About the Hong Kong Laureate Forum

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

The "Beckoning the Inaugural Hong Kong Laureate Forum" press conference was successfully held on 6 June, thus marking the official launch of the inaugural Forum. Prof Sun Dong, JP, Secretary for Innovation, Technology, and Industry, HKSAR Government, together with Prof Timothy Tong, BBS, JP, Chairman of the Council of the Hong Kong Laureate Forum (the HKLF), Dr Colin Lam, SBS, Director of the Lee Shau Kee Foundation and Prof Kenneth Young, Chair of The Shaw Prize Council, were the officiating guests and all delivered succinct but engaging speeches. Ms Priyatha Menon of Cathay Pacific, the official airline sponsor, Ms Cheris Lee of MTR Corporation and Mr Andy Wong of InvestHK, collaborating organisations of the HKLF, delved into the various aspects of scientific research related to business development in Hong Kong in the ensuing sharing session. We would like to take this opportunity to express our heartfelt gratitude again to our principal sponsor, the Lee Shau Kee Foundation, and our major partner, the Shaw Prize Foundation, for their unwavering support. We would also like to thank the Hong Kong SAR Government, in particular Innovation, Technology and Industry Bureau and Invest Hong Kong, as well as Cathay Pacific, and MTR Corporation, for their staunch support. Apart from providing business class tickets to our Shaw Laureates, our home carrier, Cathay Pacific is also offering participants of the Forum an exclusive opportunity to enjoy great savings on flights to Hong Kong!

To watch the highlights of the "Beckoning the Inaugural Hong Kong Laureate Forum", please visit our YouTube channel. As part of the programme of the press conference, the HKLF organsied a media tour involving local universities for representatives of non-local press joining the event. If you would like to find out more about the media tour, please read the next article.

The inaugural Hong Kong Laureate Forum, with its theme "Meeting of Inspirational Minds", will take place on 13-18 November 2023 at the Hong Kong Science Park. The Forum will have over 20 Shaw Laureates around the world from the three disciplines, namely Astronomy, Life Science and Medicine, and Mathematical Sciences, gathering in person in Hong Kong. They will share their research and wisdom with more than 200 young scientists from over 30 different countries and regions through seminars, talks and discussions. Certain sessions of the Forum will also be live-streamed so that academics and young people around the world can participate in the Forum, albeit virtually. Please visit our website to have a look at the programme overview.

Apart from feverishly preparing for the Forum, we have also started "The HKLF Science Explorer Award Scheme 2023/2024 for Secondary Students" for the second consecutive year to encourage secondary students to participate in science-related events and activities with a view to broaden their horizons and get inspired. The first event of the award scheme, held on 24 June, was a "Shaw Laureate Public Lecture: The Active Social Lives of Black Holes". The lecture was delivered in-person by Prof Roger Blandford, recipient of the Shaw Prize in Astronomy in 2020, in the Hong Kong Space Museum. He gave a presentation on major breakthroughs and key remaining questions concerning our fundamental understanding of astrophysical black holes. The participating secondary students raised questions enthusiastically and no doubt, they have learnt a great deal about astrophysics from the lecture. To learn more about the award scheme, please visit our website.

Our work on promoting exchanges in science in the community never stops. In April, the HKLF signed a Collaborative Framework Agreement with The Hong Kong Academy for Gifted Education (HKAGE) to establish a strategic partnership to work together in the promotion of STEAM education. The aim is to enhance the interest of gifted students in science and technology, with a view to cultivate future local research talents. Besides inviting the Programme Steering Committee Advisor of the HKLF, Prof Chu Ming-chung, Choh-Ming Li Professor of Physics of The Chinese University of Hong Kong, to be the guest of the presentation session of the Astronomy Course conducted by HKAGE in April, the HKLF also co-organised a science dialogue session with HKAGE on 17 June. The event started by Prof Chu Ming-chung sharing his journey in researching astronomical matters with three gifted students, who had performed the best in the Astronomy Course, followed by a guided tour around the physics laboratories at CUHK. The young visitors were fascinated by the various equipment and their functions on show. The dialogue session ended with sharing by Prof Chu, Dr Jimmy Wong, Executive Director of the Academy and Mrs Do Pang Wai Yee, Secretary General of the HKLF on their take on the importance of science and encouraging the gifted students to pursue their passion. We look forward to co-organising more activities with HKAGE so as to help to unleash gifted students' potential in science.

Apart from promoting science to the younger generation, another issue close to our heart is that of climate change. We are keen to back activities that focus on the matter and we are proud to be a supporting organisation for the Asia Solar Energy for Climate Change Conference (ASECCC) to be organised by CarbonCare InnoLab Limited, which will be held virtually from 23 to 25 August. The Conference will gather experts from diverse sectors in the Asia Pacific region to promote solar energy innovation and address the issue of climate change, with the aim of driving progress towards a more sustainable future. Please click here for the details of ASECCC.

Last but not least, the HKLF celebrated its 4th anniversary on 14 May. We would like to take this opportunity to express our sincere gratitude for the continued support from our friends of different sectors. We look forward to continuing the collaboration with the community to promote education and exchanges in various disciplines in science and technology in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong Laureate Forum – Media Tour

The HKLF organised a 4-day 3-night (from 5-8 June) media tour for representatives of an array of non-local press, who were invited to join the "Beckoning the Inaugural Hong Kong Laureate Forum" press conference, to visit the cutting-edge scientific research facilities at top ranking local universities. They also spoke to the scientists conducting research at the facilities and learnt about the latest development of scientific research in Hong Kong. The HKLF also provided the invited press with detailed information of the inaugural Forum, with a view to bringing this Asia's prestigious science event to a wider audience.

The group included representatives from media organisations, with or without local offices, from outside Hong Kong. From the Mainland China, we have journalists from Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, etc., as well as others from South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam. Many members of the press were thrilled to have the opportunity to visit universities in Hong Kong in person. Through such visits to various scientific research facilities and interviewing the scientists, we are confident that the prowess of Hong Kong’s scientific research would reach the audiences in different places.

The HKLF would like to thank the universities' support, preparation and hospitality, which made the media tour a great success. The HKLF would also like to thank the scientists who hosted the sessions and gave detailed presentations on their scientific research and respective facilities. They include:

The Chinese University of Hong Kong

  • CUHK InnoHK Centre: Microbiota I-Center – Prof Francis Chan, Prof Siew Ng and their research team
  • CUHK InnoHK Centre: Multi-Scale Medical Robotics Center – Prof Samuel Au, Prof Philip Chiu and their research team
  • State Key Laboratory of Agrobiotechnology – Prof Lam Hon Ming and his research team

The Hong Kong Polytechnic University

  • National Rail Transit Electrification and Automation Engineering Technology Research Center (Hong Kong Branch) – Prof Ni Yi Qing and his research team
  • Research Centre for Deep Space Explorations – Prof Yung Kai Leung and his research team

The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

  • Biological CryoEM Center – Dr Zhang Yingyi and her research team
  • Nanosystem Fabrication Facility – Prof Kevin Chen and his research team
  • State Key Laboratory of Molecular Neuroscience – Prof Amy Fu and her research team
  • The Aerodynamics and Acoustics Facility – Prof Zhou Peng and his research team

The University of Hong Kong

  • State Key Laboratory of Synthetic Chemistry – Prof C M Che and his research team
  • Tam Wing Fan Innovation Wing – Dr Kit Chui and his research team

We look forward to taking more press and participating young scientists during the Forum in November to visit other scientific research facilities at local universities, with an aim of showcasing the latest scientific research projects in Hong Kong.

Cluster-Based Aircraft Fuel Estimation Model for Effective and Efficient Fuel Budgeting on New Routes

Abstract: Fuel burn accounts for up to 25% of an aircraft's total operating cost and has become one of the most important decision factors in the airline industry. Hence, prudent fuel estimation is essential for airlines to ensure smooth operation in the upcoming financial year. Challenges arise when airlines need to estimate the total fuel consumption of new sectors where data are not available. This necessitates the derivation of a robust parametric model that can represent the characteristics of the new route even in the absence of relevant data. To address this issue, we propose a two-step approach to derive a model that can accurately estimate the aircraft fuel needed. The developed approach involves both unsupervised learning and a regression model. For the unsupervised learning step, hierarchical density-based spatial clustering of applications with noise (HDBSCAN) is used to cluster the principal component analysis (PCA)-reduced data. This step can automatically separate flight sectors based on their underlying characteristics, as revealed by their principal components, upon filtering the noise in the data. Afterward, multivariate linear regression (MLR) is used to derive the equations for each cluster. The PCA-based clustered model is shown to be superior to using a global model for a single aircraft type. This approach yields fuel estimation with less than 5% root mean square error for existing routes within each cluster. More importantly, the proposed method can accurately estimate the total fuel of a new route with less than 2% aggregate error, thereby addressing one of the current limitations in the airline fuel estimation study.

1. Introduction

Aviation big data analytics has grown as an emerging research field in recent years. Data-driven models, or machine learning techniques, have become commonly used in various industries due to the advancement in data collection and storage, and the aviation industry is no exception. These techniques can help extract meaningful patterns and knowledge from any given set of data. The results of previous research in aviation with these techniques have been presented in air traffic management, aircraft accident investigation, abnormality in flight operation, aircraft performance in airlines, etc.

One aircraft performance concern in airlines is fuel burn since fuel cost accounts for 17-25% of an airline's total operating expenses. Having a reliable and accurate fuel estimation model is, therefore, imperative for airlines because fuel budgeting determines airlines' profitability in the following year. Fuel budgeting depends on the amount of fuel consumed and the expected fuel price. We understand that fuel price volatility is a crucial factor in fuel budgeting. However, fuel price prediction is out of this study's scope, and we assume the airlines have appropriate strategies and policies to tackle fuel price volatility. In this study, we focus on estimating the amount of fuel considered for fuel budgeting purposes, which we will refer to as fuel burn estimation hereafter. To minimise losses due to poor fuel planning, achieving a high level of accuracy in total fuel prediction is imperative.


Prof Rhea P. Liem, Assistant Professor, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
Mr Jefry Yanto, PhD Student, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

Dog's Nose in Your Everyday Devices: Next Generation Gas Sensors Enabled by Porous Materials Chemistry

A dog's nose is regarded as one of the most powerful sensors that exist. Trained canines are even able to detect various clinical conditions, such as spikes in blood sugar and cholesterol levels, by sniffing the affected person. For routine clinical examinations, we would need a more practical and cost-effective way to "sniff". For my PhD project, my research was centered on developing a new method of integrating a 'dog's nose'-like system in our everyday device, using a material called metal-organic frameworks.

The most commonly known electronic nose is the breathalyser. As drivers subjected to these tests breathe into the equipment, a sensor embedded onto the breathalyser measures the amount of alcohol in their system by correlating the concentration in their breath. The chemical interaction of the alcohol molecules and the active sensor material in the breathalyser is then transformed into an electronic signal, allowing the investigating officer to read off the result. Alcohol in our breath is relatively easy to detect because the chemistry is specific, and the alcohol concentration is fairly high (even without having an excess drink or two). But our breath is comprised of complex mixtures of gas molecules in very low concentrations. And fabricating state-of-the-art electronic noses to detect specific molecules at lower concentrations (ppm-level, about a drop of water in an Olympic-sized swimming pool) is a challenge. Fortunately, there is a solution for this limitation which is enabled by chemistry and materials science. Very sensitive electronic noses of the future can now be fabricated with a material called metal-organic frameworks (MOFs).


Dr Alexander John Cruz, Technology Integration Leader - Climate Technology Solutions, Baker Hughes

From Influenza to COVID-19: Is annual SARS-CoV-2 vaccination necessary?


After three years of living with masks and travel restrictions, most COVID-related restriction policies were lifted in March, 2023. While the mood of citizens in Hong Kong is boosted, there are rising number of COVID and influenza cases. Scientists round the globe have been surveilling the evolution of SARS-CoV-2 and there are reports of constant mutation of the virus, together with report of declining antibody level in the blood, one question, thus, was raised: Should we get annual SARS-CoV-2 vaccine booster?

Vaccination is a procedure which mimic natural infection with substances constructed from pathogens, which can be the original pathogen in less harmful state (inactivated), part of the pathogen (protein subunits), or novel platforms such as the mRNA vaccines. After natural infection or vaccination, our immune system develops memory cells which are specific to the pathogen and respond quickly when we encounter the same pathogen. A faster immune response can suppress the replication of pathogens and reduce the damage done to our body. Moreover, if the number of pathogens is suppressed, there is lower risk of transmission to others. Therefore, vaccination can reduce rate of infection and severity of illness caused by infectious disease.


Mr Khong Ka Wa
MBBS 6, the University of Hong Kong

Not One Less: Fencepost Errors


You have from 1 pm to 4 pm to work on homework assignments for subjects #1 to #4. If you complete one assignment per hour you should get them all done on time. Yes or no?

Now how about if you have from 1 May to 4 May to complete them? Can you get away with completing one assignment per day?

These kinds of problems lead to more questions. Why are hours and days counted differently? Where should we start counting from anyway? Applying what we learn in school is never as simple as it seems – even with something as simple as counting.

To set things straight, let's go back to preschool. We learned to count starting from one, two, three … and we also learned that this counting process lets us know how many things there are – pencils, houses, or days. To save time we can just let the labels do the counting for us: The days of the month in June are labelled 1 to 30, so there are 30 days.

When we get to subtraction, the teacher holds up six pencils and takes four of them away one by one to demonstrate that 6 – 4 = 2. Subtraction is an arithmetic operation, meaning an action ("operation") is applied to change the number of objects: In this case, the act of taking a pencil away. Now we are considering a slightly different concept, the span between two numbers. This isn't the same as the numbers themselves! Once we are introduced to the number line, we get to represent the subtraction 6 – 4 = 2 as four arrows bumping down from 6 to 2:

It's clear that this refers to the four "spans" between 2 and 6. But the operation actually "touches" five numbers: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.


Author: Peace Foo, Student Editor, Science Focus, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
Design: Samantha Ng, 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