HKIAS nurtures leading young researchers
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(From left) Dr. Xianpeng Hu, Professor Junhui Wang and Dr. Pierre Nolin.

HKIAS showcases new frontiers in fundamental science

  • A brand-new HKIAS Rising Star Lecture Series inspires young academic leaders and promotes diversity. 
  • 15 early-career scientists were awarded grants to pursue their research projects at CityU.  
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Running from September to November, 15 short-listed promising scholars at the City University of Hong Kong (CityU) presented their latest work in five Hong Kong Institute for Advanced Study (HKIAS) Rising Star Lectures, focusing on mathematics, chemistry, physics, materials science, and life sciences. 

Kicking off the series on September 15, three young mathematicians explored new approaches to navigating complexities with models. Professor Junhui Wang, Professor of Department of Mathematics and School of Data Science, started this series with a presentation titled “Latent Factor Model: Methodology, Theory and Applications”. Dr. Pierre Nolin, Associate Professor of Department of Mathematics, explored “Forest Fires and Self-Organized Criticality”. He discussed how self-organized criticality could explain the complexity in many natural phenomena, including modeling forest fires. To complete this session, Dr. Xianpeng Hu, Associate Professor of Department of Mathematics, described “Existence and Concentration of Weak Solutions for Compressible Navier-Stokes Equations”. He explained advances in understanding compressible versions of the well-known Navier-Stokes equations that describe the motion of viscous fluids.


(From left) Professor Angus Hin Lap Yip, Dr. Chaoliang Tan and Dr. Chun Kit Kwok.

Three experts presented their latest findings of interface chemistry, biological chemistry, and intercalation chemistry on September 30. Professor Angus Hin Lap Yip, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, and School of Energy and Environment, addressed “Molecularly Engineered Interfaces in Metal Halide Perovskite Optoelectronic Materials and Devices”. He explored the many crucial applications of metal halide perovskites, which make up a recent class of semiconductors that can be tuned to improve the optoelectrical properties of solar cells and LEDs. Next, Dr. Chun Kit Kwok, Associate Professor of Department of Chemistry, and State Key Laboratory of Marine Pollution — described the RNA G-quadruplex and their interactions with proteins might be applied to treat diseases such as cancers, in his talk titled “A Renaissance in RNA Structure”. Dr. Chaoliang Tan, Assistant Professor of Department of Electrical Engineering, closed this lecture with his report on “Structural Engineering of Layered Nanomaterials by Lithium Intercalation Chemistry”. He provided an update on structural engineering of layered nanomaterials by lithiation intercalation chemistry, which can be applied to photothermal cancer therapy and aqueous zinc-ion batteries.


(From left) Dr. Qi Liu, Dr. Cheng Wang and Dr. Danfeng Li.

Condensed matter physics, particularly the properties of superconducting materials, is an area of intensive study at CityU. To open the Physics series on October 19, Dr. Danfeng Li, Assistant Professor of Department of Physics, presented “Soft-Chemistry Approaches to Superconductivity in Infinite-Layer Nickelates”. He described his role in discovering the world’s first infinite-layer nickelate superconductors through a soft-chemistry approach and how these materials might allow zero electrical resistance that could revolutionize high-performance electric power transmission. For more on power, battery expert Dr. Qi Liu, Assistant Professor of Department of Physics, analyzed “High-Voltage Lithium Cobalt Oxide Cathode Materials for Future Smart Phones”. He explained how changes in using lithium cobalt oxide could improve a battery’s energy capacity but not destroy its structure. Wrapping up this lecture, Dr. Cheng Wang, Assistant Professor of Department of Electrical Engineering & Member of the State Key Laboratory of Terahertz and Millimeter Waves, shared his findings in “Scaling Up Lithium Niobate Photonics for Future Optoelectronics”. He showcased his success in enhancing the light-matter interactions in nanophotonic structures, such as integrated lithium niobate photonic circuits, which can be applied to optical communications and nonlinear optics.

Materials science

(From left) Dr. Tao Yang, Professor Yang Lu and Dr. Dangyuan Lei.

Materials science is one of the key research fields of CityU and HKIAS. Opening the November 5 lecture, Professor Yang Lu, Department of Mechanical Engineering and Department of Materials Science and Engineering, shed light on “Diamond Semiconductor: Deep Elastic Strain Engineering”. He highlighted diamond’s potential as a future semiconductor in and how microfabrication and deep-strain engineering can optimize diamond’s electronic properties for use in microelectronics, quantum-information technologies, and optoelectronics. In describing the confinement of light on the nanoscale in optical cavities, Dr. Dangyuan Lei, Associate Professor of Department of Materials Science and Engineering, introduced “Plasmonic Nanocavity for Light Manipulation and Energy Conversion”. He used plasmonic and photonics low-dimensional materials and structures as examples and revealed potential applications, such as using dielectric microcavities to construct a water-proof perovskite microlaser and symmetry-broken particle-on-film nanocavities to boost the second-harmonic conversion efficiency of noble metals. Last in this session, Dr. Tao Yang, Assistant Professor of Department of Materials Science and Engineering, shared his findings on “Chemically Complex Intermetallic Alloys: A New Frontier for Innovative Materials”. He revealed his passion for developing new materials for advanced engineering applications by introducing the audience to a family of chemically complex intermetallic alloys.

Life sciences 

(From left) Dr. Liang Zhang, Dr. Gigi Pui Chi Lo and Dr. Kwok On Lai.

In the final lecture of the HKIAS Rising Star Series on November 24, CityU researchers explained how basic research in the life sciences might be translated to patients. Dr. Gigi Pui Chi Lo, Associate Professor of Department of Biomedical Sciences, highlighted “Development of Nanophotosensitizing Systems for Targeted Photodynamic Therapy”. She talked about advances in nanophotosensitizers that could improve photodynamic therapy in cancer patients. Another expert in cancer biology and proteomics, Dr. Liang Zhang, Assistant Professor of Department of Biomedical Sciences, explored “Dissecting Protein Interactome in Health and Diseases”. He proposed the CRISPR-assisted RNA-protein interaction detection method to delineate RNA-protein interactions in live cells, which could lead to the development of new biomarkers and therapeutics. Closing out the series, Dr. Kwok On Lai, Assistant Professor of Department of Neuroscience, discussed “RNA Transport in Neuron and Why It Matters”. He updated attendees on how the motor protein kinesin mediates intracellular transport to control the formation of neuronal connections. This work could answer long-standing questions around dendritic messenger RNA transport and translation, two important processes disrupted in various brain disorders.

Generous support to foster research   
Nurturing new talent with a rewarding career has been a major mission of the HKIAS since its establishment in 2015. This year, the Institute celebrates the accomplishments and promises of researchers at the early stages of their independent careers. 

The Rising Star Lecture Series - partly supported by the Kwang Hua Educational Foundation - promotes diversity in academia and draws international attention to the latest work from the next generation of academic leaders. HKIAS offered the top rising stars grants that enable them to continue conducting their research projects at CityU.

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