JUSTL participant: Mr Ho Chi Leung

21 May 2020

Mr Ho Chi Leung is a Technical Officer in the Faculty Core Facility in the Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine at The University of Hong Kong. He obtained his MPhil from the Division of Life Science, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, under the supervision of Prof Andrew L. Miller. Mr Leung’s MPhil project involved exploring the contribution made by transmembrane ion fluxes to the regulation of neural induction in Xenopus laevis embryos. After finishing his MPhil, Mr Leung moved to The University of Hong Kong where he worked for two years in the Hereditary Gastrointestinal Cancer Genetic Diagnosis Laboratory in the Department of Pathology at Queen Mary Hospital, before transferring to the Faculty Core Facility.

Current Work

Mr Leung is in charge of the molecular biology and liquid dispensing equipment in The University of Hong Kong Faculty Core Facility. He trains researchers how to use the various machines and coordinates with the service engineers for general maintenance and when there is a problem. He is also responsible for managing the distribution of reagents used by the various pieces of equipment, to the users, and he performs various quality control checks on the new equipment, to confirm that they are optimized for users’ experiments. Mr Leung also looks after two imaging systems for the whole slide scanning of histological specimens.

Mr Leung is also continuing with his studies. He has just completed the first year curriculum of a two-year course called Medical Laboratory Science. This training will qualify and license him to become a Medical Technologist in a public or private hospital for working with clinical samples.

JUSTL Programme

Mr Leung was a participant in the 2014 and 2015 JUSTL programmes. He was mentored by Prof Andrew L. Miller (The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology) and Dr Marko Horb (National Xenopus Resource, MBL) during both years, and in 2014 he was also mentored by Mr Alan Shipley (Applicable Electronics, New Haven, CT, US) and Prof Raymond Keller (University of Virginia, US). In 2014, Mr Leung used the scanning vibrating electrode technique (SVET) and scanning ion-selective electrode technique (SIET), with equipment designed and built by Mr Shipley, to map the extracellular currents and calcium fluxes, respectively, around Xenopus laevis embryos during neural induction. He was also taught how to prepare Keller explants from Xenopus embryos by Prof Raymond E Keller (University of Virginia, US), who pioneered the use of this technique. Mr Leung was very impressed that Prof Keller made all his own tools for preparing the explants too. During his second visit to the MBL in 2015, Mr Leung worked in the NXR at the MBL where he screened the lines of Xenopus (which had been prepared by Dr Edward Lau during the 2013 JUSTL programme) to identify transgenic individuals that expressed green fluorescent protein (GFP) and bioluminescent apoaequorin either throughout the body or just in the brain.

In addition to working on the various research projects, Mr Leung also attended many lectures held at the MBL. He was especially interested in the Embryology course lectures. There are several lectures that Mr Leung still remembers clearly, including one by Dr Richard Behringer (The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX), who described the differentiation of the gonads and reproductive tract during embryogenesis in the mouse, and another by Dr Alejandro Sanchez Alvarado (Stowers Institute for Medical Research, Kansas City, MO), who discussed the regenerative capabilities of the planarian flatworm. Another talk that Mr Leung found to be especially fascinating was presented by Dr Jack Gilbert (now at the University of California San Diego, US) who spoke about ’The Invisible Influence of the Microbiome’. Mr Leung recalls that he was “quite surprised to find out that different microbes in our body can actually play a role in our physiological and mental development and even in our social behaviour.”

Mr Leung firmly believes that in addition to helping him with his MPhil studies, the JUSTL programme provided him with additional knowledge that was useful for his work with cancer cells during his time in the Department of Pathology at The University of Hong Kong, as well as most recently in The University of Hong Kong Faculty Core Facility.