Croucher summer courses

6 May 2016

Keeping up with the latest advances in science, the Croucher summer courses return this year bringing back courses from previous years updated for today and introducing new courses in groundbreaking, novel technologies.

Every year the Croucher Foundation funds short summer courses in a wide variety of topics, aimed at providing postgraduate and early career scientists the opportunity to learn from world-renowned scientists and researchers; network with other researchers from around Hong Kong and the world; and gain practical experience in both laboratory work and presenting their own work.

Advances in Immunology

Returning from 2014, the Croucher summer course on Advances in Immunology in Health and Disease will feature speakers from all over the globe discussing the great strides made in immunological research in recent years. Professor C. S. Lau and Dr Vera Chan, the organisers of this summer course, shed some light on their plans for this year’s session. Growing off the success of 2014’s course, some speakers from the previous session were invited to return, while the addition of new speakers to the roster will provide a fresh and varied view into immunology.

“We also have more clinical background oriented scientists who can talk about the more clinical applications of technology,” Dr Vera Chan says, highlighting the scope of the course. While current research is certainly an important aspect of the course, the presence of scientists with a clinical background pulls the topics discussed into a more practical light, demonstrating the real world applications of many of these new discoveries the potential of which may not yet be fully realized.

In the first part of the course, speakers will build up understanding of some of the deeper aspects of immunology, with talks focusing on topics ranging from macrophages to infectious diseases, showcasing the wide reaching implications of immunological research. On the last day of the course, an open symposium will be held to allow students the opportunity to share their work with the speakers, fellow researchers, and the general public.

Dr Chan and Prof Lau stress the importance of giving the course participants the opportunity to speak. Time for questions after the speakers’ presentations opens the floor for discussion, giving participants the opportunity to dig a little deeper into some of the material covered.

The sessions will also include a poster presentation during which participants will showcase their own research. With both a presentation and Q & A session, participants will have the invaluable opportunity to share their work with experts in the field.

“Very often when you go to an immunology conference there will be tens of thousands of people, but very few of the younger scientists will have the opportunity to get up to the big speakers and actually talk to them. So one of the purposes of the summer course is to get these experts to speak with the promising and rising young scientists,” says Prof Lau, highlighting again the importance placed on giving young scientists the chance to share their own work with their peers and experts in the field.

Ultracold Atom Physics

Reflecting the rapid advances made in the field of atomic, molecular, and optical physics, a new course this year, Ultracold Atom Physics, will explore the new and dynamic field of ultracold atom research.

Organised by Prof Qi Zhou of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, this course will explore the fundamentals of ultracold atom physics and also provide a platform for participants to discuss recent theoretical and experimental developments in the field.

“We hope that this course can become a kind of bridge,” Prof Zhou says, “connecting what [the students] learn from textbooks to what they are going to do in realistic research.” While the topics covered are certainly important, for early career researchers, an important part of the course will be learning how to do research. Why do we ask the questions we ask? How does an idea become an experiment and eventually become a discovery?

While the theories surrounding ultracold atom physics may stretch back to Einstein, the field only took off in the last twenty years or so when the laboratory technologies became advanced enough to truly study atoms and quantum mechanics at extremely low temperatures down to about 100 nanokelvin, or 100 billionths of a Kelvin.

Speaking about his expectations for the course, Prof Zhou hopes that students will seize the opportunity to interact actively with the lecturers, all experts in their field.

To promote the interaction between the lecturers and the students, every student will be asked to give a presentation on their research. “With a small group of participants, we have enough time for every student to give a presentation so that lecturers can give feedback on both their research and the way they present that research,” Dr Zhou says, “I hope the summer school will provide them a good opportunity to practice presentation.”

Recent progress in the field has opened up the world of ultracold atom physics. New discoveries about strongly interacting Fermi gases have changed the discipline drastically. “Advancing technology has allowed researchers to create conditions in the lab that allow us to access regions that we weren’t able to reach years ago,” says Dr Zhou, who believes that recent technological advances have set the stage for a new era of atomic physics, making it the perfect time for students to explore this relatively young field.

With so many speakers from around the world coming to Hong Kong to share their expertise on a wide range of topics, the Croucher Summer Courses are set to bring both a vast base of knowledge in diverse topics to up and coming Hong Kong scientists and the opportunity to share and collaborate with fellow researchers.

For more information on the Croucher Summer Courses, please click here.