About the Hong Kong Laureate Forum

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

With a view to creating opportunities for more students to step outside the classroom and enter the world of science, the HKLF organised the third chapter of our new series of the "Prelude to the Inaugural Hong Kong Laureate Forum", "Exploring New Horizons 2023". The 12-session programme, which comprised of laboratory visits and dialogues, was arranged in collaboration, once again, with local scientists / research teams in Hong Kong for Hong Kong senior secondary students during February to March 2023. Over 300 participants took part in the event. Participating students and teachers were thrilled to be able to visit laboratories, be exposed to advanced equipment, observe scientists at work and exchange ideas with them, as well as learn about the latest development of scientific research in Hong Kong. The HKLF is grateful to the students and teachers for their participation. Also, our heartfelt gratitude to the local scientists / research teams for their continuous support to the HKLF. They include: Prof Chu Ming-chung, Choh-Ming Li Professor of Physics, Dr Patrick Tang, Assistant Professor of Department of Anatomical and Cellular Pathology, Prof Chow Hei Man, Assistant Professor of School of Life Sciences, all of The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Dr Carmen Wong, Associate Professor of Department of Pathology of The University of Hong Kong, Prof Tom Cheung, Associate Professor of Division of Life Science of The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Dr Sean Hon, Assistant Professor of Department of Mathematics of Hong Kong Baptist University, Dr Eric Sze, Associate Professor of School of Science and Technology of Hong Kong Metropolitan University, as well as the University of Hong Kong – Pasteur Research Pole and Centre for Immunology and Infection.

The "Geared Up Muster cum The HKLF Science Explorer Award Scheme 2022/23 Presentation Ceremony" was successfully held on 25 March. On the event day, Mrs Do Pang Wai Yee, Secretary General of the HKLF, encouraged awardees to continue their ardent pursuit of science and work hard to realise their dream. We are very honoured that 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, took time out from his busy schedule to attend the event. He shared his stories in the journey exploring science and encouraged students to keep the passion for what they are interested in. All participating students benefited greatly from his words of wisdom on finding one’s path. The participating Secondary 6 students also shared their own interests in science and how they overcame difficulties in their study. Prof Chu and Mr Lin Chun Pong, Chairman of Hong Kong Association of the Heads of Secondary Schools, presented award certificates to commend students who actively participated in the scheme and earned specified points. 43 and 37 students were given gold and silver award certificates respectively in recognition of their participation. Once again, congratulations to all the awardees! We truly hope that they can continue to equip themselves and embark on their scientific research journey.

With a successful conclusion of the "Prelude to the Inaugural Hong Kong Laureate Forum", the Inaugural Hong Kong Laureate Forum is beckoning! The following Shaw Laureates who have attended prelude events will also come to Hong Kong to join this world-class academic exchange event:
- Prof Jean-Michel Bismut, Shaw Laureate in Mathematical Sciences 2021
- Prof Roger D Blandford, Shaw Laureate in Astronomy 2020
- Prof Gero Miesenböck, Shaw Laureate in Life Science and Medicine 2020
- Prof Simon D M White, Shaw Laureate in Astronomy 2017
- Prof Steven A Balbus, Shaw Laureate in Astronomy 2013
- Prof Franz-Ulrich Hartl, Shaw Laureate in Life Science and Medicine 2012
More Shaw Laureates will attend the Forum to interact with about 200 young scientists from around the world and share their views, insights and aspirations in various scientific fields. Please stay tuned for the latest information!

In tandem with the pacy preparation of the Forum, we continue to explore opportunities for the young generation to interact with scientists. The HKLF will collaborate with The Hong Kong Academy for Gifted Education (HKAGE) for the first time and invite the Programme Steering Committee Advisor of HKLF, Prof Chu Ming-chung, Choh-Ming Li Professor of Physics of The Chinese University of Hong Kong, to attend the final presentation session of the Astronomy Course (Level IV): Cosmos - An Investigative Study (Phase 3) conducted by the HKAGE, which will be held on 15 April, as a guest. He will provide advice, on the research findings presented by the gifted students participating in the course, so as to inspire and encourage them. We will continue to cooperate with the HKAGE to arrange more science-related activities to provide more opportunities to members for exploration and exchange of ideas.

In addition, the online campaign "Science is Everywhere – Round 3" on getting to know the solar system was completed on 16 March and the result was announced on 27 March. Blaise Pascal once said, "When I consider the short duration of my life, swallowed up in the eternity before and after, the little space which I fill, and even can see, engulfed in the infinite immensity of spaces of which I am ignorant, and which know me not, I am frightened." The universe is vast, with many galaxies similar to the Milky Way in which the solar system is embedded, and Earth, is only one of the planets orbiting the Sun. Through this interesting game, the public can learn more about their own galaxy and further understand the planets in the solar system. This is the last round of "Science is Everywhere" and the HKLF would like to thank all participants for their support.

Stay tuned to our website, social media and the next newsletter for the latest information about the Forum and other events!

Population-Aware Sequential Flight Path Optimisation for Low-Noise and Low-Fuel Consumption Departure Trajectory

With the increase in air traffic over the past decades, the reduction of aircraft noise is one of the major challenges facing stakeholders. Flight operating conditions that decrease noise may possibly increase the fuel consumption of aircraft, which is an important factor in airline cost management. In this paper, we propose a methodology to support flight path planning with the aim of optimising both perceived noise and fuel consumption. We decompose an aircraft flight trajectory into surface and altitude paths to model relevant air transportation constraints. The shortest path for the surface projection is found using Dubins path method and an improved A* algorithm, which considers guide points according to the flight destination, runway angles, spatial separation of aircraft near the airport, population distribution, and steering motion. The altitude path is optimised for low-perceived noise and low-fuel consumption, which is determined by solving the longitudinal governing equations of motion of flight using the distance computed from this surface path. A modified nondominated sorting genetic algorithm II for discrete optimisation is developed to obtain Pareto fronts of the optimum altitude paths with reduced computational effort. The methodology is demonstrated by simulating flights departing from Hong Kong International Airport to two compulsory air- traffic-service reporting points. The results are then compared with Quick Access Recorder data and Standard Instrument Departure (SID) tracks. Although certain factors in air transportation that affect departure path planning, such as weather patterns and air traffic mix, are not considered in this method, the resulting surface path exhibits a close similarity with SID tracks. The resulting Pareto fronts of the altitude path exhibit reductions in fuel consumption and perceived noise levels. The trade-offs between fuel consumption and perceived noise levels are also discussed based on the relevant flight physics for the different routes.

I. Introduction

The rapid growth of air traffic and the increased aircraft noise as a consequence has led to adverse effects on residents living near airports, including sleep disturbance and stress-related health effects. This issue can be addressed either through aircraft design or air traffic management, among other approaches. For aircraft design, new airframes and engines can be designed to reduce the source noise of an aircraft. Since the 1980s, further noise reduction by changing the aircraft design has been very difficult to achieve without affecting operating costs. For air traffic management, the flight routes can be altered to reduce perceived noise, e.g., by increasing the climb rate after take-off. This approach is more "practical", but does not address the issue of reducing source noise and may potentially increase fuel consumption. The perceived noise and fuel consumption are dependent on changes in engine power settings and distance between the aircraft and the observer in a complex manner. Fuel consumption is an important factor directly related to airline revenues and is also proportional to air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Hence, it must be considered simultaneously with the perceived noise when optimising operating conditions during flight.

In practice, the departure paths around airports are guided by Standard Instrument Departure (SID) procedures. SID is the coded flight procedure from the point where the departure route begins to the first fix/facility/waypoint of the en-route phase, which varies across airports. The civil aviation authorities of each country design and publish SID in accordance with the design criteria specified in ICAO Doc. 8168, taking into account factors including, but not limited to, runway angles, terrain, obstacle avoidance, aircraft performance, airspace management, and environmental concerns. According to the Civil Aviation Department (CAD) in Hong Kong, the design procedure starts with a preliminary discussion with stakeholders, including the operators/pilots and air traffic controllers. The flyability of the preliminary tracks under different weather and loading scenarios is then tested in flight simulations and subsequently validated by actual flight tests before publication. Computational optimisation research to refine the process of departure path design with quantitative standards has been conducted by Zachary et al., Prats et al., Torres et al., Ho- Huu et al., Filippone et al., and Thomas and Hansman. These studies proposed multi-objective or multilevel departure path planning methodologies considering both fuel consumption and perceived noise level. However, to the best of our knowledge, these studies do not take into account the combined effect of guide points according to flight destinations (i.e., the compulsory Air Traffic Service [ATS] reporting points considered in this study), obstacle restrictions provided by the Aeronautical Information Publication (AIP), and population and topological information. Some of them do not compare their results against existing SID tracks or flight data either. To address these gaps, this paper presents a departure path planning methodology for low-noise and low-fuel consumption that simultaneously considers all of the above factors.


Prof Rhea P. Liem, Assistant Professor, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
Dr Dajung Kim, Postdoctoral Researcher, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
Associate Editor:
I Hwang

Blood-Based miRNA Tests: A Promising Tool for the Early Detection of Multiple Types of Cancer

Cancer is a major global health problem. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), there was an estimated 19.3 million new cancer cases and 10 million cancer-related deaths worldwide in 2020, representing an increase of 28% in the global cancer burden since 2010 (WHO, 2020).

One of the main challenges in cancer treatment is late diagnosis and its consequential negative impact on patient outcomes. According to the American Cancer Society, the 5-year survival rate for breast cancer is 90% when detected at an early stage, compared to 15% when detected at a late stage (American Cancer Society, n.d.).

Blood-based tests and other new screening methods have the potential to improve early detection of cancer, which could have a significant impact on patient outcomes. For example, a study published in the journal Science Translational Medicine in 2018 finds that a blood test that detects eight common cancer types with high accuracy has the potential to discover cancer at an early stage, up to four years before symptoms appear (Cohen et al., 2018).

Cancer biomarkers and their role in early detection

Cancer biomarkers, which is found to provide a way to identify cancer before symptoms appear (Smith, 2020), play a critical role in early cancer detection. The identification of these biomarkers has been made possible through advancements in genomics, transcriptomics, and proteomics. Cancer biomarkers can be found in various body fluids such as blood, urine or saliva, and their analysis can provide important information about the presence and stage of cancer.


Dr Clement Lim, Head of Medical Affairs (Early Detection), MiRXES

Haber Process: More Than Just Nitrogen and Ammonia

Have you ever doubted how the agricultural supply manages to feed the exponentially growing world population? One of the keys is to provide nitrogen, an essential nutrient for good yields, through the use of nitrogenous fertilizers. The question then becomes: Where does all that nitrogen come from?

Haber Process

The answer is the Haber process – it should ring a bell to some of you, especially those taking chemistry classes. To recap briefly, it was discovered by the German chemist Fritz Haber, who was later awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1918. Unlike its suboptimal predecessors, the Haber process was more energy-efficient and scalable in converting nitrogen into ammonia, which could be further processed into nitrogenous fertilizers like ammonium nitrate (NH4NO3) and urea ((NH2)2CO).

N2(g) + 3H2(g) ⇌ 2NH3(g)

Such an improvement can be attributed to the Le Chatelier’s principle (footnote 1), where chemists maximize yields by casting some magic on chemical equilibrium and kinetics – in industrial practice, the Haber process operates at both high temperature (around 450 ℃) and high pressure (around 200 atm) [2]. The above is only a general picture of the process, if not a tip of the iceberg (most probably you have seen it in textbooks!). Let’s dig deeper into the steps behind the short equation.


Lambert Leung, Student Editor, Science Focus, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

Green Comet


Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF), 30 Jan 2023

Discovered by the Zwicky Transient Facility in March 2022, this long period comet reached its closest position to Earth on 1 February, and will only pay its next visit to Earth after another 50,000 years. The green coma and tail were visible from Earth observing with a telescope. *The green colour comes from the fact that it contains diatomic carbon (C2) which is bright in green wavelengths of light.

*Source: National Geographic

Acknowledgement: Fishie Chung, The Chinese University of Hong Kong