Sun Kwok could not apply for a place at the University of Hong Kong when he was a teenager because he did not attend an English-language school. But he has finally won a place at the age of 56 - as dean of science. Professor Kwok says he never dreamed he would one day get the chance to join HKU. 'I couldn't get into HKU at that time. You could only get in here if you were in the English education system. We weren't even allowed to sit the exam.' He attended the Chinese-medium Pui Ching Middle School in Ho Man Tin. Professor Kwok started his schooling at True Light girls' primary school in Tai Hang. 'Embarrassing,' he jokes. 'They took a few boys every year.' He then followed in his father's footsteps by moving to Pui Ching. His ambition was to go to university in Canada, and to do that he had to sit GCE exams in 1967. He tells how he and a handful of like-minded students taught themselves the curriculum and carried out chemistry experiments in a make-shift laboratory set up in a friend's apartment. He passed the exams and was offered a place at McMaster University, in Hamilton, Ontario, arriving two weeks late, after being given the run around by immigration. 'There was a lot of corruption and you were told you had to visit the doctor to pass the physical even though there was nothing wrong with you.' he says. An early choice of engineering design gave way to science after he read Frontiers of Astronomy, by the late Cambridge-based physicist Fred Hoyle. From McMaster, Professor Kwok moved to the University of Minnesota, where he took his doctorate and later specialised in planetary nebulae, writing the now-famous Cosmic Butterflies. He went on to work for a Canadian government research agency before moving to the University of Calgary in Alberta, then returning to Hong Kong. He was one of the first to argue that complex organic material generated by star systems could have been transported to the solar system and could be a possible cause of life on Earth. 'Five years ago very few people believed this theory,' he says. 'But I have been to several astro-biology conferences and it is changing. People are more serious about the possibility of life coming from elsewhere. 'I think life is everywhere. In the past we didn't know anything about this so we thought we were special, but now we know that organic material is being ejected everywhere. If we got to become what we are because of this, so could other solar systems.' Professor Kwok was approached by a headhunting team for the position of HKU dean of science and has been in the job for six months.