13 April 2016

Eight Distinguished Scholars Receive Croucher Innovation and Senior Research Fellowship Awards



(Issued on behalf of the Croucher Foundation) 

The Croucher Foundation held the presentation ceremony of the Innovation and Senior Research Fellowship Awards today (13 April), honouring eight distinguished scholars from The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), The University of Hong Kong (HKU), and The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), for their excellent scientific research achievements. Professor Rosie Young, GBS, JP, was the officiating guest at the ceremony.

This year, four awardees were presented with the Innovation Awards, three with the Senior Research Fellowships and one with the Senior Medical Research Fellowships. The list of the awardees is as follows:

Croucher Innovation Awards 2016
Dr Ho Yu AU-YEUNG (HKU)
Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science
Professor Jonathan Chung-hang CHOI (CUHK)
Assistant Professor, Department of Electronic Engineering (Biomedical Engineering), Faculty of Engineering
Dr Heming CUI (HKU)
Assistant Professor, Department of Computer Science, Faculty of Engineering
Professor Gyuboong JO (HKUST)
Assistant Professor, Department of Physics, School of Science

Croucher Senior Research Fellowships 2016
Professor Guanhua CHEN (HKU)
Head of Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science
Professor Aimin XU (HKU)
Professor, Department of Medicine and Department of Pharmacology and Pharmacy, Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine
Professor Jun YU (CUHK)
Professor, Department of Medicine and Therapeutics, Faculty of Medicine, Director of the Research Laboratory of Institute of Digestive Disease, and Associate Director of State Key Laboratory of Digestive Disease

Croucher Senior Medical Research Fellowship 2016
Professor Rossa Wai-kwun CHIU (CUHK)
Choh-Ming Li Professor of Chemical Pathology and Assistant Dean (Research), the Faculty of Medicine

Croucher Innovation Awards 2016 recipients

Dr Ho Yu AU-YEUNG (HKU), Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science. Dr Au-Yeung’s main research interest is in the area of supramolecular chemistry and molecular recognition. He is interested in understanding how molecules recognise and interact with each other, exploiting molecular interactions in the self-assembly of complex structures, and creating functional materials from molecular assembly and recognition. One specific project in his group concerns the molecular recognition of catecholamine. Catecholamine, such as dopamine, is a class of small molecule neurotransmitter that transmits nervous signal in the nervous system. Another project in his group is about the self-assembly of complex catenanes, which are mechanically interlocked chain at the molecular level. Due to the mechanical linkages in these interlocked rings, the catenanes possess unusual mechanical strength and flexibility which could be exploited as new types of molecular materials. (Please click here for Dr Ho Yu Au-Yeung’s biography)

Professor Jonathan Chung-hang CHOI (CUHK), Assistant Professor, Department of Electronic Engineering (Biomedical Engineering), specializes in the interactions of nanoparticles with the body across the length scales of organ, tissue, cell, and organelle. His mechanistic research will inform useful ‘design rules’ for building more potent therapeutic nanoparticles. He previously reported novel ‘bio-nano’ interactions between nanoparticles and the kidney (Choi CHJ et al., PNAS, 2011), which will aid the development of new delivery strategies to the kidney. With this award, he hopes to design nanoparticles for detecting kidney diseases in vivo. (Please click here for Professor Jonathan Choi’s biography)

Dr Heming CUI (HKU), Assistant Professor of Department of Computer Science, Faculty of Engineering. Dr Cui’s research interests are in operating systems, programming languages, distributed systems, and cloud computing. His awarded project focuses on building practical software systems to greatly improve the reliability and security of today’s general online services. Online services, including social networks, e-business services and stock exchange platforms, have become increasingly pervasive and important. However, computers that hold these services can have software or hardware errors, which inevitably hurt the reliability of these services and cause severe disasters. Dr Cui’s research project seeks to address the matter and provide solutions. His recent research has led to several U.S. patents, open source projects, and publication in premier systems software and programming languages conferences (e.g., SOSP, OSDI, PLDI, and ASPLOS). (Please click here for Dr Heming Cui’s biography)

Professor Gyuboong JO (HKUST), Assistant Professor, Department of Physics, School of Science. Prof Jo’s main research area focuses on exploring the interface between Atomic Molecular Optical (AMO) physics and condensed-matter physics aiming for the realization of synthetic quantum materials.  Prof Jo’s team created a synthetic system by putting a gas of ultra-cold atoms near the temperature range of nK in the artificial crystalline structure generated by the standing-wave laser.  The system allows better understanding of the physics behind exotic materials such as high-Tc superconductors and topological material. (Please click here for Professor Gyuboong Jo’s biography)

Croucher Senior Research Fellowships 2016 recipients

Professor Guanhua CHEN (HKU), Head of Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science. Professor Chen is a theoretical chemist, and focuses on developing numerical solutions of the famous Schrödinger Equation of quantum mechanics. He focuses on the study of Theoretical Chemistry and Computational Science, and pioneered a series of ground breaking work in the fields of linear-scaling quantum computation methods of excited states, first principles methods for open systems, multiscale quantum mechanics/electromagnetics (QM/EM) method for device simulations, and application of neural network approaches for quantum calculations. These works greatly expanded the application range of quantum mechanical methods. Recently, Professor Chen is devoted to the developments of first principles methods for open systems and multiscale quantum mechanics/ electromagnetics (QM/EM) method for device simulations, and applies the developed methods to simulate and explore emerging nano-electronics and semiconductor materials, which can bridge the gap between quantum mechanics method and circuit simulation and make it possible to predict the circuit behaviour starting from atomic simulations. Due to his ground breaking work, Professor Chen was elected as the Fellow of Royal Chemical Society in 2011 and the Fellow of American Physical Society in 2014. Professor Chen is the Project Coordinator of Area of Excellence on Theory, Modeling, and Simulation of Emerging Electronics. (Please click here for Professor Guanhua Chen’s biography)

Professor Aimin XU (HKU), Professor at Department of Medicine and Department of Pharmacology and Pharmacy, Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine. Professor Xu’s research focuses on basic, clinical and translational research on obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular complications.  He discovered the bioactive form of the anti-diabetic hormone adiponectin, and uncovered the potential of adiponectin in protection against obesity-related fatty liver and vascular diseases.  In the past decade, his team has identified and characterised several fat-derived factors causally involved in the pathogenesis of obesity, diabetes and cardiometabolic syndrome, and has developed a series of innovative assays for these novel biomarkers for risk prediction, early diagnosis and therapeutic monitoring of the above-mentioned chronic diseases.  Recently, his team discovered the liver-derived hormone FGF21 as a potential drug for treatment of atherosclerosis through adiponectin. (Please click here for Professor Aimin Xu’s biography)

Professor Jun YU (CUHK), Professor, Department of Medicine and Therapeutics, Director of the Research Laboratory of Institute of Digestive Disease, and Associate Director of State Key Laboratory of Digestive Disease is a gastrointestinal scientist.  Over the years, she has made new findings in the areas of gastrointestinal cancers in relation to the genomic and epigenomic molecular mechanisms, cancer biomarkers, cancer therapy, fatty liver disease and liver cancer.  She has discovered over 10 new genes that suppress stomach cancer, and revealing for the first time the genomic and epigenomic alterations in EBV-associated stomach cancer by integrated genome sequencing. All these discoveries are crucial to understanding the pathogenetic mechanisms of stomach cancer.  In recent years, the prevalence of colon cancer has increased greatly in Hong Kong.  Professor Yu has discovered genes that facilitate and suppress colon cancer; discovered driver mutations for the implementation of personalized cancer therapy, the biclonal origin of colon cancer and survival associated mutation signature in colon cancer; pioneered the non-invasive diagnostic biomarkers for colon cancer. These findings open up a new class of molecular mechanisms and diagnosis for colon cancer pathogenesis.  Recently, Professor Yu has demonstrated some major discoveries in the pathogenetic mechanisms of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which will comprehensively depict the molecular landscape of NAFLD by using unbiased systems biology approaches, thereby finding out the preventative and curative treatments. (Please click here for Professor Jun Yu’s biography)

Croucher Senior Medical Research Fellowships 2016 recipient

Professor Rossa Wai-kwun CHIU (CUHK), the Choh-Ming Li Professor of Chemical Pathology and Assistant Dean (Research), the Faculty of Medicine, specializes in the analysis of circulating nucleic acids found in human plasma.  She is known for her contributions in the successful development of non-invasive prenatal testing for Down syndrome and other fetal diseases by maternal blood analysis. The clinical use of non-invasive prenatal testing for Down syndrome has since been implemented worldwide, reducing the chance of fetal miscarriage associated with conventional invasive prenatal diagnostic procedures, such as by amniocentesis. Recently, Professor Chiu and her research team have achieved another breakthrough in blood based cancer detection. The new technology is not only able to detect abnormal DNA associated with cancer, it also locates which organ the abnormal DNA is coming from.  With this award, Professor Chiu hopes to enable early cancer detection and treatment. (Please click here for Professor Rossa Chiu’s biography)

The Croucher Innovation Awards
Established in 2012, the Croucher Innovation Awards aim to identify a small number of exceptionally talented scientists working at an internationally competitive level and to offer substantial support to these ‘rising stars’ at a formative stage in their careers. The scheme is designed to enable recipients to pursue their own scientific, intellectual and professional inclinations, to advance their expertise, to engage in bold new work, and to contribute to the development of education and research in Hong Kong. Each award carries a value of up to HK$5 million over 5 years.

The Croucher Senior Research Fellowships/ Croucher Senior Medical Research Fellowships
The Croucher Senior Research Fellowships scheme was first introduced in 1997. The value of the awards are about HKD900,000 for the Senior Research Fellowship and HKD1,000,000 for the Senior Medical Research Fellowship, each includes a personal grant of HKD60,000 to the recipient for research expenses. It is awarded to local academics who have excelled in scientific research work as judged by leading international scientists invited to provide confidential reviews of candidates nominated in a competitive exercise. Funds are awarded to the universities of the fellowship recipients, enabling the university to recruit replacement teachers to take over the award winner’s duties for the period of the fellowship. This enables the awardees to devote more time and effort to research work.

Media enquiries:
The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Fiona Ng, Senior Communications and Public Relations Manager
Communications and Public Relations Office
Tel: 3943-8896, Email: fiona-ng@cuhk.edu.hk

The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Karen Cheng, Communications and Public Relations Manager
Communications and Public Relations Office
Tel: 3943-8892, Email: karencheng@cuhk.edu.hk

The University of Hong Kong
Melanie Wan, Senior Manager (Media)
Communications and Public Affairs Office
Tel: 2859-2600, Email: melwkwan@hku.hk

The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
Sherry No, Head of PR and Media
Public Affairs Office
Tel: 2358-6317, Email: sherryno@ust.hk

The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
Anita Lam, Manager of PR and Media
Public Affairs Office
Tel: 2358-6313, Email: anitalam@ust.hk

(From left) Dr Ho Yu AU-YEUNG (HKU), Prof Jonathan Chung-hang CHOI (CUHK), Dr Heming CUI (HKU), Prof Gyuboong JO (HKUST), Prof Rosie YOUNG, GBS, JP, Prof Guanhua CHEN (HKU), Prof Rossa Wai-kwun CHIU (CUHK), Prof Aimin XU (HKU), and Prof Jun YU (CUHK).
(From left) Dr Ho Yu AU-YEUNG (HKU), Prof Jonathan Chung-hang CHOI (CUHK), Dr Heming CUI (HKU), Prof Gyuboong JO (HKUST), Prof Rosie YOUNG, GBS, JP, Prof Guanhua CHEN (HKU), Prof Rossa Wai-kwun CHIU (CUHK), Prof Aimin XU (HKU), and Prof Jun YU (CUHK).