HKUST Areas of Excellence Projects Awarded Close to HK$100 Million from UGC Driving World-class Research in Photonic and Phononic Advanced Materials and Signaling Mechanisms in Neuro-disorders
Two pioneering research projects at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) led by Prof Che-ting Chan, Chair Professor of the Department of Physics and Prof Mingjie Zhang, Kerry Holdings Professor of Science of the Division of Life Science were awarded close to $100 million in total by the University Grants Committee (UGC) under its Sixth Round of Areas of Excellence (AoE) Scheme.

Prof Tony F Chan, President of HKUST said, “I am delighted about the tremendous support shown by UGC towards the University’s research projects. As an international research university, HKUST has spearheaded interdisciplinary research to address the most pressing challenges facing our world. The two scientific research projects in life science and physics awarded AoEs are vivid proof of our world-leading standards. This is also a reflection of the research strength of our faculty members. Through close inter-institutional and cross-disciplinary research collaborations, we will create invaluable education and training opportunities to boost the standards and competitiveness of local scientific research and make greater contributions to society.”

The following summarizes the HKUST projects awarded for the AoE Scheme:

“Novel Wave Functional Materials for Manipulating Light and Sound”
By Prof Che-ting Chan, Chair Professor of the Department of Physics

The research team seeks to create a new generation of functional materials that go beyond the properties of normal ones and are capable of controlling the density of radiation modes in rendering more efficient light emitting devices and thermal radiation control. The materials are also expected to be able to bend and confine light and sound in unusual ways, equipping microscopes with better resolution and facilitating the design of efficient, lighter antennae and optical chips. In addition, the team will work on modifying the scattering and absorption properties of natural materials in order to achieve stealth, reduce noise and increase energy harvesting capability. Increase in local field strength will be another item on the research agenda leading to ultra-sensitive sensors, light manipulation of matter and strong nonlinear effects.

Through manipulating electromagnetic and acoustic waves, the research team will come up with new functional materials including photonic / phononic crystals, metamaterials and plasmonic structures. State-of-the-art nano-fabrication techniques will be employed in fabrication, gauging and verification of the material, which will then be applied on new devices.

The research team consists of partners from the Hong Kong Baptist University, Chinese University of Hong Kong, City University of Hong Kong and Polytechnic University of Hong Kong.

Prof Che-ting Chan

Prof Che-ting Chan

“Mechanistic Basis of Synaptic Development, Signaling and Neuro-disorders”
By Prof Mingjie Zhang, Kerry Holdings Professor of Science of the Division of Life Science 

This research aims to provide new theoretical grounding for understanding an array of neuro-disorders including autism, schizophrenia and depression, at the same time developing medicines and therapies to treat the disease-related effects. Genetic studies have consistently proved that hundreds of genes are associated with autism spectrum disorders, yet our understanding of underlying mechanisms governing the alterations of these genes and their role in causing the diseases is very much limited. For such reasons, the research team intends to systematically characterize the structure, function and interaction networks of a set of key synaptic proteins involved in synaptic development and signaling, while elucidating the impacts of such mutations on mental illnesses.

The research team will also develop peptides, peptide mimetics and low molecular weight chemical compounds which help bring about a greater understanding in the mechanistic basis of genetic disorders and represent potential therapies against mental disorders.

The research team is composed of partners from the Chinese University of Hong Kong and Polytechnic University of Hong Kong.

For media enquiries, please feel free to contact:

Prof Mingjie Zhang

Prof Mingjie Zhang

Mavis Wong
Tel: 2358 6306