Bulletin No. 2, 2019

21 Master of Much Master of Much Prof. Nicholas Rawlins Prof. Nicholas Rawlins’ s encounter with the East took place early. When he was small, his father Sir John Rawlins, a Royal Navy officer and pioneer in diving medicine, used to read to him from Arthur Waley’s Monkey , an abridged translation of one of the masterworks of classical Chinese literature, leaving the little reader transfixed. Many years later, one of his best friends at Oxford came to Hong Kong right after graduation and went on to have a very successful career. Professor Rawlins once went to have dinner at his house, saw the black cheongsam his friend wore at that time and fell in love with this traditional Chinese outfit. He was won over by their stylishness, comfort and fitness for purposes both formal and informal. With his appointment as Pro-Vice-Chancellor of Oxford in 2010 overseeing, among other things, the development team and its strategic office in Hong Kong, he visited Hong Kong three to four times a year, and came to know the city better and better. As the medical and other departments of Oxford also had research collaborations with CUHK and schools in China, it was only natural that Southeast Asia became his second home. As an undergraduate, he was fascinated by physiological psychology and the curriculum then at Oxford allowed him to get the most out of a broad spectrum of biological sciences—medicine, psychology, physiology, biochemistry, botany, zoology. ‘To try to understand behaviour in terms of what physically and chemically happens in the brain and to make sense of it in the larger context is to me a wonderful piece of detective work that is intrinsically interesting.’ The neuroscientist also uncovered the causes of and solution to the Alzheimer’s disease, ‘The longer you’ve been in education, the lesser the chance you’d get Alzheimer’s or if you get it you’d get it later.’ Professor Rawlins was affiliated with University College, one of the three oldest colleges in Oxford. He became attached to Wolfson College, a postgraduate college, in 2007. When he became pro-vice-chancellor two years later, he had the chance to move back to University College but chose not to. He decided to stay on at Wolfson as an advocate for a niche college. Subsequently, he helped set up a matching scheme for postgraduate scholarships and brought in millions of pounds to enable many brilliant students to go as far as their talents took them. ‘A small college does something important for the University. It provides opportunities to try out new ideas in small scale. Morningside should be an experimental hothouse for the University,’ he said. In his view, Morningside is rightly proud of its general education programme which is distinctive for getting students to think independently and weigh up data. ‘I always told my students to be respectful but not deferential to their professors, for their professors’ opinions are only as good as their arguments. I’d love to export to my students this attitude, this approach to education, this engagement with another human being.’ At Morningside, the Master is looking to build several bridges. First, he plans to strengthen the relationship between the College and the postgraduate hostels as much benefit would result from the interaction between the undergraduates and the postgraduates. Second, if post-docs and young professionals can be invited to the College, social and professional ties would begin to blossom at an early stage. The College’s supporters and sponsors are also on his radar for creating networking opportunities for the students. A connoisseur in the culinary art himself, Professor Rawlins thinks an international food fest would go a long way to create solidarity among the international students. He’s also started to invite the families of local students to come to the College and see for themselves how college education has given their children something extra in addition to academic training. He was brimming with confidence when he remarked, ‘Small colleges can be little cells of Darwinian evolution.’ T.C. Master of Morningside College A distinguished neuroscientist and Oxonian, Professor Rawlins was formerly Pro- Vice-Chancellor for Development and External Affairs at Oxford University. In December of 2018, he succeeded the late Professor Sir James Mirrlees to become the second Master of Morningside College.