HKUST RedBird PhD Scholarship Program Remains Open
At HKUST, we value every opportunity to enable talented students to pursue postgraduate studies. We understand that the recent pandemic and global situation may have interrupted your plan for pursuing a PhD program in the coming Fall. HKUST is launching the Fast-Track PhD Application Program such that your dream to join a top-rate research university remains possible under the unanticipated situation. In view that you may need more time to work on your application submission, we have extended our application deadline to 30 June 2020. Act now to submit your application online. All successful applicants will receive the same treatment as our regular PhD students. Excellent candidates will further be granted an additional renewable award of HK$40,000 a year in the name of RedBird PhD Scholarship in recognition of their outstanding academic performance and research capacity.
HKUST has co-organized a series of multidisciplinary webinars under the theme “Navigating a World of Disruption”, with our global partners. School of Science has hosted a joint webinar, in partnership with the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) on June 3, 2020. The webinar has shared our research efforts in tackling complex global challenges regarding public health, climate, water and energy.
View here for the webinar “Research Efforts in Contributing to a Sustainable World”
Prof. Yang WANG
Dean of Science, HKUST
Prof. Sang Kyu KIM
Dean, College of Natural Sciences
Prof. Peiyuan QIAN
Head & Chair Professor, Department of Ocean Science
Prof. Jimmy FUNG
Head & Professor
Division of Environment & Sustainability;
Professor, Department of Mathematics
Prof. Hye Ryung BYON
Associate Professor, Department of Chemistry
Prof. Eui Cheol SHIN
Professor, Graduate School of Medical Science & Engineering
To view the full series of webinars, please visit here.
Date: 24 May 2020
Prof. WANG Yang
Dean of Science, HKUST
Prof. Angela WU
Assistant Professor, Division of Life Science and Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, HKUST
Prof. WANG Yi
Associate Professor, Department of Physics, HKUST
Researchers from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) have decoded for the first time the genome of Scaly-foot Snail, a rare snail inhabited in what scientists called ‘the origin of life’- deep-sea hydrothermal vents characterized with impossible living condition. Unraveling the genome of this unique creature will not only shed light on how life evolved billions of years ago, but will also lay foundation for the discovery of potential remedies offered by these ancient creatures.
Despite an extreme environment characterized by high pressure, high temperature, strong acidity and low oxygen level which resembles living condition in pre-historic time, hydrothermal vents harbor a diverse amount of creatures - most of which have huge potential for biomedical and other applications. Among inhabitants of such difficult environment, the Scaly-foot Snail, also known as “Sea Pangolin”, is of particular interest to marine scientists.
Scaly-foot Snail is the only extant gastropod (a major invertebrate animal, commonly known as snails and slugs,) alive that possesses armor-like scales – an otherwise very common feature for gastropod during the Cambrian time over 540 million years ago. This snail is also the only organism in the world known to incorporate iron into its exoskeleton, and is also one of the top ten astounding marine species of the last decade (2007-2017). Little is known, however, about its genome and unusual morphology, as the creature is extremely difficult to locate and collect.
Now, a research team led by Prof. QIAN Peiyuan, Chair Professor of HKUST’s Department of Ocean Science and Division of Life Science, managed to collect 20 scaly-foot snails at around 2,900 meters below sea level from the Indian Ocean in collaboration with researchers from the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC), and analyze the snail’s genome sequence.
Contrary to many scientists’ expectation that the creature contains some new special genes that gives rise to its bizarre morphology, the team actually discovered that all of the snail’s genes already existed in other mollusks such as squid and pearl oyster, and the snail’s gene sequence has remained almost unchanged throughout its evolution. The 25 transcription factors (a key protein that regulates many downstream gene expression levels) which contribute to the snail’s scale and shell formation, as the team identified, have also contributed to the formation of many other unique hard-parts in Mollusca - such as operculum in gastropods, beak in squid, spicule in chiton, or chaetae in polychaetes. Watch Video
“Although no new gene was identified, our research offers valuable insight to the biomineralization - a process where the clustering, positioning and on and off switching of a combination of genes which defines the morphology of a species,” said Prof. QIAN, also David von Hansemann Professor of Science. “Uncovering Scaly-foot Snail’s genome advances our knowledge in the genetic mechanism of mollusks, laying the genetic groundwork which paves the way for application. One possible direction is how their iron-coated shells withstand heavy blows, which can provide us insights on ways to make a more protective armor.”
The findings were recently published in the scientific journal Nature Communications.
The study of genome sequencing often results in breakthroughs in biomedical and other sectors. An enzyme of a microbe that lives in hydrothermal vents – for example, was recently used for the detection of COVID-19 as well as other viruses such as AIDS and SARS.
Date: 6 July - 7 August 2020
Location: The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Clear Water Bay, Kowloon, Hong Kong
Highlights: To work with faculty mentors in the School of Science to carry out research projects in an interactive atmosphere.
Participants: Undergraduate students majoring in science and related programs, who have completed 3 years of studies (of a 4-year bachelor program) and have attained a GPA of 3.2 out of 4.0 (or 80%) or higher.
Housing and Stipend: On-campus accommodation and stipend will be provided.
Deadline: 15 March, 2020
Last update:March 19, 2020
- Teaching in Spring 20
- Proctoring online exam using Zoom
- Information on Zoom meetings/webinars
Teaching in Spring 20
Spring 2020 will start on Feb 17. The first two days will be reserved for off-site exams of Fall 19. Therefore Spring instruction starts on Wed Feb 19. An updated Academic Calendar is published at Academic Calendar. Please note the following points as you plan your course for Spring 20:
- Some Fall 19 courses have scheduled off-site meeting on Feb 20. If you have online instruction that day, some students may have to skip class and watch video later. This is not desirable but the impact is already the minimal.
- Classes will start in online mode until further notice (tentatively March 16, or until high schools resume), after which classes will be switched to "mixed mode" (to be clarified). Students are not required to be on campus in Spring 20.
- Online instruction has to follow the class schedule and has to be interactive. Passive modes such as RVC or posting previous lecture videos are not allowed. The goal is to make online delivery as good as in-class mode.
- When you design assessments such as quizzes, midterm, and final exam, please keep in mind that not every student is on campus.
- For activities that cannot be done in online mode such as labs, please plan ahead for alternative/contingency plan just in case we cannot return to in-class mode for an extended period.
- General reference: Adopting Online Teaching and Learning in the CEI website
- Using scheduled classrooms for interactive online lectures and tutorials
- Accessing Campus online resources from Mainland China
Proctoring online exam using Zoom
- General reference: Online Exams using Canvas in Adopting Online Teaching and Learning
- Video recording of the Science School sharing session on online exam (Mar 18, 2020)
- You should gather all your TAs in a lab or classroom to proctor the exam together so that you need not communicate with your TAs remotely when problem arises.
- You must run a "dressed rehearsal" together with your TAs and students. Otherwise you are extremely likely to encounter unexpected problems in the real exam.
Information on Zoom meetings/webinars
You are strongly advised to use Zoom meeting/webinar because it is a proven platform and many of us used it last term. It will not be difficult to find someone to help when you encounter problem.
Whether you are new or old to Zoom, we suggest you begin with the following information pages for update info:
- http://cei.ust.hk/adopting-online-teaching-and-learning#live-lecture a general introduction to Zoom at HKUST
- https://itsc.ust.hk/zoom-online-teaching technical details concerning accounts, etc.
- A beginner's guide to scheduling a Zoom meeting by Jones Choy / Phys Dept
- For recording and materials of previous training courses, logon Canvas -> Courses -> Zoom Meetings Basics and Advanced Sessions.
- Instructors, IAs, TAs can use the HKUST subscription for hosting Zoom meetings. It is good for hosting lectures and tutorials. The license allows up to 300 participants in the same meeting. Please refer to http://itsc.ust.hk/zoom-online-teaching/howto-signup-zoom-account
- Instructors who prefer to use webinar instead of meeting for lectures need an add-on. Please following the link above. This is not available to IAs/TAs. In fact most instructors may not need it either. Zoom meeting can be used to run large lectures too. For a comparison between Zoom meeting/webinar, please see https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/articles/115005474943-Meeting-and-Webinar-Comparison.
- Students need not use the HKUST subscription. They can get a free account from Zoom. See https://itsc.ust.hk/zoom-online-teaching/how-join-online-zoom-webinar-class.
If you need to use handwriting or mark-up:
- If you have an ipad/tablet that has a pen, you can host your meeting there and export your whiteboard.
- If you have an ipad/tablet but do not want to host your meeting there, you can join the meeting from your ipad/tablet after you start the meeting from another computer. (You can join the same meeting from multiple devices using your account.) You will then be able to share from your tablet the whiteboard, or even its whole screen so that it can use any software (such as OneNote) to do handwriting.
- If you don't have any device with a pen, you can borrow a "visualizer" which is a webcam with a stand. PHYS, CHEM, and LIFS have these visualizers.
Early detection of people infected of the novel Coronavirus has become an imminent challenge around the world as the epidemic continues to develop. A team of researchers from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) recently invented the world’s fastest portable COVID-2019 detection device. With the latest microfluidic chip technology, the device can detect the virus in just 40 minutes from sampling to testing, compared to the currently-used polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technology which takes between 1.5 to 3 hours.
PCR technology is a molecular biotechnology used to amplify specific DNA fragments for the extraction of viral RNA, and the speed of temperature change is the key that determines the efficiency of the DNA’s amplification process, meaning the faster the temperature rises, the shorter the device can come up with a test result.
Unlike conventional large-scale PCR devices which use semiconductor to heat up testing samples, the team led by Prof. WEN Weijia from HKUST’s Department of Physics developed a novel silicon-based micro-heater module for the purpose. The micro-heater, which has lower thermal mass and a better thermal conductivity, could speed up temperature rises to around 30℃ per second from an average of 4-5℃ per second in conventional PCR devices, greatly reducing the detection time.
Leveraging on Shenzhen Shineway Technology – a biotechnology startup company co-founded by Prof. Wen and his doctoral graduate Dr. GAO Yibo, the team started this research immediately after obtaining the new coronavirus sequence on January 20 and came up with the testing kit within a week. The new device is already in use by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP) in Shenzhen and Guangzhou, while two more sets were being delivered to the CDCP in Hubei and Nansha. The device has obtained international CE certification (EU standard) and is qualified for export to all European Union (EU) countries as well as Hong Kong.
The detection device uses standard rapid testing tools such as those used for influenza: a quick screen is used to take a sample of the nasal cavity, which is then put into the analyzer to determine the result. Measuring just 33cm long, 32cm wide and 16cm high, the equipment set is light and portable, which is suitable for rapid on-site testing in places such as centers for disease control and prevention, customs, entry-exit inspection and quarantine departments, as well as nursing homes for the elderly. Each device is equipped with a microfluidic portable PCR analyzer, a pre-processing instrument, a bioassay chip and the novel coronavirus nucleic acid detection kits. It can test up to 8 samples simultaneously.
Shineway Technology is a technology company focuses on the development of real-time in vitro diagnosis technology of nucleic acid molecules, its core team members are all researchers or graduates of HKUST.
By Prof. Dennis Chan, Department of Chemistry, HKUST
Since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), peoples become very nervous and vigilant. Masks and alcohol sanitizers are sold out very quickly in Hong Kong as well as in the cities of mainland China.
It is a novel virus and a novel type of pneumonia. Therefore, there is no established medical treatment (no cure for now!) for such a disease. Does it mean that scientists cannot do more to fight against the disease?
With the more advanced science and technology nowadays, scientists can work at an unprecedented speed. For example, scientists have identified the new pathogenic virus and cracked its genetic codes at world record speed. Now new clinical trials for chemotherapy are on the agenda quickly.
Coronaviruses, like many other viruses, need to replicate itself quickly to cause harm to humans. Therefore, scientists have designed molecules that can be inserted into the replication machinery of the pathogenic virus, and hope that they can successfully block the machine and stop the viral replication. Molecules of this sort include ribavirin and remdesivir. Some pharmaceutical giants are now working with Chinese health authorities to investigate the effectiveness of some new antiviral drug candidates, such as remdesivir, for treatment of pneumonia caused by 2019-nCoV. China’s Food and Drug Administration has approved to start a randomized, controlled clinical trial in Wuhan for patients who have mild to moderate forms of pneumonia as a result of coronavirus infection. Although up to now, the therapy hasn’t demonstrated to be safe or effective for use, the existing data has shown that remdesivir had “in vitro and in vivo activity in animal models” against coronaviruses, such as those causing Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).
A research article has been published on January 31, 2020 in The New England Journal of Medicine, in which it described a positive response to intravenous remdesivir recorded in a patient undergoing treatment for pneumonia caused by the novel coronavirus infection. It is hoped that the antiviral will give encouraging result soon.
Moreover, after the genetic code of the virus has been analyzed, scientists discovered that the new coronavirus used a similar method of attack into human cells by the flu virus, and have a similar reproductive cycle of HIV virus. Thus, a combination of flu and HIV medications may be able to treat severe cases of the new coronavirus. The use of large doses of the flu drug, oseltamivir, combined with HIV drugs, lopinavir, and ritonavir, may be beneficial to the patients. Such kind of chemotherapy clinical trials are also underway.
Viruses can be very dangerous. If scientists across the globe work together, we still can find ways to fight against them.
Guangzhou Pilot Scheme Admission, 2020/21 (February 2020 - 15 March 2020)
In concert with the preparatory work for establishment of The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (Guangzhou) (HKUST(GZ)) in Nansha, the University has rolled out a Guangzhou Pilot Scheme on the Clear Water Bay (CWB) campus to start enrolling research postgraduate (RPg) students. These students will conduct transdisciplinary research in Thrust Areas identified under the Hubs to be established in HKUST(GZ).
HKUST(GZ) is positioned to offer the same quality and standard of teaching and learning environment as HKUST, and adopts English as the basic language. In line with the requirements of HKUST, we are recruiting high-performing students from a wide range of cultures and backgrounds, and with different interests, perspectives, abilities, and entrepreneurial spirit. Please visit https://pg.ust.hk/prospective-students/admissions/GZ-Pilot-Scheme for more details.
Graduated with a BSc in Mathematics in 2011, Lancelot SHIR has taken a sweet and varied journey in life. A few years after graduation, Lancelot already had success with his first business — a tutorial center teaching mathematics — which he funded with two years of hard work of working.
As a local rock star tutor, it could have been all maths for Lancelot with his tutorial business achieving great results. However, he encountered a health problem in 2017 due to massive work pressure, and his life took an unexpected turn.
“I was suffering from a stomach problem and a friend of mine suggested I used raw honey to treat the problem. It worked a treat and I was suddenly catapulted into the world of honey and bees – I couldn’t stop learning and it changed my life,” he says.
Lancelot learned all the things about beekeeping from a local beekeeper on a farm in Yuen Long, studying honey production without the use of antibiotics, no sugar, and no heat compression. His interest grew steadily and later started another business, Hong Kong Raw Honey in 2017, with two HKUST alumni. Since then, he not only became an advocate for health benefits of raw honey but also about maintaining the vitality of bees to the global ecosystem.
For much of the past 10 years, beekeepers have been reporting annual hive losses of 30 percent or higher. The situation is alarming as the global decline in bee populations poses a serious threat to a wide variety of plants and corps critical to human well-being and livelihoods.
“It’s one of the main reasons I became a beekeeper, as bee numbers across the world are declining rapidly due to global warming and pesticide use, yet they are essential for the pollination of plants, with roughly 70 percent of food globally supported by bees,” Lancelot says.
Ever-expanding urban developments in densely populated cities threaten wild bees and their food supply. And ever stronger tropical storms are exacerbating the damage. As such, despite all the hard work, the supply of honey is unreliable.
An effective way of tackling the problem can be widespread urban beekeeping for solitary bees. Lancelot says solitary bees, accounting for 90% of the world’s bee populations, are perfect to be kept in the home because they are harmless and can survive without the support of a hive. By using wood and other materials, a small base for solitary bees can be put anywhere whether at home or in the park, creating more pollination for the natural environment.
The practice of placing “bee hotels” in urban environments is growing across the world. “It’s very big in Taiwan and they even promote it to local schools, but in Hong Kong we have a while to go,” he says.
The journey was made possible to Lancelot in many ways by HKUST. Having taken Eco Studies and China Studies minors as a complement to his Mathematics degree, Lancelot was exposed to information about global warming and how climate change is impacting the earth. And he is driven to share his knowledge with others.
Lancelot has maintained his tutoring business and at the same time been busy building his production sites near Tai Mo Shan Country Park and Lantau Island, and running tours of his farms where visitors learn about major nectar plants in Hong Kong, bee anatomy and lifestyle, how to harvest honey, and building bee hotels.
“I’m working hard in the sun, trying to keep track of queens, and dealing with swarming. Bees have predators, they get sick, and the queen, who is essential to the health of the hive, can die as well, so there’s a lot to do,” he says.
Hong Kong Raw Honey is part enterprise, activism, and education. While the industry is nascent in the city, Lancelot says it can take off the way craft beer has globally, a reason why he is now focusing on distribution, marketing and packaging.
“We need to let people know about it and be inspired by our product and what we are doing to help the world. Everyone in this city wants to be a lawyer, doctor or banker, and we need to change this and get people educated. I know it’s hard to do – even my parents were not entirely pleased with my choice,” says Lancelot, who shows us that although the road ahead is thorny, we just have to “bee” ourselves, and follow our dreams for the betterment of mankind.
Hong Kong Raw Honey is now for sale at HKUST’s souvenir shop. Come and support this young man’s efforts to safeguard bees and our abundant food varieties.
A research team led by scientists from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) unveiled a first-in-kind study of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and its role in the rise and fall of airborne sulfates in hazy air pollution, offering policymakers new insights into ways to tackle smoggy weather.
Dense, hazy fog episodes characterized by relatively high humidity, low visibility and extremely high PM2.5 have been a headache to many megacities including those in Mainland China. Among pollutants that are less than 2.5 microns in diameter (PM2.5), airborne sulfate is one of the most common components of hazy air pollution formed atmospherically via the oxidation of sulphur dioxide (SO2).
While the reactant-product link between sulphur dioxide and airborne sulfate formation is common knowledge, the complex oxidants and mechanisms that enable this transformation are not. In particular, the role of nitrogen oxides in sulfate production is unclear. Managing sulfate pollution has dogged researchers and governments alike as it is not produced directly from pollution sources, unlike nitrogen oxides which are clearly emitted from vehicle exhaust, and the combustion of fossil fuels like coal, diesel and natural gas. This is the first study systematically examining the multiple roles of nitrogen oxides in affecting oxidants that enable this set of chemical reactions.
In collaboration with the California Institute of Technology, a research team led by Prof. YU Jianzhen, Professor at HKUST’s Department of Chemistry and Division of Environment and Sustainability, identified three formation mechanism regimes, corresponding to the three distinct roles that nitrogen oxides play in sulfate production depending on the chemical surroundings. Under low NOx conditions, NOx catalyze the cycling of hydroxyl radicals, an effective oxidant of SO2, and thus promote formation of sulfate. Under extremely high NOx common in haze-fog conditions, NOx act as dominant oxidants of SO2 and thus also promote formation of sulfate. But in an environment with medium-high level of NOx, nitrogen dioxide (a member of the NOx family) would actually serve as a sink for hydroxyl radicals which supresses the oxidation of sulphur dioxide and thus inhibits sulfate formation.
These findings indicate that in order to reduce sulfate levels in highly polluted haze-fog conditions, co-control of SO2 and NOx emissions is necessary. However, since NOx would inhibit sulfate formation when its emissions are intermediately high, suppressing NOx in such environment would thus bring up sulfate levels in the air.
“Since sulfate is formed atmospherically and cannot be controlled directly, we must target its precursor components (such as sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides). Effective reduction of sulfate content in the air relies on knowledge of the quantitative relationship it has with its precursors. This work lays the conceptual framework to delineate the relationship between sulfate and one set of its controllable precursors, nitrogen oxides (NOx) – the low and extremely high concentration of NOx could both fuel up the production of sulfate. The policymakers should pay attention to when they try to control the emission of NOx,” explained Prof. Yu.
As sulfate is one of the major components which leads to haze formation and acid rain, this study laid the groundwork for formulating more effective measures of targeting this major pollutant involved in aforementioned events – which do not just block the views or make aquatic environments more acidic, but also compromise human health. With greater understanding and better control, this will lead to improved air quality and better protection of public health and ecological systems as a whole.
The team’s findings were recently published in the scientific journal Nature Geoscience.