About the Hong Kong Laureate Forum

Welcome to the December 2023 issue of the newsletter of the Hong Kong Laureate Forum!

Organised by the Council of the Hong Kong Laureate Forum ("the HKLF"), and fully sponsored by the Lee Shau Kee Foundation, the inaugural Hong Kong Laureate Forum ("the Forum") took place successfully under the theme "Meeting of Inspirational Minds" from 13 to 18 November at the Hong Kong Science Park. The week-long Forum was a notable event, featuring three captivating plenary sessions, six insightful breakout sessions, two in-depth exchanges on global trends, two science seminars and over 20 diverse visits and cultural activities. One significant highlight was the four sessions of dialogues with Shaw Laureates at secondary schools simultaneously held in Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, New Territories East and West, which was first of its kind being organised in Hong Kong! Some Forum programmes were live-streamed and everyone is welcome to revisit the content here. Moreover, during the Forum, the HKLF organised a "Hong Kong Laureate Forum – Media Visit" for non-local media attendees, offering them an opportunity to delve into the content of the Forum and the scientific advancements in Hong Kong, thus making this international scientific event known to audience in Hong Kong and beyond. For more information about the media visit, please read the next article.

The Forum attracted over 2,400 participants, successfully bringing together 23 Shaw Laureates who have made outstanding contributions in the disciplines of Astronomy, Life Science and Medicine, and Mathematical Sciences, almost 200 young scientists and Forum Ambassadors from around 30 different countries and regions, more than 200 guests from various sectors and institutions and local scientists, plus over 1,500 secondary school students with passion about science as well as members of the public. This prestigious event helped to foster connections between participants, thereby building up cross-generational, cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary collaborations and unlocking endless possibilities in science! The highlights of the Forum have been uploaded onto the photo gallery and video gallery of our website as well as our YouTube channel, so do check them out!

The Forum covered a wide range of diverse topics, allowing participants to explore and discuss issues ranging from Astronomy's gravitational waves, black holes, space telescopes, Mathematical Sciences' moduli spaces, geometry, fractals, to Life Science and Medicine's genome, cells, optogenetics etc. The Forum also featured poster and flash presentations led by over 40 young scientists, who benefited from the opportunities to present their current research projects to the Shaw Laureates and received valuable feedback.

Throughout the Forum, feedback from participants has been overwhelmingly positive. Many participants consider the Forum a bridge to connect scientists of the current and next generations. They applauded the overall arrangement and expressed their desire to participate in the next Forum, which we are truly encouraged. One of the Shaw Laureates commented that it is rare and remarkable to have scientists from different disciplines coming together, as international conferences tend to assemble people from related specialty. Another Shaw Laureate believed that one of the ideas of the Forum, which gathers past laureates, young scientists, and students, is to bring cutting-edge science and technology to a wider audience. He reckoned exposing them to bright ideas and applications that engender human life and experiences is a very critical and important initiative. Some young scientists expressed that through their participation in the Forum, they were inspired by the Shaw Laureates from various disciplines and different parts of the world. They found the Shaw Laureates’ insights and advice on the research journey highly valuable. In addition, several young scientists expressed their deeper determination to pursue what they are passionate about and to continue their scientific research journey.

The Forum would not have been a success without the continued support from various sectors of the society. The HKLF would like to take this opportunity to express gratitude to the following units:

Principal Sponsor
Lee Shau Kee Foundation

Major Partner
The Shaw Prize

Official Travel Sponsor
Cathay Pacific

Other Sponsor

InvestHK MTR Corporation
Nameson Group West Kowloon Cultural District
Xiaomi Corporation

Local Academic Partner

City University of Hong Kong Hong Kong Baptist University
Hong Kong Metropolitan University Lingnan University
The Chinese University of Hong Kong The Education University of Hong Kong
The Hong Kong Polytechnic University The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
The University of Hong Kong

Collaborating Organisation

Consulate General of France in Hong Kong Croucher Foundation
Cyberport Ho Koon Nature Education Cum Astronomical Centre (Sponsored by Sik Sik Yuen)
Hong Kong Applied Science and Technology Research Institute Hong Kong Association of the Heads of Secondary Schools
Hong Kong Astronomical Society Hong Kong Observatory
Hong Kong Science & Technology Parks Corporation Hong Kong Science Museum
Hong Kong Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics Hong Kong Space Museum
Information Services Department Logistics and Supply Chain MultiTech R&D Centre
Nano and Advanced Materials Institute Neounion Esc Organization
The Hang Seng University of Hong Kong The Hong Kong Academy for Gifted Education
The Hong Kong Academy of Sciences The Hong Kong Association for Computer Education
The Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups The Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel
The Women's Foundation University Grants Committee

Looking ahead, in the near term, the HKLF will continue the preparation work for "Exploring New Horizons 2024". The event themed "Exploring New Horizons" would have been held for the third consecutive year in 2024. From January to March 2024, the HKLF will arrange laboratory visits and dialogue sessions for senior secondary students in collaborations with local scientists and research teams in Hong Kong. As in the past, the aim of the event is to enhance the interest of secondary students in scientific research by creating opportunities for them to learn more about the working environment of scientists, the operation of laboratories, the difficulties encountered by scientists in the process of research and the latest research projects in Hong Kong through hands-on experience and enquiries.

Lastly, as we are fast approaching 2024, the HKLF wishes everyone a prosperous and healthy new year!

Hong Kong Laureate Forum – Media Visit

The HKLF held a media visit from 13 to 17 November and arranged the invited non-local media representatives to attend programmes of the inaugural Hong Kong Laureate Forum, including plenary sessions, poster presentations by young scientists, breakout sessions, trending topic sessions and dialogues with Shaw Laureates at secondary schools, etc. These programmes enabled media representatives to delve into the content of the Forum and immerse in the atmosphere of scientific exchanges. In addition to attending the Forum programmes, they also visited top-notch research facilities in Hong Kong, such as InnoHK research clusters, where they could engage with the research teams and thus gain in-depth knowledge of the latest research projects in Hong Kong. Besides, they visited famous landmarks in Hong Kong to engender a deeper appreciation of this city.

More than 20 invited media representatives came from Mainland China, including Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, etc., as well as India, Kenya, Poland, South Korea, Thailand, the UK and Turkey. Many media representatives expressed their delight in attending the Forum programmes and engaging in deep conversations with Shaw Laureates, which facilitated a more thorough understanding of the current scientific research developments. Some media representatives also stated that the dialogues between Shaw Laureates and secondary students were very meaningful. They believed that the Forum created opportunities for students to interact with award-winning scientists and to learn about their research projects as well as the challenges they faced. This experience would help the students to plan for their scientific research journey.

The HKLF would like to express our gratitude to each unit for their support and hospitality, which made the media visit a success. In addition, the HKLF would also like to thank the research teams and organisation representatives in sharing details of various research projects and facilities. They include:

  • Centre for Chinese Herbal Medicine Drug Development – Dr Lin Chengyuan and his research team
  • Centre for Eye and Vision Research – Dr Peter Pang and his research team
  • Centre for Novostics – Dr Peiyong Jiang and his research team
  • Centre for Translational Stem Cell Biology – Prof Pengtao Liu and his research team
  • Cyberport
  • HKSTP Experience Centre
  • Hong Kong Centre for Cerebro-Cardiovascular Health Engineering – Prof Kannie Chan and her research team
  • Hong Kong Centre for Construction Robotics – Dr Liang Haobo and his research team
  • Hong Kong Palace Museum
  • The Henderson

The HKLF hopes that this media visit would engender non-local representatives to spread the news about the Forum to the four corners of the world, which enables people in different regions to learn about this cross-generational, cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary international scientific exchange event.

When the Stars Align: There's Something Weird Going On in the Centre of Our Milky Way

Sometimes, as a scientist, and if you are very lucky, you come across something so crazy in your research that you have to step back and think what on earth is going on? This article addresses this crazy story in terms of how it actually happened – this is sometimes how real science emerges.

Occasionally, we are fortunate to put out press releases about various scientific discoveries of my team that we consider sufficiently worthy to merit such a thing. These can elicit interviews, quotes and positive publicity for our activities and sometimes they go viral. This was the case with a press release back in July 2023 that went viral and led to a popular science magazine article, a 10-minute YouTube video on our research from a major science influencer that has garnered 100K views and a further professional American Astronomical Society (AAS) YouTube interview that has had more views than nearly all other videos of its kind that arise from the major AAS refereed journal articles such as ours. These are all indicative of the impact and importance of this "weird science result" as will be clear below.


Prof Quentin Parker, Director of Laboratory for Space Research and Professor of Faculty of Science, The University of Hong Kong
Ms Shuyu Tan, Research Assistant, Laboratory for Space Research, The University of Hong Kong

Fingerprints: The Key to Our Individuality


Before we delve into the complexities of blood tests and DNA analyses to identify who we are, society has already made a simple yet straightforward method that we always see in movies and when we are crossing the border: our fingerprints which are also known as "friction ridge skin". Just like our faces, fingerprints are key to our individuality and identity. But have you ever wondered why each of us has unique fingerprints? The answer lies deep in the interaction between our genes, especially those that control limb development, and the environment. This results in the formation of unique dermatoglyphic patterns which can be classified into three categories: arch, loop, and whorl.

Fig 1: The three categories of fingerprint: arch, loop and whorl

Fingerprint Formation

There are multiple theories supporting fingerprint development but dermatologists believe the folding hypothesis is the most promising one. Skin tissue consists of three tightly connected vertical layers: epidermis, basal layer and dermis. The different rates of cellular growth in the top epidermis and the bottom dermis create a tension across the fast-growing basal layer, resulting in the folding of the basal layer at individual sites to relieve the stress. Cell proliferation continues at those sites while the folds combine and merge into clusters to form linear ridges in a rather random fashion, creating the unique pattern of wrinkles in our fingerprints.


Author: Charlton Sullivan, Student Editor, Science Focus, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
Design: Charley Lam, Graphic Designer, Science Focus, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
Translation: Daniel Lau, Managing Editor, Science Focus, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

Demystifying Wordle: A Crash Course in Information Theory


The game Wordle took the world by storm last year – you might have seen your friends posting green and yellow boxes on social media, claiming that they have solved this daily word puzzle in three guesses, or that dreaded "X/6," which means that they didn't manage to crack it. When one considers what first word to guess, it might be tempting to randomly put a five-letter word at the beginning, but this can actually be reduced to a scientific question. It is not hard to see that some words would be a better first guess than others; for example, the word "FUZZY" would be far less ideal than "RAISE", since the letters in the former occur far less often than the letters in the latter. What, then, is one's best shot at cracking the puzzle?

What Is Wordle?

We are assuming readers know how Wordle functions. For those who do not, here is a quick crash course.

Wordle's database is made of 2,315 five-letter words picked by the creator of the game as solutions, and a pool of approximately 13,000 five-letter words that are valid guesses (which include the 2,315 words above, and many more words that are not commonly used). Each day, one word from the database is selected to be the answer to the puzzle. If your guess has a letter that is in the word and in the same position, the letter box shown will be green; if the guess has a letter that is in the word but not in the correct position, the letter box shown will be yellow; otherwise the box is gray.


Author: Sonia Choy, Student Editor, Science Focus, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
Design: Ligeia Fu, Graphic Designer, Science Focus, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology