Laboratory for Space Research, Faculty of Science,
The University of Hong Kong

B.Sc.(1970) McMaster, M.S. (1972), Ph.D. (1974) Minnesota

  • Professor Emeritus, The University of Hong Kong (2018-present)
  • Chair Professor of Space Science and Director of Laboratory for Space Research, The University of Hong Kong (2016-2018)
  • President, International Astronomical Union Commission F3, Astrobiology (2015-2018)
  • Dean of Science and Chair Professor of Physics, The University of Hong Kong (2006-2016)
  • Faculty Professor, University of Calgary (2005-2012)
  • Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science (2012-)
  • Distinguished Research Fellow and Director, Institute of Astronomy & Astrophysics,
    Academia Sinica, Taiwan (2003-2006)
  • Professor, University of Calgary (1983-2005)
  • Canada Council Killam Fellow (2000-2002)
  • JILA Visiting Fellow (1989-1990)
  • President, IAU Commission 34, Interstellar Matter (2012-2015)
  • Chairman, IAU Working Group on Planetary Nebulae (Division VI) (1994-2001)
  • Principal Investigator (Astronomy), Canadian participation in the Odin mission (1994 - 2006)

Research areas

stellar evolution, interstellar chemistry, space astronomy

Prof. Kwok's research is mainly on interstellar chemistry and stellar evolution. He is widely recognized for his theory on the origin of planetary nebulae, which has transformed our understanding of the death of Sun-like stars. His more recent accomplishments include the discovery of proto-planetary nebulae, the missing link in our understanding of the late stages of stellar evolution, and the discovery of the unidentified emission feature at 21 microns, which is believed to be an unusual carbonaceous compound. Using space-based infrared telescopes, he has found that organic compounds with aromatic and aliphatic structures can be synthesized rapidly in the late stages of stellar evolution. These star-manufactured compounds are now known to have spread widely throughout the Galaxy and are believed to have played a role in the chemical enrichment of the early solar system.

Prof. Kwok has been a guest observer on most of the leading space and ground-based telescopes, including the Hubble Space Telescope, Infrared Space Observatory, the Gemini Observatories, Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope, United Kingdom Infrared Telescope, and the Very Large Array. More details of current research programs can be found here.

Prof. Kwok has lectured extensively around the world. He has given colloquia at universities and research institutes, lectures at symposia and conferences, and talks to the general public in over 20 countries.

Prof. Kwok has published over 400 articles in professional journals and popular magazines. He has two books published by Cambridge University Press: The Origin and Evolution of Planetary Nebulae in 2000 and Cosmic Butterflies in 2001. His book Physics and Chemistry of the Interstellar Medium (University Science Books, 2007) is used as textbook in many leading universities in the world. His most recent books are Organic Matter in the Universe (Wiley 2011), Stardust: The Cosmic Seeds of Life (Springer 2013) and Our Place in the Universe: Understanding Fundamental Astronomy from Ancient Discoveries (Springer 2017)

The Ring Nebula
Cat’s Eye Nebula
NGC 6790


Physics and Chemistry of the Interstellar Medium Cosmic Butterflies The Origin and Evolution of Planetary Nebulae Organic Matter in the Universe Stardust: The Cosmic Seeds of Life Our Place in the Universe