School of Public Health


Research Questions

  • How does a virus evolve and transmit in different hosts?
  • How do antimicrobial resistance genes in bacteria emerge and transmit in humans, animals and the environment?
  • Why do men have substantially shorter lives than women?
  • Why is it so difficult to find new ways of preventing major chronic diseases?
  • Why do cancer patients fail to adhere to global recommendations on physical activity and healthy diet?
  • What are the prevailing and emerging social and environmental determinants of mental health?
  • What have been the health, social, and economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic?
  • What policies should countries adopt to help them achieve Universal Health Coverage?
Researchers from the School of Public Health
Research Areas

1. Influenza and Other Infections of Public Health Significance

Hong Kong, a densely populated city, is an epicentre for pandemic influenza emergence. The city provides an ideal location to study influenza ecology, transmission, public health interventions, and other emerging viral pathogens, for example the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronavirus. Our integrated multidisciplinary research programme includes internationally recognised expertise supported by the best laboratory and field resources with a network of excellent international collaborations. Our research programme has six foci: 

  1. Ecology, evolution and the origin of pandemic and zoonotic influenza, MERS coronavirus and other important emerging viruses
  2. Efficient public health interventions for the control of influenza, MERS coronavirus and other emerging viruses
  3. Development and spread of antimicrobial resistance
  4. Influenza, MERS coronavirus and other emerging virus pathogenesis
  5. Modes of influenza virus transmission and transmission dynamics
  6. Infectious disease modelling
Supervisor(s) Research Interest

Professor R Bruzzone

Cell biology of host-pathogen interactions

Professor BJ Cowling

Epidemiology and transmission dynamics

Professor K Fukuda
Epidemiology and public health

Professor Y Guan

Ecology, evolution, transmission and pathogenesis

Professor GM Leung

Epidemiology and public health

Professor JSM Peiris

Influenza virus, MERS coronavirus, pathogenesis, transmission, ecology sero epidemiology and control

Professor LLM Poon

Virology, pathogenesis and diagnostics

Professor JTK Wu

Epidemiology, modelling and transmission dynamics

Dr MCW Chan

Virus-host interaction and pathogenesis

Dr V Dhanasekaran

Ecology, evolution, epidemiology and microbial genomics

Dr K Grépin

Policy response to control infectious disease outbreaks

Dr KPY Hui
Risk assessment, pathogenesis and novel therapeutics

Dr DKM Ip

Epidemiology, surveillance, and control of infectious diseases

Dr TTY Lam

Ecology, evolution, epidemiology and bioinformatics

Dr KSM Leung
Infectious disease epidemiology, modeling, and health economics

Dr HM Tun

Microbiome, multi-omics and systems microbiology, AMR in One Health

Dr P Wu

Infectious disease epidemiology and AMR

Dr HL Yen

Pathogenesis and transmission

Dr MHC Zhu

Ecology, evolution, pathogenesis and transmission

  

2. Non-Communicable Diseases in Global Health

South East Asia, and Hong Kong specifically, provides a contextually specific setting from which to gain a better understanding of non-communicable chronic diseases in global health. Disease patterns in Hong Kong challenge prevailing wisdom about traditional cardiovascular and diabetes disease risk factors. As the most developed, westernized and over-crowded city of China, Hong Kong provides golden opportunities for trials of preventive interventions on both communicable and non-communicable diseases. Hong Kong is a sentinel for China and other South East Asian populations currently experiencing rapid economic development and globalisation. Our research programme has fourteen foci:

  1. Advanced epidemiology and statistical research methods
  2. Causes of and interventions for non-communicable diseases prevention and treatment
  3. Social determinants of health
  4. Inter- and intra-generational effects on health
  5. Evaluation of population level screening policies
  6. Identification of new interventions to prevent non-communicable diseases
  7. Application of evolutionary biology to inform public health interventions
  8. Non-communicable disease impact on local and regional health service utilisation and health policy
  9. Physical activity and health
  10. Skill learning and expert performance
  11. Psycho-oncology
  12. Bioinformatics and cancer biostatistics
  13. Risk communication, risk perception and public health
  14. Approaches to health care delivery for patients with chronic illnesses
Supervisor(s) Research Interest

Professor TH Lam

Lifestyle and lifecourse epidemiology, tobacco control and community health interventions

Professor GM Leung

Health policy, lifestyle and life course epidemiology

Dr RSL Au Yeung

Lifestyle and lifecourse epidemiology, and Mendelian randomization

Dr K Grépin

Health services research, comparative health systems and health financing

Dr DSY Ho

Adolescent health

Dr YW Kim

Physical activity epidemiology and measurement

Dr MMK Kwok

Lifestyle and lifecourse epidemiology and social epidemiology

Dr WWT Lam

Behavioural health and psycho-oncology

Dr JQY Liao

Risk communication, public risk perception and behavioural decision-making

Dr D Montero

Integrative physiology and impact of lifestyle interventions

Dr MYX Ni

Lifestyle and lifecourse epidemiology and psychiatric epidemiology

Dr JC Quan

Health policy, economics and health care services

Dr CM Schooling

Lifestyle and lifecourse epidemiology

Dr PMF Siu

Exercise physiology and muscle biology

Dr LW Tian

Environmental epidemiology

Dr JJ Zhao

Lifestyle and lifecourse epidemiology and intervention

  

3. HKU-Pasteur Research Pole

The main research area at the HKU-Pasteur Research Pole is the cell biology of viral infections to understand the molecular mechanisms governing interactions between viruses and host cells in relationship to pathogenicity and transmission. The ten major research areas include:

  1. Virus-host cells interactions
  2. Mapping molecular determinants that enable transmission and replication of animal influenza viruses in humans
  3. Identification of molecular determinants of influenza virus pathogenesis
  4. Identification of host factors contributing to virus assembly and budding
  5. System biology of host responses to influenza infection
  6. Innate immunity viral infection
  7. Adaptive – T and B cell – immunity to influenza in humans
  8. Novel vaccines and immune correlates of protection for influenza
  9. Development and spread of antimicrobial resistance (AMR)
  10. Microbiome in health and disease
Supervisor(s) Research Interest

Professor R Bruzzone

Cell biology of host-pathogen interactions

Dr V Dhanasekaran

Ecology, evolution, epidemiology and microbial genomics

Dr HM Tun

Microbiome, multi-omics and systems microbiology, AMR in One Health

Dr SA Valkenburg
Viral immunology and vaccines
Next Step?

For more information or to express interest to join the research areas, please email the supervisor or the specified contact point in the description. Interested candidates are advised to enclose with your email:

  1. your CV,
  2. a brief description of your research interest and experience, and
  3. two reference letters (not required for HKUMed UG students seeking MRes[Med]/URIS projects).

Research postgraduate studies enquiries specific to the department/school’s research should be directed to the Chairman of the Departmental Research Postgraduate Committee:

Professor BJ Cowling
bcowling@hku.hk

Information on the research programme, funding support and admission documentations could be referenced online at the Research Postgraduate Admissions website.

General admission enquiries should be directed to rpgmed@hku.hk.

Our Students

Brian WORTHINGTON

Place of Origin: USA
Progress: PhD Year 4
Supervisor: Dr MHC Zhu

“I've always been fascinated by animals. I grew up in a pretty rural area of New York State, living five minutes away from a zoo where I used to volunteer, so it’s a pretty full-circle feeling to now be researching outbreaks of infectious diseases at the human-livestock-wildlife interface.”

For Brian Worthington, a Year 4 PhD student, the biological diversity offered in the country parks and natural areas surrounding this concrete jungle has presented him many opportunities rarely found elsewhere.

"This opportunity opened a lot of doors in pursing my goal to study the inter-connections among humans, animals and their shared environment…I was able to work closely with veterinarians, ecologists, and conservationists at the human-wildlife interface which has been essential in helping me form appropriate research questions in conservation contexts."

November 2020

FONG Min Whui

Place of Origin: Malaysia
Progress: PhD Year 3
Supervisor: Professor BJ Cowling

“For research postgraduates, we would often write scientific reports for academia, but it's also important to communicate scientific ideas to the public effectively.”

Fong Min Whui, a second-year MPhil student, acknowledges that accurate information is our first line of defense in times of a pandemic; faced with the #COVID19 outbreak, the School of Public Health was tasked with bridging the world of academia with the general public.

"There were a lot of information going around…from the media and social media. We thought we can help to channel accurate information, or streamline information that we think are accurate, and then distribute it via our school webpage."

Whether it is to be in academia or policy-related works, Min Whui hopes to bring forward those transferable skills to the next step in her Public Health journey. "The knowledge exchange and teaching experience…I think it's very helpful for my professional growth as a whole.”

June 2020

Jason YIN

Place of Origin: USA
Progress: PhD Year 2
Supervisor: Professor GM Leung

"Why is there so much... misinformation and fear?"

This is the question that Jason Yin, a first year PhD student at the School of Public Health, is trying to answer when he decided to jump on the “COVID19 train” after shifting his research focus following the outbreak.

"In the era of so much information, it's hard to make sense of it all. It's hard to make sense of it, in terms of the quantity, you just can't process it. The accuracy, you don't know if it's correct." The myriad of interesting cases prompted Jason to "look at how attention paid to a topic, and/or reporting amount/ media bias can track and frame pandemics and thereby impact both policies and resulting sentiments of publics."

Jason hopes that his contribution could help someone later down the line, emphasising that he's more of a vessel or tool to get this important work out there, “I don't really have a big platform, right? But I think it's responsible for those with a platform to use it for good […] you have the job to put information out there that is as objective as possible to counter this misinformation.”

May 2020

Pavithra DAULAGALA

Place of Origin: Sri Lanka
Progress: PhD Year 3
Supervisor: Professor JSM Peiris

“I want to contribute to a better vaccine approach against the influenza virus; a vaccine that would be long-lasting and more broadly protective… I certainly hope I’m contributing to that direction”.

Speaking on her aspirations as a postgraduate student, Pavithra Daulagala a second year PhD candidate in virology from Sri Lanka, cites her supervisor Prof Malik Peiris as a huge source of inspiration and motivation, “He is very well-known for his work on the influenza virus, and someone I’ve looked up to my entire postgraduate career”.

With a research focus on mapping mutations of the surface proteins of human flu viruses and understanding conserved sites for designing vaccines, her work has become all the more relevant with the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. “*Even though the postgraduate students in our team aren’t directly involved in the COVID19, the students have assisted the surveillance work or other research involving COVID-19 when required”*.

“It’s been very interesting being a part of a team that’s dedicated to working on coronavirus…you recognise the importance of the surveillance work after seeing how the pandemic has progressed around the world, and has definitely affected how I approach my current work”.

May 2020