Four CityU scholars awarded in China's Excellent Young Scientists Fund 2022


The distinguished research capabilities of young scholars at City University of Hong Kong (CityU) are widely recognized. The National Natural Science Foundation of China recently announced the results of the Excellent Young Scientists Fund (Hong Kong and Macau) for 2022. Four young scholars at CityU were awarded. Each of them will receive a research grant of RMB 2 million to directly conduct innovative research in Hong Kong for a period of three years.

Developing new approaches to investigate the dynamics of RNA G-quadruplex

Dr Kwok Chun Kit
Dr Kwok Chun Kit
Associate Professor, Department of Chemistry, CityU

Dr Kwok Chun-kit, Associate Professor in the Department of Chemistry, was awarded for a project titled “RNA G-quadruplex structures: transcriptomics and gene regulation”.

Growing evidence indicates that RNA folds into diverse secondary and tertiary structures to perform myriad functions. Notably, RNA G-quadruplex (rG4) structures have been shown to play a regulatory role in almost every biochemical process, many of which are associated with human diseases. Extensive research and reports on the prevalence, formation and functions of rG4 structures in recent years have made rG4 biology a field of fervent interest worldwide.

Dr Kwok Chun Kit
Dr Kwok Chun Kit (front row, centre) and his research team.

Dr Kwok has wide-ranging knowledge and techniques in chemistry, biology and bioinformatics, and is dedicated to research on the mapping, characterizing, and targeting of functional rG4 structures. He has developed multiple novel RNA structure mapping methods to interrogate rG4 folding. The data offer unique insights into the formation and role of rG4s in humans, mice, plants and bacteria. He also applied unnatural L-RNA aptamer to target functional rG4 for the first time and inhibited rG4-protein interactions. In this project, Dr Kwok will develop a new, universal approach to investigate the dynamics of rG4 folding in cells to decipher the underlying biochemical mechanism using rG4-targeting L-RNA aptamers.

Dr Kwok said that the preliminary data of the project were promising, and that the outcomes would advance our understanding of rG4 transcriptomics and biology. 

 Solving the control problems of multi-agent systems

Dr Liu Lu
Dr Liu Lu
Associate Professor, Department of Biomedical Engineering, CityU

Dr Liu Lu, Associate Professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, was awarded for a project titled “Distributed control of multi-agent systems”.

This project aims to intensively study critical problems in the control of both single nonlinear systems and multi-agent systems. The research team will first propose a framework integrating the adaptive control approach and the robust control approach to solve the global output regulation problem of single nonlinear systems under realistic conditions. In cases in which the exosystem contains uncertainties, and/or the control direction is unknown, the global stabilisation and output regulation problems will be solved for typical classes of uncertain nonlinear systems.

Dr Liu Lu
Dr Liu Lu (3rd from right) and her research team. (Photo credit: Dr Liu Lu)

New event-triggered distributed control strategies will be established to overcome difficulties in the cooperative control of multi-agent systems with constrained communication resources or time-delaying and time-varying network topologies.

The team will also develop effective distributed algorithms to solve the formation control problems of mobile robots with respect to static and moving targets.

Developing a special metal for high-performance heat-resistant structural materials

Dr Yang Tao
Dr Yang Tao
Assistant Professor, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, CityU

Dr Yang Tao, Assistant Professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, was awarded funding for a project titled “Multicomponent intermetallic compounds and their high-temperature applications”.

The aim of the project is to design and synthesize a special metal with a chemically complex ordered superlattice for fabricating novel high-performance heat-resistant structural materials and components, based on the research of Dr Yang and his team. The successful implementation of the project is expected to solve crucial fundamental science problems in highly sophisticated areas, such as the aerospace and energy industries, and to play a key role in achieving breakthroughs in some related core technologies.

Dr Yang Tao
Dr Yang Tao (front row, centre) and his research team. (Photo credit: Dr Yang Tao)


Dr Yang focuses on the innovative design and development of advanced, high-performance structural alloys and associated manufacturing technologies. He has accomplished several significant academic achievements in cutting-edge fields, like intermetallic compounds, nanoparticle-strengthened high-entropy alloys, and 3D atom probe tomography. These include the synchronous improvement of room-temperature strength and ductility in newly designed precipitation-strengthened alloys with the help of high-density coherent precipitation of "multicomponent intermetallic nanoparticles". This revealed the intrinsic alloying effects and micro-deformation mechanism, overcoming the technical bottleneck in conventional precipitation strengthened alloy development.

Dr Yang has also leveraged a conceptual alloy design of "interfacial nanoscale disordering”. Through the controlled induction of ”multi-element co-segregation” and the formation of ”grain-boundary disordered nanolayers”, the longstanding critical issues of “room-temperature intergranular brittle fracture” and “high-temperature grain growth” of high-strength bulk intermetallic compounds have been solved, providing new opportunities to develop novel, high-temperature structural alloys with high-strength, high-ductility and high-thermal stability.

Preparation and applications research on two-dimensional materials

Dr Ly Thuc Hue
Dr Ly Thuc Hue
Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry, CityU

Dr Ly Thuc Hue, Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry, was awarded for a project titled “Interface and structure-property relationships in two-dimensional materials”.

Dr Ly has been working on two-dimensional (2D) materials over the years and has completed various research studies on the preparation, characterization and applications of 2D materials. 2D materials with atomic-level thickness have many extraordinary properties which are highly attractive for the development of future electronic equipment. Wafer-level manufacturing using 2D materials can reduce the size and enhance the speed and performance of electronic devices, thereby expanding the functions of future electronic equipment.

Dr Ly Thuc Hue
Dr Ly Thuc Hue (front row, centre) and her research team. (Photo credit: Dr Ly Thuc Hue)


In their previous research, Dr Ly and her team developed novel methods of controlling the growth, modification and properties of 2D materials. They have also developed an in-depth understanding of the defects in 2D materials and the linkage between interfaces and electrical transport properties. The team has also mastered high-quality 2D material large-area transfer technology. With the support of the Excellent Young Scientists Fund, Dr Ly will continue to focus on the preparation, assembly and characterization of 2D materials and 2D material interfaces to support the development of a new generation of electronic and optoelectronic devices.

The Excellent Young Scientists Fund under the National Natural Science Foundation of China aims to support young scholars with achievements in basic research to conduct innovative research in areas of their own choice and foster outstanding talent to reach the frontiers of international science. Since 2019, young male scientists under the age of 38 and female scientists under the age of 40 at supporting institutions in Hong Kong and Macau have been eligible to apply for the fund, which grants 25 awards in Hong Kong and Macau every year.

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