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Distinguished Research Achievement Award 2021

Professor Guochun ZHAO

Professor Guochun ZHAO
Chair Professor
Department of Earth Sciences

Professor Guochun ZHAO, Department of Earth Sciences, earned his BSc and MSc degrees from Changchun University of Earth Sciences (now merged into Jilin University) in 1985 and 1988, respectively. Thereafter, he worked at Changchun University of Earth Sciences until 1996, when he went to Curtin University to pursue a PhD degree. In 2000, he received his PhD degree with an ‘Outstanding PhD Thesis Award’ from Curtin University. Since August 2000, he has been working in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Hong Kong as a Postdoctoral Fellow (2000–2002), Research Assistant Professor (2002–2007), Associate Professor (2007–2013), Professor (2013–2019) and Chair Professor (2019–now). 

Professor Zhao’s research interest focusses on applying modern geological theories and methods to tackle various geological problems, ranging from microscopic processes of mineral reactions during metamorphism to macroscopic processes of assembly and breakup of continents in Earth’s history. His main research findings include discovering two Himalaya-type continental collisional belts in North China that are 1.85 to 1.95 billion years old. This discovery is important because it demonstrates that modern-style plate tectonics was already operative about two billion years ago. In addition, Professor Zhao is the first person to have recognised global-scale collisional events 1.8 to 2.0 billion years ago leading to the assembly of a 1.8 billion-year-old supercontinent, now named Columbia or Nuna. This recognition has further confirmed that modern-style plate tectonics started on our planet two billion years ago. Recently, as Principal Investigator, he undertook a National Natural Science Foundation of China Major Project (with funding of 20 million RMB) entitled ‘Reconstructions of East Asian continents in Pangea’. In this project, he used geological and paleomagnetic data to reconstruct the paleogeographic locations of East Asian blocks in the supercontinent Pangea, which has re-interpreted the geological history of East Asia. 

Since 1998, Professor Zhao has published more than 380 refereed papers, which have been cited more than 54,000 times (with an H-index = 129), ranking him amongst the Highly Cited Researchers in 2014–2021. Professor Zhao has received many other awards, prizes and honours, including a State Natural Science Award (Second Class, First Awardee, 2014), Fellow of the Geological Society of America (2014), Outstanding Researcher Award of the University of Hong Kong (2016), 29th Khwarizmi International Award (First Class, 2016), Changjiang Chair Professorship (2017), The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS) Prize in Earth, Astronomy and Space Sciences (2018), Member (Academician) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (2019), and Member (Fellow) of TWAS (2020). Professor Zhao was the President of the International Association for Gondwana Research (2015–2017) and Editor-in-Chief of Precambrian Research, a leading international journal in earth sciences. 

During the past 30 years of his research career, Professor Zhao has encountered various obstacles and even failures, but he has never given up on his goals. He believes that ambition, hard work, learning from failure, patience and persistence make an unbeatable combination for success. He strongly agrees with poet Maya Angelou’s classic statement that “You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated.” 


Award Photo