Skip to main content
Start main content

News

News

HKU geologist Professor Guochun Zhao elected as Member of Chinese Academy of Sciences

NEWS DETAIL

From left to right: Ms Abigail Zhao (Chief Technology Officer), Mr Meko Law (Chief Executive Officer), Mr Zachery Mok (Chief Information Officer)

A new shellfish culture raft design by HKU students may revitalise the Oyster aquaculture industry in Hong Kong

A startup company Soonlution led by Mr Meko Law, a science undergraduate student from HKU, and Mr Abigail Zhao and Mr Calvin Ma, who are also from HKU, won an award in China (Shenzhen) Innovation & Entrepreneurship Competition with their unique shellfish culture raft design that may revolutionise the traditional shellfish aquaculture practices in Hong Kong and mainland China.   Mr Law explained that the team became determined to find a solution for the Lau Fau Shan oyster growers after taking the course “Oyster aquaculture: business and technology” by Dr Vengatesen Thiyagarajan from the School of Biological Sciences, in which they learnt how the oyster aquaculture industry inflated, peaked, and crashed all within the last century.   Last year, the oyster growers in Lau Fau Shan lost 30-80% of all their rafts to the typhoon Mangkhut, according to Hong Kong Oyster Cultural and Ecological Association, one of Soonlution’s partnering organisations. Unlike other industries, however, they do not receive any protection or compensation from the government. Some oyster growers even resorted to early retirement afterwards.   Mr Law mentioned that many people called Hong Kong aquaculture a sunset industry, but her team believed that the industry simply needed a little push. “After taking the course we knew we had to do something,” said Mr Law.   Soonlution has since worked with a number of companies and organizations, including the local oyster sauce brand Lee Kum Kee and the innovation and entrepreneurship hub of The University of Hong Kong, iDendron, to revitalise the industry using their award-winning design.   This new shellfish culture raft design can withstand signal-10 typhoons and increase oyster yield stability while cutting manpower by over 50 per cent and reducing workplace hazards. The team also plans to apply for the innovation funding from the Innovation and Technology Commission to turn their blueprint into an actual product.   “We will soon bring a solution to the Lau Fau Shan oyster growers and the other aquaculture industries,” said Mr Law.

NEWS DETAIL

(fr left) Dr Li Xiang David, Dr Zhang Binzheng and Dr Wu Jin

Young scientists from the Faculty of Science awarded China's Excellent Young Scientists Fund 2019

Congratulations to Dr Li Xiang David from the Department of Chemistry, Dr Wu Jin from the School of Biological Sciences and Dr Zhang Binzheng from the Department of Earth Sciences for their being awarded The Excellent Young Scientists Fund, a prominent fund  under the National Natural Science Foundation of China.    This highly competitive fund is granted annually to support young scientists with outstanding achievements in basic research to conduct research in areas of their own choice. Each project will receive a funding of HKD1.5 million for a maximum period of three years.     Projects of the awardees:   Dr Li Xiang David Associate Professor, Department of Chemistry Project Title: Chemical Biology The goal of the research is "deciphering of the histone code", with a focus on the development of novel chemical tools to elucidate the biological significances and regulatory mechanisms of histone posttranslational modifications (PTMs). Further research work will be on the bridging of errors in the regulation of histone PTMs and the pathogenesis of human diseases to facilitate the development of novel therapeutic strategies.   Dr Li is honored to receive this prestigious fund for his achievements and contributions to the field of chemical biology, specifically on the study of histone posttranslational modifications (PTMs). PTMs are small chemical tags that added to proteins after their biosynthesis. Histone PTMs is one of the epigenetic mechanisms the underlies the regulation of DNA-associated processes, such as gene expression. Malfunctions of histone PTMs have been associated with the pathogenesis of human diseases, such as cancer. It is, therefore, necessary to comprehensively understand the regulatory mechanism and biological functions of histone PTMs. “For many of the reported histone modifications, we have limited knowledge of them”, said Dr Li, “we do not know how they are put on or taken off from histones, and how they are ‘translated’ for signaling downstream cellular processes.” It remains a daunting task for decoding the landscape of histone modifications. To fill this knowledge gap, Dr Li and his research team have developed a variety of new and robust chemical tools and methodology for the comprehensive identification of proteins that are responsible for ‘writing’, ‘erasing’ or ‘translating’ histone modifications. The applications of such tools and methods has led to the identification of binding proteins of histone modifications that were not previously known to participate in histone modification-associated epigenetic regulation. The NSFC Excellent Yong Scientists Fund will support Dr Li and his team to continue their existing excellence in the field, aiming at deciphering the "histone code" composed by various histone PTMs. Outputs from the study should ultimately improve our understanding of human diseases (e.g., cancer) linked to errors in the regulation of histone modifications and may lead to the design of new and improved therapeutic strategies.       Dr Wu Jin Assistant Professor, School of Biological Sciences Project Title: Terrestrial Ecosystem Ecology and Multi-scale Hyperspectral Remote Sensing Understanding the structure, composition and function of terrestrial ecosystems as well as how terrestrial ecosystem function interacts with global change is an essential research frontier in ecology. The study aims to integrate multi-scale observations, climate gradient studies, and ecological and evolutionary theories with process-based models, to achieve three goals: 1) developing a set of theory-grounded, process-based principles that enable the use of multi-scale remote sensing for accurate monitoring of plant traits; 2) advancing the process understanding of fundamental mechanisms that mediate plant traits variations from local to regional scales; 3) quantitatively assessing and examining the mechanisms of how plant traits and diversity help determine several key ecosystem processes (e.g. phenology, photosynthetic seasonality, ecosystem vulnerability and resilience to climate variability and extremes). Dr Zhang Binzheng Assistant Professor, Department of Earth Sciences Project Title: Space Physics The project is a continuous effort of the earlier study on modeling the coupled solar wind-magnetosphere-ionosphere system using three-dimensional, self-consistent numerical simulations based on magnetohydrodynamics, and based on the coupled magnetosphere-ionosphere-thermosphere model (CMIT), a series of basic research related to geospace environment modeling. Further research will be done on the modeling of geospace and planetary magnetosphere systems      

NEWS DETAIL

Filter by

HKU plant scientists identify new strategy to enhance rice grain yield

Rice provides a daily subsistence for about three billion people worldwide and its output must keep pace with a growing global population. In light of this, the identification of genes that enhance grain yield and composition is much desired. Findings from a research project led by Professor Mee-Len Chye, Wilson and Amelia Wong Professor in Plant Biotechnology from the School of Biological Sciences, with postdoctoral fellows Dr Guo Zehua and Dr Shiu-Cheung Lung, in collaboration with researchers from the University of Calgary and Rothamsted Research (UK), have provided a new strategy to enhance grain yield in rice by increasing grain size and weight. The research results have been published in The Plant Journal and an international patent has been filed (Patent Application No. WO 2019/104509).   In this technology, the research group led by Professor Chye has identified a protein, ACYL-COA-BINDING PROTEIN2 (OsACBP2) from rice (Oryza sativa), that when overexpressed in transgenic rice, will enhance grain size and weight by 10% and elevate grain yield (Image 1). The biomass of the OsACBP2-overexpressing transgenic rice grains exceeded the control by over 10%. OsACBP2 is a lipid-binding protein that binds lipids such as acyl-CoA esters, the major precursors in seed oil production. Oil was observed to accumulate in the transgenic rice grains (Image 2). OsACBP2 is promising not only in enhancing grain size and weight, but also in improving nutritional value with a 10% increase in lipid content of rice bran and whole seeds (Image 3).   As OsACBP2 contributes to boosting oil content as well as size and weight in transgenic rice grains, an application of this technology in rice is expected to benefit agriculture by increasing grain yield and composition to satisfy the need for more food. Professor Chye said: “Increasing grain size and yield, besides rice bran and seed lipid content, in crops such as rice is an important research area that aligns with the aspirations of Dr Wilson and Mrs Amelia Wong on the use of plant biotechnology for a sustainable future. Furthermore, as rice bran oil is considered highly valuable because it contains bioactive components that have been reported to lower serum cholesterol and possess anti-oxidation, anti-carcinogenic and anti-allergic inflammation activities, this technology, if applied to other food crops, would not only help address food security but also elevate nutritional properties in grains.”   This research project was funded by the Research Grants Council of the Hong Kong and the Wilson and Amelia Wong Endowment Fund. The paper: ‘The overexpression of rice ACYL-CoA-BINDING PROTEIN2 increases grain size and bran oil content in transgenic rice’ by Zehua Guo, Richard P Haslam, Louise V Michaelson, Edward C Yeung, Shiu-Cheung Lung, Johnathan A Napier, Mee-Len Chye in The Plant Journal. View the paper   To know more about Wilson and Amelia Wong Professorship in Plant Biotechnology. Link   Image 1. OsACBP2-overexpressing (OE) rice plants produce bigger grains (A) and higher biomass (B). OE-1, OE-3, OE17 and OE-21 are four independent OsACBP2-OE transgenic rice lines. VC, vector-transformed control. ZH11, Zhonghua11 wild type. Scale bar = 1 cm. (*statistically different from the control)   Image 2. In OsACBP2-OEs, more OsACBP2 protein is available to bind acyl-CoA esters, enriching the cytosolic acyl-CoA pool (red arrow) and increasing oil production (green arrow).   Image 3. OsACBP2-OE rice grains possess higher oil content.    

NEWS DETAIL

HKU geologist Professor Guochun Zhao elected as Member of Chinese Academy of Sciences

NEWS DETAIL

From left to right: Ms Abigail Zhao (Chief Technology Officer), Mr Meko Law (Chief Executive Officer), Mr Zachery Mok (Chief Information Officer)

A new shellfish culture raft design by HKU students may revitalise the Oyster aquaculture industry in Hong Kong

A startup company Soonlution led by Mr Meko Law, a science undergraduate student from HKU, and Mr Abigail Zhao and Mr Calvin Ma, who are also from HKU, won an award in China (Shenzhen) Innovation & Entrepreneurship Competition with their unique shellfish culture raft design that may revolutionise the traditional shellfish aquaculture practices in Hong Kong and mainland China.   Mr Law explained that the team became determined to find a solution for the Lau Fau Shan oyster growers after taking the course “Oyster aquaculture: business and technology” by Dr Vengatesen Thiyagarajan from the School of Biological Sciences, in which they learnt how the oyster aquaculture industry inflated, peaked, and crashed all within the last century.   Last year, the oyster growers in Lau Fau Shan lost 30-80% of all their rafts to the typhoon Mangkhut, according to Hong Kong Oyster Cultural and Ecological Association, one of Soonlution’s partnering organisations. Unlike other industries, however, they do not receive any protection or compensation from the government. Some oyster growers even resorted to early retirement afterwards.   Mr Law mentioned that many people called Hong Kong aquaculture a sunset industry, but her team believed that the industry simply needed a little push. “After taking the course we knew we had to do something,” said Mr Law.   Soonlution has since worked with a number of companies and organizations, including the local oyster sauce brand Lee Kum Kee and the innovation and entrepreneurship hub of The University of Hong Kong, iDendron, to revitalise the industry using their award-winning design.   This new shellfish culture raft design can withstand signal-10 typhoons and increase oyster yield stability while cutting manpower by over 50 per cent and reducing workplace hazards. The team also plans to apply for the innovation funding from the Innovation and Technology Commission to turn their blueprint into an actual product.   “We will soon bring a solution to the Lau Fau Shan oyster growers and the other aquaculture industries,” said Mr Law.

NEWS DETAIL

HKU astronomy research team unveils one origin of globular clusters around giant galaxies

A study led by Dr Jeremy Lim and his Research Assistant, Miss Emily Wong, at the Department of Physics, utilizing data from the Hubble Space Telescope, has provided surprising answers to the origin of some globular clusters around giant galaxies at the centers of galaxy clusters. Conducted in collaboration with Professor Thomas Broadhurst at the Ikerbasque in Spain and a Visiting Research Professor at the HKU Department of Physics, Dr Youichi Ohyama at the Academia Sinica Institute of Astronomy & Astrophysics in Taiwan, and Dr Elinor Medizinski at Princeton University in the USA, their work is reported in the journal paper “Sustained Formation of Progenitor Globular Clusters in a Giant Elliptical Galaxy” published recently on the Nature Astronomy website.   Globular clusters are the oldest visible objects in the Universe – each contains hundreds of thousands to occasionally over ten million stars all born at essentially the same time, and densely packed into a spherical volume with diameter over a thousand times smaller than the diameter of our Galaxy. Globular clusters are thought to have formed soon after the Universe began nearly 13.8 billion years ago, at the same time as, or perhaps even before, the first galaxies formed. They have since remained largely unchanged, apart from the ageing and death of their constituent stars. As ancient, pristine witnesses to the formation of galaxies, globular clusters might provide vital clues to how infant galaxies form and then grow over time – if only we knew how globular clusters themselves form and accumulate around galaxies. Our Galaxy is surrounded by about 150 such globular clusters, some of which are visible to the naked eye from a sufficiently dark site. Bigger galaxies are surrounded by even more globular clusters. The largest numbers of globular clusters, over ten to twenty thousand, are found around giant galaxies at the centers of galaxy clusters. Galaxy clusters contain hundreds to thousands of galaxies bound together by gravity, and are infused by hot gas (up to ten times hotter than the center of the Sun) that far outweighs all the stars in the galaxies comprising the galaxy cluster combined.   The research team led by Dr Lim discovered that globular clusters around the giant galaxy at the center of the Perseus galaxy cluster are not all ancient objects: rather, a few thousand have formed over at least the past 1 billion years, and perhaps many more over the course of cosmic history. As shown in the accompanying picture, the younger globular clusters are closely associated with, and were therefore born in, a complex filamentary network of cool gas that extends to the outer reaches of the giant galaxy. This cool gas is thought to have precipitated from the hot gas that infuses the entire Perseus galaxy cluster; the density of the hot gas and hence the rate at which this gas cools rises rapidly towards the center of the galaxy cluster. After they form, the infant globular clusters are no longer bound to the network of cool gas and rain inwards onto the giant galaxy, like raindrops condensing and falling from clouds. By contrast, as shown also in the accompanying picture, the older globular clusters are distributed at random around the giant galaxy, owing to random scatterings off each other during their orbits around the giant galaxy.   This remarkable discovery explains a number of puzzling aspects about globular clusters around giant galaxies. First is their sheer numbers: evidently, some fraction of globular clusters around giant galaxies formed over cosmic history from the gas that infuses galaxy clusters. Second is the especially broad range of colors exhibited by globular clusters around giant galaxies: the colors of globular clusters change progressively from blue to red as they age (because more massive and bluer stars die first, leaving less massive and redder stars), and hence their broad range of ages results in a broad range of colors.   The globular clusters that formed from the network of cool gas at the center of the Perseus galaxy cluster span a broad range of masses, but with a diminishing number at higher masses. Their number dependence with mass follows the same trend as the truly ancient globular clusters, as well as less massive star clusters in our Galaxy and other spiral galaxies – thus affirming a common formation mechanism for star clusters over all mass scales (from those weighing just over ten Suns to those weighing about ten million Suns) irrespective of the environment in which they formed, whether it be from gas compressed in the spiral arms of galaxies or dense gas at the centers of galaxy clusters; or in ways yet to be discovered as is the case for truly ancient globular clusters.   The sustained formation of globular clusters at the centers of galaxy clusters helps explain another puzzling aspect of giant galaxies – their enormous sizes, up to ten times or more that of our Galaxy. Whereas the more massive globular clusters will long endure, the less massive globular clusters are expected to be ripped apart as they orbit the galaxy: their constituent stars, spread throughout the giant galaxy at the center of the galaxy cluster, contribute to the growth in size of these galaxies over time.   The paper: ‘Sustained Formation of Progenitor Globular Clusters in a Giant Elliptical Galaxy’ by Jeremy Lim, Emily Wong, Youichi Ohyama, Tom Broadhurst & Elinor Medezinski in Nature Astronomy.  Read the paper     Image 1. Young globular clusters (ages up to 1 billion years) are indicated by the blue dots. These globular clusters are closely associated with a filamentary network of cool gas, colored orange to white, which extends to the outer reaches of the giant galaxy at the center of the Perseus galaxy cluster. Round or oval objects, also colored orange to white, are smaller galaxies that are part of the same galaxy cluster.   Image 2. Old globular clusters (ages up to 10 billion years or more) are indicated by the red dots. These globular clusters are randomly distributed around the giant galaxy at the center of the Perseus galaxy cluster; this galaxy is the large gray to white oval at the center of the picture. Round or oval objects, also colored gray to white, are smaller galaxies that are part of the same galaxy cluster.

NEWS DETAIL

(fr left) Dr Li Xiang David, Dr Zhang Binzheng and Dr Wu Jin

Young scientists from the Faculty of Science awarded China's Excellent Young Scientists Fund 2019

Congratulations to Dr Li Xiang David from the Department of Chemistry, Dr Wu Jin from the School of Biological Sciences and Dr Zhang Binzheng from the Department of Earth Sciences for their being awarded The Excellent Young Scientists Fund, a prominent fund  under the National Natural Science Foundation of China.    This highly competitive fund is granted annually to support young scientists with outstanding achievements in basic research to conduct research in areas of their own choice. Each project will receive a funding of HKD1.5 million for a maximum period of three years.     Projects of the awardees:   Dr Li Xiang David Associate Professor, Department of Chemistry Project Title: Chemical Biology The goal of the research is "deciphering of the histone code", with a focus on the development of novel chemical tools to elucidate the biological significances and regulatory mechanisms of histone posttranslational modifications (PTMs). Further research work will be on the bridging of errors in the regulation of histone PTMs and the pathogenesis of human diseases to facilitate the development of novel therapeutic strategies.   Dr Li is honored to receive this prestigious fund for his achievements and contributions to the field of chemical biology, specifically on the study of histone posttranslational modifications (PTMs). PTMs are small chemical tags that added to proteins after their biosynthesis. Histone PTMs is one of the epigenetic mechanisms the underlies the regulation of DNA-associated processes, such as gene expression. Malfunctions of histone PTMs have been associated with the pathogenesis of human diseases, such as cancer. It is, therefore, necessary to comprehensively understand the regulatory mechanism and biological functions of histone PTMs. “For many of the reported histone modifications, we have limited knowledge of them”, said Dr Li, “we do not know how they are put on or taken off from histones, and how they are ‘translated’ for signaling downstream cellular processes.” It remains a daunting task for decoding the landscape of histone modifications. To fill this knowledge gap, Dr Li and his research team have developed a variety of new and robust chemical tools and methodology for the comprehensive identification of proteins that are responsible for ‘writing’, ‘erasing’ or ‘translating’ histone modifications. The applications of such tools and methods has led to the identification of binding proteins of histone modifications that were not previously known to participate in histone modification-associated epigenetic regulation. The NSFC Excellent Yong Scientists Fund will support Dr Li and his team to continue their existing excellence in the field, aiming at deciphering the "histone code" composed by various histone PTMs. Outputs from the study should ultimately improve our understanding of human diseases (e.g., cancer) linked to errors in the regulation of histone modifications and may lead to the design of new and improved therapeutic strategies.       Dr Wu Jin Assistant Professor, School of Biological Sciences Project Title: Terrestrial Ecosystem Ecology and Multi-scale Hyperspectral Remote Sensing Understanding the structure, composition and function of terrestrial ecosystems as well as how terrestrial ecosystem function interacts with global change is an essential research frontier in ecology. The study aims to integrate multi-scale observations, climate gradient studies, and ecological and evolutionary theories with process-based models, to achieve three goals: 1) developing a set of theory-grounded, process-based principles that enable the use of multi-scale remote sensing for accurate monitoring of plant traits; 2) advancing the process understanding of fundamental mechanisms that mediate plant traits variations from local to regional scales; 3) quantitatively assessing and examining the mechanisms of how plant traits and diversity help determine several key ecosystem processes (e.g. phenology, photosynthetic seasonality, ecosystem vulnerability and resilience to climate variability and extremes). Dr Zhang Binzheng Assistant Professor, Department of Earth Sciences Project Title: Space Physics The project is a continuous effort of the earlier study on modeling the coupled solar wind-magnetosphere-ionosphere system using three-dimensional, self-consistent numerical simulations based on magnetohydrodynamics, and based on the coupled magnetosphere-ionosphere-thermosphere model (CMIT), a series of basic research related to geospace environment modeling. Further research will be done on the modeling of geospace and planetary magnetosphere systems      

NEWS DETAIL

Faculty of Science Prize Presentation Ceremony 2018-19

Prize Presentation Ceremony 2018-19 was held on October 24, 2019 (Thursday), at Loke Yew Hall. The ceremony gathered around 100 student awardees and their families and friends, celebrating the outstanding performance of HKU Science students, as well as recognising the excellence of our teaching staff and professional services staff. In the cermeony, student awardees of Scholarships, Prizes and Dean's Honours List, teachers with exceptional performance in teaching and research, as well as administrative and technical staff with impressive performance were honoured.  You may refer to below for details of staff awards presented:   Faculty awards: 1. Award for Teaching Excellence 2018-19: Dr Jetty C Y LEE  2. Excellent Teaching Assistant Award 2018-19: Mr Cody Lee COLLEPS and Mr Ayon Ahmed HASSAN 3. Award for Outstanding Professional Services Staff 2018-19: Ms Joyce Sok Fan LEI   University Awards: 1. Research Output Prize 2017-18: Dr Joseph R MICHALSKI 2. Faculty Knowledge Exchange (KE) Award 2019: Conservation Forensics Team   Congratulations to them all! Event Recap Gallery

NEWS DETAIL