CUHK ISEIS Postgraduate Students Highly Praised in UN Internship Programme
Eight postgraduate students from the Institute of Space and Earth Information Science (ISEIS) of The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) successfully completed their internship in the Information and Communications Technology and Disaster Risk Reduction Division (IDD), which is a division of United Nations (UN) Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) in Bangkok, Thailand from February to August in 2013. They are Lin Tianpeng, Sun Guibo, Zhang Chunxiao, Zhang Hongsheng, Che Weitao, Zhange Fan, Fan Zijing and Wei Ming. Their works on developing the information systems for early warning and disaster risk management in IDD as well as their positive and responsible attitude were highly appreciated by UN officers and colleagues. Officers from IDD and other ESCAP divisions expected ISEIS to continually support this UN internship programme. The programme was sponsored by Hong Kong Shun Lung Yan Chak Foundation.
The Asia and Pacific Region covers over 60 countries and regions which are facing frequent disasters, especially tropical storm and earthquake. Some of the underdeveloped countries have relatively low capabilities to manage disaster risks and therefore UN’s timely support is needed. One of the important tasks for ISEIS intern students was to disseminate advanced methods and technologies to those underdeveloped countries.
During the internship period, ISEIS students found that the data management in IDD was mainly based on digital tables and text based database, not much related to the advanced methods such as geographic information systems. That resulted in the lower efficiency when assessing the geographic impacts of disasters. Under the supervision of UN officers, ISEIS students developed various application showcases with existing datasets to demonstrate the capability of geographic information systems (GIS) in the management of disaster risks. At the same time, they also introduced to IDD staff members related websites in which satellite remote sensing data are available to the public from international organizations. Those public domain data are very helpful for emergency responses.
ESCAP is the largest branch of the United Nations in Asia and Pacific Region, where interns with various cultural backgrounds from many countries work together. Through this internship programme, ISEIS students learnt how to work harmoniously with their partners. Mr. Wei Ming, a student of ISEIS Master of Science programme on Earth System Science, found the promising future of his major when he surprisingly won a prolonged applause after presenting his GIS analysis of proximity and accessibility of Asian highway network and railway network to IDD and the Transportation Division. He also found out the importance of UN to the ‘EarthVillage’ communities.
About ISEIS Training Programme
As the main task of IDD is to reduce and better manage disaster risk, more professionals with a combined background on Earth System Science and Geoinformation Science are needed. ISEIS (developed from Joint Lab for Geoinformation Science) started the training programme for students with that combined background in 2000 when it became the Hong Kong Contact Point of IDD programme on satellite for disaster risk management, and launched the Master of Science programme which is the first of its kind in Hong Kong in 2005. This UN Internship has become a unique opportunity for ISEIS to examine its academic programmes, and to train students with both advanced science and societal responsibility. ISEIS also strives to develop an international network for the peaceful use of the outer space and to protect the Earth environment. Various academic exchange programmes have been developed to enhance the friendship and cooperation among young scholars and students from different parts of the world.