Mr. Matthew Cheung Kin-chung (middle), Chief Secretary of the HKSAR Government, presents research awards to the winners: (from Left) Dr Tjonnie Guang Feng Li, Dr Tuan Anh Nguyen , Dr Ding Pan, Prof Qian Miao, Prof Sydney Chi Wai Tang, Prof Zilong.Wen

Croucher Foundation Day Dinner 2018

11 December 2018

Croucher Foundation celebrates its 39th anniversary on the evening of Friday, December 7, 2018.

Trustees, committee members, partners and friends of the foundation gathered at the Hong Kong Country Club last Friday to celebrate and commend this year’s recipients of the Croucher Innovation Awards, Senior Research Fellowships, Fellowship, Scholarship, and Studentship recipients.

The Honorable Mr. Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, GBM, GBS, JP, Chief Secretary for Administration, has been invited as the guest of honour at the dinner.

Croucher Innovation Awards 2018

Established in 2012, the Croucher Innovation Awards aim to identify a small number of exceptionally talented scientists working at an internationally competitive level and to offer substantial support to these “rising stars” at a formative stage in their careers. The scheme is designed to enable recipients to pursue their own scientific, intellectual and professional inclinations, to advance their expertise, to engage in bold new work, and to contribute to the development of education and research in Hong Kong. Each award carries a value of up to HK$5 million over 5 years.

This year’s Innovation Awards went to Dr Tjonnie Guang Feng Li, Dr Tuan Anh Nguyen, and Dr Ding Pan.

Dr Tjonnie Guang Feng Li is an assistant professor in the Department of Physics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong where he is working on astrophysics and gravitational waves. The CUHK research team led by Dr Li has been a member of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) Scientific Collaboration and responsible for analysing data the from LIGO detectors. The recent detections of gravitational waves by the LIGO heralds a new era in which invisible black holes, neutron stars and other exotic compact objects can be discovered throughout the Universe. With support from the Croucher Foundation, Dr Li will conduct research to unveil the nature and origin of compact objects. 

Dr Tuan Anh Nguyen is an assistant professor in the Division of Life Science at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. His research focuses on the comprehensively understanding of how the modulated and structured elements of pri-miRNAs are recognised and interacted with multiple RNA-interacting proteins, enzymes and small chemical molecules, employing multidisciplinary approaches, including biochemistry and bioinformatics techniques. miRNAs present in organisms. In humans, many miRNAs are associated with human diseases, such as cancers and various neurodegenerative diseases. Each miRNA sequence is extracted from primary miRNA precursors (pri-miRNAs) through miRNA biogenesis. Dr Nguyen’s research offers a fundamental understanding of miRNA-caused human diseases and a lead for designing artificial pri-miRNAs in gene knockdown technology. 

Dr Ding Pan is an assistant professor in the Department of Physics and the Department of Chemistry at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. Dr Pan’s group has been applying and developing computational and numerical methods to understand and predict the properties and behaviour of liquids, solids, and nanostructures from first principles. With the help of high-performance supercomputers, his group is seeking answers to urgent and fundamental scientific questions relevant to the sustainable development of water science, deep carbon cycle and clean energy. With support from the Croucher Foundation, Dr Pan will study the physics and chemistry of carbon-bearing phases at extreme conditions such as those found in the deep Earth which could help us understand better the deep carbon cycle and its impact on global climate change and human energy consumption.

Croucher Senior Research Fellowship 2019

The Croucher Senior Research Fellowships scheme was first introduced in 1997. It is awarded to local academics who have excelled in scientific research work as judged by leading international scientists invited to provide confidential reviews of candidates nominated in a competitive exercise. Funds are awarded to the universities of the fellowship recipients, enabling the university to recruit replacement teachers to take over the award winner’s duties for the period of the fellowship. This enables the awardees to devote more time and effort to research work.

The value of each award includes a HK$2 million research grant and the cost of a replacement teacher/clinical medical staff for a twelve-month period, currently stands at a maximum of HK$994,860 for the Senior Research Fellowships and HK$2,426,100 for the Senior Medical Research Fellowships.

Recipients of the 2019 Senior Research Fellowships are Prof Qian Miao, Prof Andrey L. Rogach, Prof Sydney Chi Wai Tang and Prof Wen Zilong.

Professor Qian Miao in the Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science at the Chinese University of Hong Kong focused on understanding and developing organic chemistry and molecular functional materials. The laboratory he leads, the Organic Chemistry and Molecular Materials Laboratory, has been exploring novel carbon nano-structures and high-performance organic electronic materials. His research team has recently discovered a unique self-assembly structure which allows the introduction of a variety of functional groups to organic semiconductors without sacrificing charge transport pathways. Based on this, a highly sensitive and selective sensing platform was developed to detect ions and proteins in water. Professor Miao will dedicate the award to the research and development of bio-electronics noses for medical diagnoses. Professor Miao’s team has recently synthesised the largest segment of negatively-curved graphene, which is substantial progress toward the eventual synthesis of new carbon nano-structures of negative curvature.

Professor Andrey L. Rogach, Chair Professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and Director of the Centre for Functional Photonics at City University of Hong Kong has been working on the fabrication and optical spectroscopy of chemically synthesised nanomaterials and their use for a variety of energy-related and optoelectronic applications, including photocatalytic hydrogen generation from water, photodetectors, light emitting devices, and displays for over 25 years. Professor Rogach pioneered aqueous synthesis of a variety of colloidal semiconductor and metal nanocrystals. His earlier work contributed to the appearance and further development of what is now known as “conventional” II-VI semiconductor quantum dots and has been more recently extended to several other light-emitting colloidal nanomaterials, such as metal nanoclusters, carbon dots, and perovskite nanocrystals. Professor Rogach will dedicate his Croucher award to the further development of perovskites, extending the use of these fascinating materials to a broad range of devices, namely, electroluminescent light-emitting diodes, photodetectors, field-effect transistors, lasers, and quantum spintronic devices.

Professor Sydney Tang Chi-wai is the Chair of Renal Medicine and Yu Professor in Nephrology in the Department of Medicine at University of Hong Kong. Professor Tang’s research focuses on understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms of chronic progressive kidney disease that universally heralds the development of end-stage kidney failure. He has made seminal observations on the role of the kidney tubule cell in orchestrating kidney inflammation and fibrosis in proteinuric nephropathies and diabetic kidney disease, the commonest causes of kidney failure worldwide. Chronic kidney disease affects around 10% of the world population and is a significant public health problem. The Croucher Senior Medical Research Fellowship will enable Professor Tang to utilise high-throughput platform technologies to further dissect the role of innate immunity in different resident and myeloid cells during renal inflammation, a critical step leading to kidney fibrosis and ultimate organ failure. Novel therapeutic targets identified from these investigations could pave the way for future drug development to advance treatment of chronic kidney disease that currently lacks specific therapy.

Professor Wen Zilong in the Division of Life Science at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology is interested on the development path and functions of cellular components of the blood system, and how their dysregulations cause human diseases. With the Croucher Senior Research Fellowship, he will continue to investigate the cellular and molecular principles that orchestrate the formation, maintenance and function of these hematopoietic cells under physiological and pathological states, which may provide new therapeutic strategy for treatment of related diseases.

Croucher Study Awards 2018

At the awards ceremony that evening, winners of the 2018 scholarships accepted their awards for PhD and postdoctoral study at universities and institutes in U.K., Germany, U.S., Japan, Netherlands and Hong Kong. Certificates were presented by chairman, Tak Wah Mak, followed by a vote of thanks by Croucher awardee 2018, Joseph Kin Lok Lee.

Complete list of 2018 Croucher Fellowship, Scholarship, and Studentship recipients is available here.

Science Communication Training

At the dinner, Dr Sam Lau (Croucher Fellowship 2000, Croucher Scholarship 1997) also shared some inspiring words for Croucher scholars participating in the Croucher Science Communication Training. The training aims to nurture brilliant scholars into excellent science communicators to explain and demonstrate science concept to young students and the general public. 

Led by Mr Eddie Goldstein, Scientific Communication Expert from US, and Ms Ana Yau, an experienced local performer and trainer, the 12 selected scholars will continue to go on a performance tour in 2019 at local primary schools, to share their love of science and the general idea of their current research, and to conduct interesting experiments to local primary students. 

The 12 scholars are Ho Yu Au-yeungDavid BanfieldRosa ChanSam LauStephanie MaKrates NgGrantham PangLeo PoonSuzanne SoFaye TsangAlice Wong and Phillip Yam.