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An illustration of 3D seismic data analyzed via MOVE, permitting 3D modeling of the fault surface and deformed layers in an extensional basin.

HKU receives a large donation of 3D kinematics software for geoscience research

As global energy and technology needs continue to grow and transform, so do our resource needs. Many of these resources are extracted from the Earth. For example, the use of rare earth metals has vastly expanded in recent years, as these are increasingly used in modern communication and battery technologies. The tools by which we explore for key geological resources are undergoing a parallel evolution, becoming increasingly potent for use characterizing three-dimensional resource settings and development. These tools can similarly be used to produce academic research discoveries, particularly in terms of creating quantitative models of solid planetary systems.   In pursuit of such discoveries, the Faculty of Science is pleased to announce a large donation of geological exploration software from Petroleum Experts Ltd to The University of Hong Kong. The full monetary value of this donation is £2,082,391.97 (equivalent to roughly HKD 21.2 million). The donation includes ten sets of the MOVE suite of programs, which represents world-leading geological reconstruction software that principally supports petroleum applications in the industrial realm and advances crustal tectonics exploration in the academic realm. The specific interlinked programs are MOVE,  2D  Kinematic  Modelling,  3D  Kinematic  Modelling, Geomechanical  Modelling,  Sediment  Modelling,  Fracture  Modelling,  Fault Response Modelling, Fault Analysis, Stress Analysis, MOVE Link for Petrel, MOVE Link for OpenWorks, and MOVE Link for GST. Continuing free software updates are included, as well as the HARDLOCK system for hosting the software on the university servers. “We are pleased and grateful to receive this donation of powerful software. It will be used extensively in our expanding lithospheric tectonics and Earth evolution research. MOVE is the leading industrial software for exploration of crustal development in three-dimensions-plus-time. This is of course critical for petroleum exploration, but also holds vast academic promise. Our Faculty’s team of solid Earth researchers are going to benefit tremendously from its capacity for rapid generation of highly detailed kinematic reconstructions,” said Professor Matthew Evans, Dean of the Faculty of Science. The donated software will allow HKU geologists to characterize complex geologies in 3D, quantitatively reconstruct the development of these geologies through time via a vast array of embedded process tools, perform forward and reverse modeling of such models, and explore the concomitant stress evolutions of the explored geological systems. The software can further be coupled to other leading industrial software, such as Petrel, and academic numerical tools like PECUBE thermo-kinematic code. As such, MOVE is a key tool for simulating sedimentary and deformation system evolutions, from basins and deltaic systems like the Pearl River delta, to the development of mountain belts like the Andes and Himalaya, to oceanic rifting systems like the South China Sea. Some uses may even be extra-terrestrial! Associate Professor Dr Joseph Michalski of the Department of Earth Sciences comments: “MOVE is basically the geologist’s leading tool for performing one of our core tasks, which can be colloquially described as ‘putting Humpty Dumpty back together again.’ For example, we’re studying features on Mars that may represent either deformed impact craters, or deformed volcanoes, so we’re looking forward to harnessing MOVE’s unique reconstructive capacities to better test between these possibilities.” Knowledge exchange between the petroleum industry and academia has deep roots. Associate Professor Dr Alexander Webb of the Department of Earth Sciences notes: “From a historical perspective, petroleum exploration is responsible for developing large swaths of the modern field of structural geology. The motivation for technical advance is straightforward: millions and even billions of dollars of investment depend on accurate, precise, and exportable understanding of resource-bearing geological systems. Here in academia, we’ve employed industrial tools for a greater variety of problems, for example building quantitative understandings of how continents rift apart and how they collide together. We look forward to further developing this rich tradition via MOVE-enabled research at HKU.” More about Petroleum Experts Ltd: https://www.petex.com// Image 1: An illustration of 3D seismic data analyzed via MOVE, permitting 3D modeling of the fault surface and deformed layers in an extensional basin. Image 2: Detailed 3D model-building of a complex contractional tectonic system.

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A specimen of the early beaked bird Confuciusornis imaged with the HKU-codeveloped imaging technique, Laser-Stimulated Fluorescence (LSF). Image credit: Michael Pittman & Thomas G Kaye.

Bird beak revealed by HKU-codeveloped laser imaging Informs early beak form, function, and development

Confuciusornis was a crow-like fossil bird that lived in the Cretaceous ~120 million years ago. It was one of the first birds to evolve a beak (Fig. 1). Early beak evolution remains understudied. Using an imaging technique called Laser-Stimulated Fluorescence, researchers at The University of Hong Kong (HKU) address this by revealing just how different the beak and jaw of Confuciusornis were compared to birds we see today. Laser-Stimulated Fluorescence (LSF) is an imaging technique co-developed at HKU that involves shining a laser onto a target. It is well-known in palaeontology for making fossil bones and the soft tissues preserved alongside them glow-in-the-dark. LSF has revealed fine skin details and other previously-invisible soft tissue in a wide range of fossils, especially those of early birds and other feathered dinosaurs (see notes). HKU PhD student Case Vincent Miller and his supervisor Research Assistant Professor Dr. Michael Pittman (Vertebrate Palaeontology Laboratory, Division of Earth and Planetary Science & Department of Earth Sciences) led this study with Thomas G. Kaye of the Foundation for Scientific Advancement (Arizona, USA) and colleagues at the Shandong Tianyu Museum of Nature (Pingyi, China). Under LSF, which was co-developed by Dr. Pittman and Mr. Kaye, the team revealed the fingernail-like ‘soft beak’ of Confuciusornis, a feature that covers the beak of every bird and is called the rhamphotheca. The example the team found in Confuciusornis was preserved detached from the bony part of the beak (Fig. 2). “Fossilised rhamphothecae have been reported in fossil birds before,” said Dr. Pittman, “but no one has really asked what they tell us about the earliest beaked birds.”  The international research team reconstructed what the beak looked like in life (Fig. 3), and used this to consolidate knowledge of the beak of Confucusornis across all known specimens. In highlighting that the rhamphotheca was easily-detachable and by performing the first test of jaw strength in a dinosaur-era bird, the team suggested that this early beaked bird was suited to eating soft foods (Fig. 4). Finally, the team highlight differences in how the beak is assembled to show that despite looking like living birds, the early beaks of Confuciusornis and its close relatives are fundamentally different structures to those seen in modern birds. Regarding future plans, Mr. Miller said, “Our research has raised a lot of interesting questions going forward. We know so little about fossil rhamphothecae and plan on using LSF to study even more fossils to find more of these hidden gems. I am particularly interested in seeing whether beak attachment strength in living birds has any correlation with the overall strength of their jaw. This might help us to better understand fossil birds. This study is only the first glimpse into this interesting and new line of study into early beaks, so I am very excited.” The paper is published in Communications Biology and can be accessed here: https://www.nature.com/commsbio (DOI:10.1038/s42003-020-01252-1) Click to play video of the research   Figure 1.  Life reconstruction of the fossil bird Confuciusornis, one of the first beaked birds. Confuciusornis was roughly the size of a crow. It is known from hundreds of beautifully-preserved fossils, found in Early Cretaceous rocks from northeastern China. Image credit: Gabriel Ugueto Figure 2. A specimen of the early beaked bird Confuciusornis imaged with the HKU-codeveloped imaging technique, Laser-Stimulated Fluorescence (LSF). The rhamphotheca or ‘soft beak’ (fingernail-like coating of the bony beak) is the reddish-brown shape on the right of the image. Image credit: Michael Pittman & Thomas G Kaye.   Figure 3. Reconstruction of the rhampotheca (‘soft beak’) of Confuciusornis from Figure 2. Dotted lines and grey areas are missing or unclear details in the fossil. The pink shape is the current position of the rhamphotheca, the red shape is its original position in life. Image credit: Case Vincent Miller & Michael Pittman.   Figure 4. The first test of jaw strength in a dinosaur-era bird. Miller, Pittman and colleagues find the jaw of the early beaked bird Confuciusornis (A) more closely resembles the weak jaw of a living insect-eating bird (B) and plant-eating bird (C) than the stronger jaws of a living fish-eating bird (D) or seed-eating bird (E). Image credit: Case Vincent Miller.

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Seven HKU young scientists have been awarded the prestigious fund under the National Natural Science Foundation of China, in which, two of them are from HKU Science.

Seven HKU young scientists awarded China's Excellent Young Scientists Fund 2020

Young researchers at the University of Hong Kong have achieved outstanding results in the Excellent Young Scientists Fund (Hong Kong and Macau) for 2020. Seven HKU young scientists have been awarded the prestigious fund under the National Natural Science Foundation of China, an organisation managed by the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST), in which, two of them are from HKU Science. This has been the second consecutive year for HKU to be awarded the highest number of projects among its peer institutions, after the fund was extended to Hong Kong and Macau for applications by eight designated universities since 2019. The Excellent Young Scientists Fund is granted annually to support young male scientists under age 38 and young female scientists under age 40 who have attained outstanding achievements in research, to further expand in areas of their own choice. It is highly competitive, with only 25 projects in total funded across Hong Kong and Macau this year. Each project will receive funding of RMB1.2 million over a maximum period of three years, in the form of cross-border remittance to directly support the researchers' work in Hong Kong or Macau. Seven HKU young scientists: Faculty of Science Dr Timothy Bonebrake Associate Professor, School of Biological Sciences Dr Wang Yufeng Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry LKS Faculty of Medicine Dr Esther Chan Wai Yin Associate Professor, Department of Pharmacology and Pharmacy Dr Lydia Cheung Wai Ting Assistant Professor, School of Biomedical Sciences Dr Carmen Wong Chak Lui Assistant Professor, Department of Pathology Dr Alan Wong Siu Lun Assistant Professor, School of Biomedical Sciences (joint appointment with Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Faculty of Engineering) Faculty of Social Sciences Dr Zhang Hongsheng Assistant Professor, Department of Geography The award winning projects: Dr Timothy Bonebrake Associate Professor, School of Biological Sciences, Faculty of Science Project Title: Global change and tropical conservation The study would employ both correlative species distribution models and physiologically informed mechanistic models to butterfly species and develop combination of both approaches for broad estimation and projection for how warming will impact tropical butterfly biodiversity. The research will also incorporate physiological and process-based models with field-based ecological data to advance our understanding of tropical biodiversity. The results will have specific application for managing species in region and will additionally serve as a broad framework for integrating correlative species distribution model approaches with mechanistic and macrophysiological insights. Dr Wang Yufeng Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science Project Title: Colloidal Synthesis and Assembly The project is a synergistic merger of the field of colloidal assembly and the field of MOF, via hierarchical assembly from molecules to colloids. This route shall significantly improve the optical, mechanical, catalytic and separation properties of MOF and related materials.   Dr Esther Chan Wai Yin Associate Professor, Department of Pharmacology and Pharmacy, LKS Faculty of Medicine Project Title: Optimising antipsychotic drug management in patients with mental disorders to improve patient outcomes and reduce healthcare resource utilisation This project will use Hong Kong wide, real-world, big data to analyse medication usage trends of patients with mental disorders and compare clinical outcomes and resource utilisation (hospitalisations and length of stay, Emergency Department attendances, suicide attempts and mortality) of long-acting injectable antipsychotics (LAIAs) versus oral antipsychotics (OAs) in patients with mental disorders. The clinical outcomes associated with antipsychotic medications will be further explored among specific patient populations including youth, elderly, pregnant women and substance users. The results of this study could identify strategies to improve adherence to antipsychotic medications that may lead to better patient outcomes and reduce healthcare resource utilisation.  Dr Lydia Cheung Wai Ting Assistant Professor, School of Biomedical Sciences, LKS Faculty of Medicine Project Title: Precision medicine strategies for ovarian cancer Dr Cheung is committed to in-depth studies of identifying and characterising novel driver gene mutations in ovarian cancer, especially the associated alterations in signaling pathways and drug responses. The project will address two key scientific challenges that impede the development and effectiveness of precision cancer medicine: one is to reveal novel genome-informed therapeutic approaches and predictive markers; and the other is to derive strategies to overcome cancer drug resistance.​ Dr Carmen Wong Chak Lui Assistant Professor, Department of Pathology, LKS Faculty of Medicine Project Title: Liver cancer metabolism and tumor microenvironment Dr Wong has been dedicated to study the metabolic reprogramming and hypoxic microenvironment of liver cancer, unravelling the relationship between metabolism and tumor immunity. She aims to investigate the roles of immunometabolites in the immune microenvironment and decipher the underlying molecular mechanisms that could be potentially exploited for the development of novel diagnostic and therapeutic strategies. Dr Alan Wong Siu Lun Assistant Professor, School of Biomedical Sciences, LKS Faculty of Medicine (joint appointment with Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Faculty of Engineering) Project Title: Synthetic biology and combinatorial genetics technologies Innovative tools that accelerate direct measurement of the combined effect of genetic perturbations should revolutionise our way to study and engineer the intricate biological systems in a systematic way, and facilitate the development of next-generation therapeutics. The research aims to develop and apply multiplexed genetic technologies to decode complex diseases and devise effective combination-based therapeutic strategies against cancers and neurodegenerative diseases, as well as to engineer new gene editing tools. Dr Zhang Hongsheng Assistant Professor, Department of Geography, Faculty of Social Sciences Project Title: Remote Sensing of Urban Impervious Surface in Tropical and Subtropical Areas Urban impervious surface is the most direct changes to land surface by humans in the process of urbanisation. Accurate monitoring and analysis of its temporal and spatial dynamics is of great significance for understanding the relationship between human activities and global changes. This project aims to develop new technologies based on cloud computing to generate and fuse full-coverage optical-radar satellite datasets to monitor the urban impervious surface over the global tropical and subtropical areas.

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An illustration of 3D seismic data analyzed via MOVE, permitting 3D modeling of the fault surface and deformed layers in an extensional basin.

HKU receives a large donation of 3D kinematics software for geoscience research

As global energy and technology needs continue to grow and transform, so do our resource needs. Many of these resources are extracted from the Earth. For example, the use of rare earth metals has vastly expanded in recent years, as these are increasingly used in modern communication and battery technologies. The tools by which we explore for key geological resources are undergoing a parallel evolution, becoming increasingly potent for use characterizing three-dimensional resource settings and development. These tools can similarly be used to produce academic research discoveries, particularly in terms of creating quantitative models of solid planetary systems.   In pursuit of such discoveries, the Faculty of Science is pleased to announce a large donation of geological exploration software from Petroleum Experts Ltd to The University of Hong Kong. The full monetary value of this donation is £2,082,391.97 (equivalent to roughly HKD 21.2 million). The donation includes ten sets of the MOVE suite of programs, which represents world-leading geological reconstruction software that principally supports petroleum applications in the industrial realm and advances crustal tectonics exploration in the academic realm. The specific interlinked programs are MOVE,  2D  Kinematic  Modelling,  3D  Kinematic  Modelling, Geomechanical  Modelling,  Sediment  Modelling,  Fracture  Modelling,  Fault Response Modelling, Fault Analysis, Stress Analysis, MOVE Link for Petrel, MOVE Link for OpenWorks, and MOVE Link for GST. Continuing free software updates are included, as well as the HARDLOCK system for hosting the software on the university servers. “We are pleased and grateful to receive this donation of powerful software. It will be used extensively in our expanding lithospheric tectonics and Earth evolution research. MOVE is the leading industrial software for exploration of crustal development in three-dimensions-plus-time. This is of course critical for petroleum exploration, but also holds vast academic promise. Our Faculty’s team of solid Earth researchers are going to benefit tremendously from its capacity for rapid generation of highly detailed kinematic reconstructions,” said Professor Matthew Evans, Dean of the Faculty of Science. The donated software will allow HKU geologists to characterize complex geologies in 3D, quantitatively reconstruct the development of these geologies through time via a vast array of embedded process tools, perform forward and reverse modeling of such models, and explore the concomitant stress evolutions of the explored geological systems. The software can further be coupled to other leading industrial software, such as Petrel, and academic numerical tools like PECUBE thermo-kinematic code. As such, MOVE is a key tool for simulating sedimentary and deformation system evolutions, from basins and deltaic systems like the Pearl River delta, to the development of mountain belts like the Andes and Himalaya, to oceanic rifting systems like the South China Sea. Some uses may even be extra-terrestrial! Associate Professor Dr Joseph Michalski of the Department of Earth Sciences comments: “MOVE is basically the geologist’s leading tool for performing one of our core tasks, which can be colloquially described as ‘putting Humpty Dumpty back together again.’ For example, we’re studying features on Mars that may represent either deformed impact craters, or deformed volcanoes, so we’re looking forward to harnessing MOVE’s unique reconstructive capacities to better test between these possibilities.” Knowledge exchange between the petroleum industry and academia has deep roots. Associate Professor Dr Alexander Webb of the Department of Earth Sciences notes: “From a historical perspective, petroleum exploration is responsible for developing large swaths of the modern field of structural geology. The motivation for technical advance is straightforward: millions and even billions of dollars of investment depend on accurate, precise, and exportable understanding of resource-bearing geological systems. Here in academia, we’ve employed industrial tools for a greater variety of problems, for example building quantitative understandings of how continents rift apart and how they collide together. We look forward to further developing this rich tradition via MOVE-enabled research at HKU.” More about Petroleum Experts Ltd: https://www.petex.com// Image 1: An illustration of 3D seismic data analyzed via MOVE, permitting 3D modeling of the fault surface and deformed layers in an extensional basin. Image 2: Detailed 3D model-building of a complex contractional tectonic system.

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A specimen of the early beaked bird Confuciusornis imaged with the HKU-codeveloped imaging technique, Laser-Stimulated Fluorescence (LSF). Image credit: Michael Pittman & Thomas G Kaye.

Bird beak revealed by HKU-codeveloped laser imaging Informs early beak form, function, and development

Confuciusornis was a crow-like fossil bird that lived in the Cretaceous ~120 million years ago. It was one of the first birds to evolve a beak (Fig. 1). Early beak evolution remains understudied. Using an imaging technique called Laser-Stimulated Fluorescence, researchers at The University of Hong Kong (HKU) address this by revealing just how different the beak and jaw of Confuciusornis were compared to birds we see today. Laser-Stimulated Fluorescence (LSF) is an imaging technique co-developed at HKU that involves shining a laser onto a target. It is well-known in palaeontology for making fossil bones and the soft tissues preserved alongside them glow-in-the-dark. LSF has revealed fine skin details and other previously-invisible soft tissue in a wide range of fossils, especially those of early birds and other feathered dinosaurs (see notes). HKU PhD student Case Vincent Miller and his supervisor Research Assistant Professor Dr. Michael Pittman (Vertebrate Palaeontology Laboratory, Division of Earth and Planetary Science & Department of Earth Sciences) led this study with Thomas G. Kaye of the Foundation for Scientific Advancement (Arizona, USA) and colleagues at the Shandong Tianyu Museum of Nature (Pingyi, China). Under LSF, which was co-developed by Dr. Pittman and Mr. Kaye, the team revealed the fingernail-like ‘soft beak’ of Confuciusornis, a feature that covers the beak of every bird and is called the rhamphotheca. The example the team found in Confuciusornis was preserved detached from the bony part of the beak (Fig. 2). “Fossilised rhamphothecae have been reported in fossil birds before,” said Dr. Pittman, “but no one has really asked what they tell us about the earliest beaked birds.”  The international research team reconstructed what the beak looked like in life (Fig. 3), and used this to consolidate knowledge of the beak of Confucusornis across all known specimens. In highlighting that the rhamphotheca was easily-detachable and by performing the first test of jaw strength in a dinosaur-era bird, the team suggested that this early beaked bird was suited to eating soft foods (Fig. 4). Finally, the team highlight differences in how the beak is assembled to show that despite looking like living birds, the early beaks of Confuciusornis and its close relatives are fundamentally different structures to those seen in modern birds. Regarding future plans, Mr. Miller said, “Our research has raised a lot of interesting questions going forward. We know so little about fossil rhamphothecae and plan on using LSF to study even more fossils to find more of these hidden gems. I am particularly interested in seeing whether beak attachment strength in living birds has any correlation with the overall strength of their jaw. This might help us to better understand fossil birds. This study is only the first glimpse into this interesting and new line of study into early beaks, so I am very excited.” The paper is published in Communications Biology and can be accessed here: https://www.nature.com/commsbio (DOI:10.1038/s42003-020-01252-1) Click to play video of the research   Figure 1.  Life reconstruction of the fossil bird Confuciusornis, one of the first beaked birds. Confuciusornis was roughly the size of a crow. It is known from hundreds of beautifully-preserved fossils, found in Early Cretaceous rocks from northeastern China. Image credit: Gabriel Ugueto Figure 2. A specimen of the early beaked bird Confuciusornis imaged with the HKU-codeveloped imaging technique, Laser-Stimulated Fluorescence (LSF). The rhamphotheca or ‘soft beak’ (fingernail-like coating of the bony beak) is the reddish-brown shape on the right of the image. Image credit: Michael Pittman & Thomas G Kaye.   Figure 3. Reconstruction of the rhampotheca (‘soft beak’) of Confuciusornis from Figure 2. Dotted lines and grey areas are missing or unclear details in the fossil. The pink shape is the current position of the rhamphotheca, the red shape is its original position in life. Image credit: Case Vincent Miller & Michael Pittman.   Figure 4. The first test of jaw strength in a dinosaur-era bird. Miller, Pittman and colleagues find the jaw of the early beaked bird Confuciusornis (A) more closely resembles the weak jaw of a living insect-eating bird (B) and plant-eating bird (C) than the stronger jaws of a living fish-eating bird (D) or seed-eating bird (E). Image credit: Case Vincent Miller.

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Seven HKU young scientists have been awarded the prestigious fund under the National Natural Science Foundation of China, in which, two of them are from HKU Science.

Seven HKU young scientists awarded China's Excellent Young Scientists Fund 2020

Young researchers at the University of Hong Kong have achieved outstanding results in the Excellent Young Scientists Fund (Hong Kong and Macau) for 2020. Seven HKU young scientists have been awarded the prestigious fund under the National Natural Science Foundation of China, an organisation managed by the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST), in which, two of them are from HKU Science. This has been the second consecutive year for HKU to be awarded the highest number of projects among its peer institutions, after the fund was extended to Hong Kong and Macau for applications by eight designated universities since 2019. The Excellent Young Scientists Fund is granted annually to support young male scientists under age 38 and young female scientists under age 40 who have attained outstanding achievements in research, to further expand in areas of their own choice. It is highly competitive, with only 25 projects in total funded across Hong Kong and Macau this year. Each project will receive funding of RMB1.2 million over a maximum period of three years, in the form of cross-border remittance to directly support the researchers' work in Hong Kong or Macau. Seven HKU young scientists: Faculty of Science Dr Timothy Bonebrake Associate Professor, School of Biological Sciences Dr Wang Yufeng Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry LKS Faculty of Medicine Dr Esther Chan Wai Yin Associate Professor, Department of Pharmacology and Pharmacy Dr Lydia Cheung Wai Ting Assistant Professor, School of Biomedical Sciences Dr Carmen Wong Chak Lui Assistant Professor, Department of Pathology Dr Alan Wong Siu Lun Assistant Professor, School of Biomedical Sciences (joint appointment with Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Faculty of Engineering) Faculty of Social Sciences Dr Zhang Hongsheng Assistant Professor, Department of Geography The award winning projects: Dr Timothy Bonebrake Associate Professor, School of Biological Sciences, Faculty of Science Project Title: Global change and tropical conservation The study would employ both correlative species distribution models and physiologically informed mechanistic models to butterfly species and develop combination of both approaches for broad estimation and projection for how warming will impact tropical butterfly biodiversity. The research will also incorporate physiological and process-based models with field-based ecological data to advance our understanding of tropical biodiversity. The results will have specific application for managing species in region and will additionally serve as a broad framework for integrating correlative species distribution model approaches with mechanistic and macrophysiological insights. Dr Wang Yufeng Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science Project Title: Colloidal Synthesis and Assembly The project is a synergistic merger of the field of colloidal assembly and the field of MOF, via hierarchical assembly from molecules to colloids. This route shall significantly improve the optical, mechanical, catalytic and separation properties of MOF and related materials.   Dr Esther Chan Wai Yin Associate Professor, Department of Pharmacology and Pharmacy, LKS Faculty of Medicine Project Title: Optimising antipsychotic drug management in patients with mental disorders to improve patient outcomes and reduce healthcare resource utilisation This project will use Hong Kong wide, real-world, big data to analyse medication usage trends of patients with mental disorders and compare clinical outcomes and resource utilisation (hospitalisations and length of stay, Emergency Department attendances, suicide attempts and mortality) of long-acting injectable antipsychotics (LAIAs) versus oral antipsychotics (OAs) in patients with mental disorders. The clinical outcomes associated with antipsychotic medications will be further explored among specific patient populations including youth, elderly, pregnant women and substance users. The results of this study could identify strategies to improve adherence to antipsychotic medications that may lead to better patient outcomes and reduce healthcare resource utilisation.  Dr Lydia Cheung Wai Ting Assistant Professor, School of Biomedical Sciences, LKS Faculty of Medicine Project Title: Precision medicine strategies for ovarian cancer Dr Cheung is committed to in-depth studies of identifying and characterising novel driver gene mutations in ovarian cancer, especially the associated alterations in signaling pathways and drug responses. The project will address two key scientific challenges that impede the development and effectiveness of precision cancer medicine: one is to reveal novel genome-informed therapeutic approaches and predictive markers; and the other is to derive strategies to overcome cancer drug resistance.​ Dr Carmen Wong Chak Lui Assistant Professor, Department of Pathology, LKS Faculty of Medicine Project Title: Liver cancer metabolism and tumor microenvironment Dr Wong has been dedicated to study the metabolic reprogramming and hypoxic microenvironment of liver cancer, unravelling the relationship between metabolism and tumor immunity. She aims to investigate the roles of immunometabolites in the immune microenvironment and decipher the underlying molecular mechanisms that could be potentially exploited for the development of novel diagnostic and therapeutic strategies. Dr Alan Wong Siu Lun Assistant Professor, School of Biomedical Sciences, LKS Faculty of Medicine (joint appointment with Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Faculty of Engineering) Project Title: Synthetic biology and combinatorial genetics technologies Innovative tools that accelerate direct measurement of the combined effect of genetic perturbations should revolutionise our way to study and engineer the intricate biological systems in a systematic way, and facilitate the development of next-generation therapeutics. The research aims to develop and apply multiplexed genetic technologies to decode complex diseases and devise effective combination-based therapeutic strategies against cancers and neurodegenerative diseases, as well as to engineer new gene editing tools. Dr Zhang Hongsheng Assistant Professor, Department of Geography, Faculty of Social Sciences Project Title: Remote Sensing of Urban Impervious Surface in Tropical and Subtropical Areas Urban impervious surface is the most direct changes to land surface by humans in the process of urbanisation. Accurate monitoring and analysis of its temporal and spatial dynamics is of great significance for understanding the relationship between human activities and global changes. This project aims to develop new technologies based on cloud computing to generate and fuse full-coverage optical-radar satellite datasets to monitor the urban impervious surface over the global tropical and subtropical areas.

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The observations were taken with the ALMA telescope in the Atacama desert, Chile. The images were made at the ALMA Regional Centre of the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics, The University of Manchester.

A joint team of astronomers including a member of HKU’s Laboratory for Space Research, captured stellar winds in unprecedented detail

A group of astronomers led by the University KU Leuven, Belgium and including Professor Albert Zijlstra, a member of Laboratory for Space Research (LSR), the University of Hong Kong (HKU), have captured the first ever detailed images of unusual stellar winds which surround dying stars. The extraordinary images show mesmerising shapes which solve a century-long mystery about the death of stars like the Sun. Contrary to common consensus, the team found that stellar winds are not spherical but have a shape similar to that of planetary nebulae. The team concludes that interaction with an accompanying star or exoplanet shapes both the stellar winds and planetary nebulae. The findings were published in Science. The Sun at the end of its life will eject much of its mass into space, in a stellar wind of catastrophic proportions with the final envelope ejection forming a "so-called" planetary nebula. Planetary nebulae show an extraordinary variety of colourful shapes which have been studied by scientists for more than a century. Nevertheless, the origin of these shapes have remained a mystery. The new findings, published in Science, showed the nebulae all seem to have a certain symmetry, but are almost never round. The images were obtained at the ALMA Regional Centre in Manchester, and five Manchester astronomers were closely involved in the project. Professor Albert Zijlstra, a member of HKU LSR and a senior author on the paper said: "These recent images are about the stars like the Sun that reach the end of their lives. Nine out of ten stars will form a planetary nebula at that time. The origin of the shapes of the planetary nebulae has never been clear. We did not see strong asymmetries in most stars undergoing the wind. It seemed as if the shapes only formed after the winds had ceased. Our new observations finally resolve this mystery. The winds become aspherical because it interacts with a companion star or nearby planet. The shapes we now see have remarkable similarity to those seen in the subsequent planetary nebula. We can now even predict the shape of the planetary nebula of the future Sun." Dying stars swell and cool to eventually become red giants. They produce stellar winds, flows of particles that the star expels, which causes them to lose mass. The Sun will lose as much as half its total mass at that time, 5 billion years from now. Because detailed observations were lacking, astronomers have always assumed that these winds were spherical, like the stars they surround. As the star evolves further, it heats up again and the stellar radiation causes the expanding ejected layers of stellar material to glow, forming a planetary nebula. "The Sun - which will ultimately become a red giant - is as round as a billiard ball, so we wondered: how can such a star produce all these different shapes?" says corresponding author Leen Decin (KU Leuven). The team observed stellar winds around cool red giant stars with the ALMA Observatory in Chile, the largest radio telescope in the world. For the first time ever, they gathered a large, detailed collection of observations, each of them made using the exact same method. This was crucial to be able to directly compare the data and exclude biases. The astronomers could even identify different categories of shapes. Some stellar winds were disk-shaped, others contained spirals, and in a third group, we identified cones. Which showed a clear indication that the shapes were not created randomly. The team realised that other, low-mass stars or even heavy planets in the vicinity of the dying star were causing the different patterns. These companions are too small and dim to detect directly. "Just like how a spoon that you stir in a cup of coffee with some milk can create a spiral pattern, the companion sucks material towards it as it revolves around the star and shapes the stellar wind," Decin explains. The team put this theory into models, and indeed: the shape of the stellar winds can be explained by the companions that surround them, and the rate at which the cool evolved star is losing its mass due to the stellar wind is an important parameter. All of the new observations can be explained by the fact that the stars have a companion. Up until now, calculations about the evolution of stars were based on the assumption that ageing Sun-like stars have stellar winds that are spherical. Since the complexity of stellar winds was not accounted for in the past, any previous mass-loss rate estimate of old stars could be wrong by up to a factor of 10. The team is now doing further research to see how this might impact calculations of other crucial characteristics of stellar and galactic evolution.The study also helps to envision what the Sun might look like when it dies in 7,000 million years. Jupiter or even Saturn - because they have such a big mass - are going to influence whether the Sun spends its last millennia at the heart of a spiral, a butterfly, or any of the other entrancing shapes we see in planetary nebulae today. The team calculates now that a weak spiral will form in the stellar wind of the old dying Sun. Professor Quentin Parker, director of the LSR said: "Professor Albert Zijsltra, is a HKU Hung Hing Ying distinguished visiting professor from the University of Manchester and is a key member of the LSR and a regular long-term LSR visitor. He is very close collaborator and a world authority on AGB stars. Hence we are justly very proud of his contributions to this important paper and his use of our affiliation." Journal article The study "(Sub-)stellar companions shape the winds of evolved stars" by Leen Decin et al. was published in Science and can be requested from the authors. Figure 1. From left to right: images of the stars  p1 Gru, W Aql and R Aql. The observations were taken with the ALMA telescope in the Atacama desert, Chile. The images were made at the ALMA Regional Centre of the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics, The University of Manchester.  

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Artists recreation of the larger planet WD1856 b in close orbit around the smaller white dwarf WD 1856. Image Credit: Vanderburg et al. 2020.

Member of HKU’s Laboratory for Space Research Co-discovers the first planet found around white dwarf star

An international team of astronomers led by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, including NASA co-authors, and Thomas G. KAYE from HKU's Laboratory for Space Research (LSR), and the Raemor Vista Observatory, has reported what may be the first example of an intact planet closely orbiting a white dwarf, a dense leftover of a Sun-like star that is only 40% bigger than Earth. The team has recently published their findings in Nature. The planet, called WD 1856 b, is about seven times larger than the smaller white dwarf star and completes an orbit in just 34 hours. "WD 1856 b is a planet that shouldn't be there," said Kaye, an LSR member and regular visitor to HKU, who runs the Raemor Vista Observatory in southern Arizona, USA. "The initial observations from our observatory shocked us because the star lost half of its brightness and then recovered minutes later." He added. During their evolution, white dwarfs expand to many times their original size during their giant phase, and then finally shrink down to the long-lasting white dwarf phase. This means that the star at one time in its history was many times larger and would have completely engulfed and destroyed any planets in its inner solar system. The planet as it turned out was much larger than the star, but it should have been destroyed, so the only explanation is that it migrated in from a safe orbit much further out. "How the planet came to orbit so close to this star after its red giant phase is still a mystery," said Kaye. Once the initial observations suggested an unusual planet, observatories from around the world and out in space were called on to confirm the findings. The NASA Spitzer infra-red telescope managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in some of its last observations, was called on to confirm there was not a very dim star orbiting the white dwarf but was instead a planet. The Gran Telescopio Canarias in Spain, one of the largest telescopes in the world at 10.4 meters, confirmed at high resolution the findings first observed at Raemor Vista to finally confirm the planet. It had been theorized that planets could migrate from the outer solar system inward, and this discovery confirms those ideas. Astronomers can now explore other white dwarfs in search of these unusual migratory survivors. "Tom and the Raemor Vista Observatory will look at more white dwarf candidates in the upcoming season, so we are very excited to see what they find." said Research Assistant Professor Dr Michael Pittman (Vertebrate Palaeontology Laboratory, Division of Earth and Planetary Science & Department of Earth Sciences) , also a member of LSR and Kaye's main HKU collaborator. Kaye and Pittman recently developed an autonomous laser-based 'hunter' drone that they plan to use in space (see Note). Professor Quentin Parker, the LSR Director, said: "The LSR has only a few external members, those committed to our ethos and aims and who regularly visit to work with us on a variety of projects, and who are particularly keen to be associated with us. In this vein we are very proud of Tom Kaye's significant contribution to this important, landmark paper on the first confirmed detection of a planet orbiting a white dwarf star, and especially his desire to recognise our value to him." Note: Kaye & Pittman (2020) codeveloped an automated laser-scanning 'hunter drone' to seek out fossils, minerals and biological targets (June 2020): https://hku.hk/press/news_detail_21067.html   Thomas G. Kaye standing next to the Raemor Vista Observatory in southeastern Arizona USA. This telescope provides rapid response optical followup for newly discovered astronomical objects. It is currently being upgraded to a 1.1 metre telescope. Image Credit: Thomas G Kaye.

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Professor GUO discussing research progress and findings with his team.

Professor Zheng Xiao GUO elected Member of Academia Europaea

Professor Zheng Xiao GUO, Associate Dean for China & Global of Faculty of Science and Professor of Departments of Chemistry and Mechanical Engineering at The University of Hong Kong (HKU), was elected as the Foreign Member of Academia Europaea (The Academy of Europe) under the Chemical Sciences Section for his distinguished achievements in the discipline in 2020. Professor Guo will be inducted into the Academy along with 361 new members at the next Introduction Ceremony to be held in 2021. “I am deeply honoured to be recognised by the membership of this distinguished Academy. I owe much of the recognition to the concerted efforts from my research students, associates and collaborators, who have kindly shared their valuable time, thoughts and thoughtfulness in our academic pursuance, from Materials Engineering to Chemistry,” said Professor Guo, who is delighted to receive the award. Tremendous effort of many excellent minds The role of Materials Chemistry is becoming increasingly important in societal advancement. Whether it is for efficient solar energy harvesting to electricity and fuels, production of safe and powerful batteries, biosensing for health monitoring or detection of pathogens, or smartening-up of interconnectedness of things, tremendous effort has to be made to understand and tune the molecular interactions and stimulant responses of materials from electronic dynamics, atomic environment, crystallinity, intrinsic defects and interfaces cross multiple spatial, temporal and frequency scales. “This is not a trivial challenge! We need to integrate the state-of-the-art methodologies in theory, simulations, deep-learning and experiment, and more importantly, the efforts of many excellent minds. I hope to play a small part in this endeavour through this great academic fellowship, adding value to the leading science base at HKU and linking more closely with colleagues across Europe and beyond!” Professor Guo envisioned. Dean of Science Professor Matthew Evans is exceptionally pleased with Professor Guo’s accomplishments. “I am delighted to see the recognition being given to Professor Guo by his election to the Academia Europaea – the Europe-wide academy covering the humanities, social sciences and sciences. Professor Guo’s research makes important contributions in both fundamental and applied materials chemistry,” remarked Professor Evans.“This recognition is extremely well deserved and I congratulate Professor Guo on his achievement.” Tireless devotion to Material Chemistry Professor Guo obtained both his MSc (Res.) and PhD from the University of Manchester, UK. He is the Executive Director of Zhejiang Institute of Research and Innovation at HKU, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry and an Honorary Professor at University College London. His research is strategically targeted at critical fundamental materials structural issues and synthesis processes that underpin mechanistic understanding and technological advancement, particularly in clean energy storage, conversion and harvesting, involving low-dimensional, high-surface area and/or porous structures. He has contributed 300 journal publications and attended more than 300 conference presentations, and has supervised 23 postdoctoral fellows and 52 PhD students. His contribution to Material Chemistry has been recognised internationally throughout the years. He received Lee-Hsun Lecture Award from the Institute of Metal Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences in 2002 and was awarded the Sir Beilby Medal & Prize, jointly presented by the  Royal Society of Chemistry, Society of Chemical Industry and the IoM3, UK. He has been a partner in research consortia valued over £100m. His CV can be viewed at: https://www.ae-info.org/ae/Member/Guo_Zheng-Xiao About Academia Europaea The Academia Europaea was founded in 1988 as an international, non-governmental association of individual scientists and scholars from all disciplines, who are experts and leaders of international distinction in their own subject areas as recognised by their peers, irrespective of nationality, gender, location or discipline. The primary criterion for membership is “sustained academic excellence in the candidate’s field”. Membership of Academia Europaea is by invitation after peer group nomination, rigorous review and assessment based on the scholarship and eminence of the individual in his/her chosen field, and recommendation to the Council of the Academia for formal election.   Professor Zheng Xiao GUO, Associate Dean for China & Global of HKU Science and Professor of Departments of Chemistry and Mechanical Engineering, was elected as the Foreign Member of Academia Europaea under the Chemical Sciences Section in 2020.

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