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Award-Winning Scientists To Host Forum

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LCSD - Science Museum

Award-winning scientists to host forum

This year’s winners of the Shaw Prizes will share the fascinating stories behind their work at an event open to the public. Other experts will also give lectures

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 September, 2018, 12:02am
UPDATED : Friday, 21 September, 2018, 12:02am

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As part of the celebrations to mark the presentation of this year’s Shaw Prizes, the three recipients will be taking part in a special science forum open to students, academics and members of the public.

Organised by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD), the event will take place at the Hong Kong Science Museum in Tsim Sha Tsui on September 28 from 2 to 5pm. Those interested in attending should act quickly to make sure of securing a seat.

Each of this year’s prizewinners – Dr Jean-Loup Puget, Professor Mary-Claire King and Professor Luis A. Caffarelli – have made significant contributions to research and learning in their respective fields of astronomy, life science and medicine, and mathematical sciences. And each has a fascinating story to tell.

The forum, titled “Meet the Shaw Laureates 2018 – The Challenges and the Joy of Doing Science”, will give them the chance to talk about their backgrounds, key ideas and objectives, their work, and the influence of their research.

Separate lectures and discussions led by expert moderators from local universities will cover current issues and recent advances in science. The role scientific inquiry and discovery play in promoting the good of the broader community will be highlighted.

In addition, to emphasise the importance of the prizewinners’ work and its continuing impact, there will be related exhibitions at the Science Museum and Space Museum running in tandem with the other events.

The Shaw Prize was established in 2002, at the instigation of Run Run Shaw, and consists of three international awards presented on an annual basis. The intention is to honour individuals who are active in clearly defined fields and who have recently achieved significant advances or other notable distinctions.

Over the years, the various award winners have all made outstanding contributions in terms of academic and scientific research or applications. This has allowed them to achieve a clear level of excellence in their respective domains. The awards also look to further progress within society, to enhance the quality of life, and to enrich civilisation and people’s spiritual outlook.

More specifically, Puget was named as winner of this year’s Shaw Prize in Astronomy for advancing understanding of the infrared to submillimetre spectral range.

As the citation explains, he detected the cosmic far-infrared background from past starforming galaxies and proposed aromatic hydrocarbon molecules as a constituent of interstellar matter.

Also, with the European Space Agency’s Planck satellite, for which he is the principal investigator of the High Frequency Instrument (HFI), he dramatically advanced our knowledge of cosmology in the presence of interstellar matter foregrounds.

Such work can be seen as part of a “new golden age of astronomy”. It is opening new windows on the universe and exploring extreme configurations of matter and energy in ways not accessible to terrestrial laboratories.

Puget is a researcher at the Institut d’Astrophysique Spatiale (IAS) of CNRS and the Université Paris-Saclay in France. His contributions to the field have helped us move closer to a complete picture of the history of cosmic star formation.

The Shaw Prize in Life Science and Medicine 2018 was awarded to King for her mapping of the first breast cancer gene.

The citation notes that, using mathematical modelling, she predicted and then showed that breast cancer can be caused by a single gene.

By mapping that gene, which she named BRCA1, she facilitated its cloning and, as a result, has saved thousands of lives. This can be considered a significant victory in the continuing battle against illness and suffering. And it is likely to open up exciting new opportunities for advances in therapeutics, which can lead to better health care and treatment.

At present, King is the American Cancer Society professor in the department of medicine and department of genome sciences at the University of Washington. Much of her career has been dedicated to studying the epidemiology of cancer and, overcoming doubts expressed by geneticists, her achievements have revolutionised the entire field.

As the winner of this year’s Shaw Prize in Mathematical Sciences, Caffarelli was commended for his groundbreaking work on partial differential equations.

This includes creating a theory of regularity for non-linear equations, such as the MongeAmpère equation, and free boundary problems, such as the obstacle problem.

In consequence, he has created a reputation for influencing a whole generation of researchers in the field, a singular accolade at a time when mathematics is seen as the essential language of computer science, statistics and information technology.

Caffarelli, a professor of mathematics at the University of Texas at Austin, notes that partial differential equations are used to model heat flow, electromagnetic waves, fluid motion, quantum mechanics, and many other physical phenomena. We should see them as fundamental to advances in all the sciences.

Admission to the forum, which will be conducted in English, is free but registration is on a first-come, first-served basis.

Individuals can register at hk.science.museum/ms/shaw2018.

For school registration and other inquiries, call 2732 3223.