Meet the scientists contributing to race for COVID-19 vaccine
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Meet the scientists contributing to race for COVID-19 vaccine

Meet the scientists contributing to race for COVID-19 vaccine

Did you know that one of the first breakthroughs in COVID-19 vaccine development involved computer engineering?

Way before the World Health Organization announced the novel coronavirus outbreak as a pandemic, a group of scientists at The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) were already making significant fundamental findings.

Led by data scientists Professor Matthew McKay and Dr Ahmed Abdul Quadeer, the team successfully identified a set of potential vaccine targets for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus in late February.

They drew on data previously collated to fight the SARS-CoV virus, which caused the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2003. Through this analysis, they identified protein fragments that would respond to the virus – thus setting the direction for novel vaccine development.

“Among the SARS epitopes that can trigger an immune action, we found a small fraction which exists in both SARS and COVID-19, with their genetic sequences being exactly the same. We believe these are the most likely candidates which can trigger an immune response against COVID-19,” said Professor McKay.

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Source: HKUST, Department of Electronic and Computer Engineering

Combining his joint expertise in the Departments of Electronic and Computer Engineering and Chemical and Biological Engineering, Professor McKay was able to shed light on the new virus with crucial data findings.

Such is the widespread potential of data in the world of science and technology. But if you’re considering a computer engineering postgraduate degree, you’re probably already fully aware of this, with dreams to create similar breakthroughs.

Here are four leading institutes where you can make this happen.

DEPARTMENT OF ELECTRONIC & COMPUTER ENGINEERING – THE HONG KONG UNIVERSITY OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

This university is the top regional choice for research and taught postgraduate programmes leading to Master of Philosophy (MPhil) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Electronic and Computer Engineering.

The courses cover various modern technologies including wireless communications, microelectronics, and automation. All courses are taught in English by dedicated, highly knowledgeable professors – which makes it a dynamic, international setting for your computer engineering postgraduate.

Boasting a strong research culture, the university is supported by over 100 research grants and sponsored by the Hong Kong SAR Government and industries. ECE champions the study of pertinent topics such as Integrated Circuits and Systems and Data Science and AI.

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Source: HKUST, Department of Electronic and Computer Engineering

Professors are ever ready to offer insights and expertise on projects with commercialisation potential. On top of that, students make full use of state-of-the-art facilities to carry out cutting-edge research and multimedia learning.

The exposure, support and facilities prepare graduates for careers across traditional and emerging industries alike. Their combination of technical expertise and leadership skills makes a recipe for success in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

HKUST currently has over 300 postgraduate students and 42 teaching faculty members. With its strategic position within the Greater Bay Area, the university is primed to receive a growing number of international students from Asia and beyond.

EDWARD S ROGERS SR. DEPARTMENT OF ELECTRICAL & COMPUTER ENGINEERING –  UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO

The University of Toronto’s ECE department is part of its Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering and is known as one of the best in North America.

The three postgraduate degrees on offer at this university are Master of Engineering (M.Eng.), Master of Applied Science (M.A.Sc.), and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.).

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Source: University of Toronto, Edward S Rogers Sr. Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering

This department is built upon the expertise of 75 distinguished professors from a range of specialisations, including electromagnetics, energy systems, photonics and systems control.

Surely, they are behind the high commercialisation rate of research projects – 14 new start-up companies have sprung up from the department’s professors and students since 2012.

On top of these, the university’s location in the heart of vibrant Toronto also speaks for its global culture and first-class amenities, ensuring every computer engineering postgraduate enjoys a good quality of life in the Canadian cosmopolitan.

DEPARTMENT OF ELECTRICAL ENGINEERING – UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, LOS ANGELES (UCLA)

This department is one of seven at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science. It is divided into three sub-specialisations: Circuits & Embedded Systems, Physical & Wave Electronics, and Signals & Systems.

This creates a clear distinction between the numerous research projects going on at the department, which is conducive to multidisciplinary collaborations. The university greatly encourages such collaborations, which often involve faculty members and students from medicine, physics, mathematics, and theatre & film.

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Source: UCLA Department of Electrical Engineering

One UCLA advantage is that the Master’s programme is also offered online.

Given its reputation, the university only accepts and educates the cream of the crop. In the 2017/2018 academic year, for instance, 497 of 1756 applicants were accepted into graduate school.

Los Angeles is buzzing with activity and excitement, be it in culinary and entertainment hotspots or arts and culture happenings. With more museums and theatres than any other US city, students are spoiled for choice with options for leisure. 

DEPARTMENT OF INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY AND ELECTRICAL ENGINEERING – ETH ZURICH

Switzerland’s leading STEM university doesn’t just produce industry-ready computer engineering postgraduates – it is also a leader in biomedical engineering and brain research. 

This makes it the right choice for students looking to study topics at the intersection of engineering and biology. 

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Source: ETH Zurich Department of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering

Besides the main Master’s in Electrical Engineering and Information Technology, this university also offers interdisciplinary Master’s programmes such as MSc Quantum Engineering and MSc Micro and Nanosystems.

These programmes are strengthened by the department’s global faculty, who bring years of knowledge from different industries and backgrounds.

With 17 research laboratories, research is surely a priority at ETH Zurich. The department focuses on core research areas of electronics and photonics, information and communication, energy, and biomedical engineering to devise solutions in sustainable energy, information management and healthcare.

*Some of the institutions featured in this article are commercial partners of Study International

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