STEM Education |
Propelling Hong Kong’s Future Scientists Forward

Staying ahead in an increasingly hyper-competitive global playing field requires sharp observation and analytical thinking, and with that, the ability to think critically and execute an experiment is equally important. To encourage Hong Kong’s budding science student to go beyond their textbooks and demonstrate their mastery of the biology concepts via their problem-solving skills, HKUST is hosting Hong Kong’s first biology competition for senior secondary students: The Hong Kong Joint-School Biology Olympiad (HKJSBO).

Led by HKUST Professor King L. Chow and professors from all eight universities, supported by a dozen secondary school principals and teachers, the HKJSBO sees the competition as a fantastic opportunity for Hong Kong students to apply their powers of observation and logic to reach scientifically correct conclusions. Prof Chow explains: “We sincerely believe that this Joint School Biology Olympiad exercise modelled closely on the International Biology Olympiad format will offer a great platform for our students to study biology in a lively way, and make rounds of tests a stimulating learning experience.” The HKJSBO also hopes the unique and challenging questions will indulge students in exploration and inspire them to pursue science careers.

The competition kicked off last year and attracted close to 500 students from 60 secondary schools; selected through two rounds of tests, four best students had won. What is the prize for the four winners? An unforgettable summer conducting biology research alongside a university professor, some book coupons and trophies. With this superb exercise of investigative science, Hong Kong and its students are all winners.

For details on the Hong Kong Joint-School Biology Olympiad, please click here.

University Development |
HKUST School of Science signs MoU with Ying Ding Education Technology Co., Ltd on collaborative research and development of blended learning initiatives

The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) School of Science signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Ying Ding Education Technology Co., Ltd on establishing partnership for strengthening education research collaboration and development of blended learning initiatives.

Ying Ding Education Technology Co., Ltd (Ying Ding) is the first Chinese educational institution integrates education training with product development and network platform, which has played a leading role in the market in relation to national entrance examination and admission of higher education in Mainland China. The Chairman and CEO of the Ying Ding, Mr. Haitao Wang, is our HKUST EMBA alumnus.

A Joint Research Lab will be established with dedicated focus on education data analysis. Both parties are also endeavored to co-develop an innovative learning system in higher education and integrate the system with the traditional one to form a novel blended learning program. The MoU was signed by Prof. Yang Wang, HKUST Dean of Science, and Mr. Haitao Wang, Chairman and CEO of Ying Ding, at a ceremony held on 6 April 2018, witnessed by HKUST Executive Vice-President and Provost (EVPP) Prof. Wei Shyy, Ying Ding Chief Technical Officer Mr. Zhaohui Nie, as well as guests and faculty members from the Department of Mathematics and School of Business and Management (SBM).

 

Research and Innovation |
HKUST Scientists Find New Way to Produce Chiral Molecules which may Bring Safer and More Affordable Medicine

A research team from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) has discovered a more efficient and eco-friendly way to produce a family of chiral molecules, which would potentially bring down the cost of chiral medicine and make them more accessible to all.

Over half of the approved drugs now in use in the world are chiral, which treats a wide range of conditions including cardiovascular, respiratory and gastrointestinal diseases.  Many chiral drugs are top sellers including high-cholesterol medicine Lipitor, and antibiotic Amoxicillin.  But production of chiral drugs are difficult and costly, as the production process is complicated and requires rare and expensive raw materials in general.

Now, a team led by Prof Jianwei Sun, Associate Professor of the Department of Chemistry, discovered useful methods that could result in a more efficient and affordable production of the drugs.

“Chiral molecules contain subunits which are like ‘twin brothers’, they have extremely similar, mirror-like architecture but may exhibit distinct traits in our body,” said Prof Sun. “These ‘twin components’ are particularly hard to separate, and it is costly to get just the useful part out of the two, Chiral allenes represents an example of this type which were made by the very expensive chiral raw materials.”

Prof Sun’s team, however, has discovered that chiral allenes can be produced through organic catalysis using racemic propargylic alcohols, which is cheap and easy to come by, the catalyst is also recyclable and reusable without having to create metal wastes.

“Our method is not only more economical and friendly to the environment, such green catalysis could also have profound impact in health care as drug companies may be able to create and develop chiral drugs in a cheaper and more sustainable way,” said Prof Sun.

The findings were recently published in Nature Communications.

Chiral drugs have a fast growing market. The market size has jumped nearly four folds to around US$800 billion over the past decade and is still growing. Last year, more than two thirds of the newly developing drugs are made of chiral molecules.

About The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology 

The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) (www.ust.hk) is a world-class research university that focuses on science, technology and business as well as humanities and social science.  HKUST offers an international campus, and a holistic and interdisciplinary pedagogy to nurture well-rounded graduates with global vision, a strong entrepreneurial spirit and innovative thinking. HKUST attained the highest proportion of internationally excellent research work in the Research Assessment Exercise 2014 of Hong Kong’s University Grants Committee, and is the world’s second in the latest QS’ Top 50 under 50 ranking.  Its graduates were ranked 12th worldwide and top in Greater China in Global Employability University Survey 2017.

For media enquiries, please contact:

Anita Lam
Tel : 2358 6313
Email : anitalam@ust.hk

Alby Wan
Tel : 3469 2512
Email : albywan@ust.hk

Research and Innovation |
HKUST Scientists Reveal How Human Brains Keep Balance

An interdisciplinary team of scientists from The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) has discovered the mechanism of how human brains turn on and off neuronal activities, providing an important foundation to understand a wide range of neurologic conditions such as epilepsy, Parkinson's disease and ataxia-telangiectasia diseases.

“As with all things in life, healthy brain function depends on a balance of neuronal activities. We think of our brains as active - moving a leg and saying a word are all "active" events, but it is just as important that our brains be able to stop these actions,” said Cheng Aifang, a postgraduate student from the Division of Life Science who made the discovery under the guidance of the division’s head and Chair Professor Karl Herrup. “Yet it was not clear how our brains actually perform this go/stop function until now.”

The team discovered that the brain balances excitation and inhibition through regulating ATM and ATR – large kinase enzymes, levels.  In pathological conditions, when ATM levels drop for example, ATR levels increase, vice versa.  In addition, the team also discovered that ATM only regulates excitatory synaptic vesicles while ATR is responsible for only the inhibitory ones.  This is achieved by controlling the movement of these tiny synaptic vesicles in the neuronal synapse – the gap between two neurons that regulates information flow in the brain.

“The discoveries are in the realm of basic research, but they have important implications for human disease” said Prof Karl Herrup, also director of the Super-Resolution Imaging Center (SRIC). “Epilepsy, for example, is a condition where one of the problems is that inhibition fails. As our findings would predict, humans with too little ATR have a problem with epilepsy, while people with ATM deficiency by contrast are ataxic - a reduced ability to make finely controlled movements and keep the proper E/I ratio. This means that there is a yin-yang relationship between ATM and ATR.  And this is only the beginning. We believe that our work has potential relevance to a much broader range of neurologic conditions.”

The findings were published in the Journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences earlier this month.

Utilizing super-resolution microscopy offered by at HKUST, the researchers were able to view the cellular location of the two kinases at ultra-high magnification.  The custom designed super-resolution microscope with active stage locking provided the stability needed to obtain high-resolution images.

“One of the challenges we faced was that even at high magnification, all vesicles look pretty much alike,” said Prof Du Shengwang, physics professor and Associate Director of SRIC.  “To provide differentiation, we developed a three-color version of our super-resolution system, which allowed the team to prove that ATM and ATR were never found on the same VAMP2-containing synaptic vesicle.”

About The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology 

The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) (www.ust.hk) is a world-class research university that focuses on science, technology and business as well as humanities and social science.  HKUST offers an international campus, and a holistic and interdisciplinary pedagogy to nurture well-rounded graduates with global vision, a strong entrepreneurial spirit and innovative thinking. HKUST attained the highest proportion of internationally excellent research work in the Research Assessment Exercise 2014 of Hong Kong’s University Grants Committee, and is the world’s second in the latest QS’ Top 50 under 50 ranking.  Its graduates were ranked 12th worldwide and top in Greater China in Global Employability University Survey 2017.

For media enquiries, please contact:

Anita Lam
Tel : 2358 6313
Email : anitalam@ust.hk

Etta Lai
Tel : 2358 6317
Email : ettalai@ust.hk