are innovative in science, we want to build an ethos of interdisciplinary research. We have a deep obligation to contribute to society, and to tackle global challenges such as ageing populations and sustainability,” she says.


As the first female president of HKUST and among Hong Kong's eight universities subsidized by the University Grants Committee, Prof. Ip wants students to break through both gender and social barriers. “I believe in an equal playing field, and sometimes, breaking through the system of inequality and establishing yourself despite challenges requires bravery,” she says.

Humility and achievement

Prof. Ip has made significant contributions to the field of neuroscience with more than 320 scientific papers, 70 patents, and myriad honors including the L’OREAL-UNESCO for Women in Science Award, the National Natural Science Awards, the 10 Science Stars of China by Nature, and the Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite (National Order of Merit) by the French Government.

If that wasn’t impressive enough, she is a member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the US National Academy of Sciences, the World Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Hong Kong Academy of Sciences, and the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences.

Alumni – a key focus of HKUST

Yet, she remains down to earth in person. Talent, innovation, and alumni relations are among her major focus as president. “Working with alumni is extremely important as they form the core of our identity. Alumni help our students learn, grow, and connect with like-minded people all across the world. I truly believe this network can be strengthened so that our students can benefit from their worldview, experience, and expertise. I always celebrate our alumni because I am so proud of them. I want them to feel HKUST is always their home, no matter where they are,” says Prof. Ip.

And of course, Prof. Ip always manages to spare some time for her favorite hobbies, Tai Chi and hiking. Balancing work and play often creates the right environment for success. With Prof. Ip at the helm, the University is ready for a new era of expansion. “We always hope to inspire our faculty and students, and elevate this University to new levels,” she adds.