Cognitive functions are orchestrated by neurons and glial cells in different regions of the brain, and represent one of the major issues in neurodegenerative diseases and brain disorders. Our School collaboratively investigates the molecular events that support cognitive functions, including the formation and retraction of synapses, dendrites and axons. We use zebrafish, Xenopus, rat, and mouse as genetic model organisms to investigate neurodevelopment, neuromuscular junction formation, physiological functions of neurons and glial cells, neuroinflammation, and pathological mechanisms that lead to neurodegeneration and neurocognitive disorders. We also assess the value of deep brain stimulation, neuroprotective effects from exercise and diet, and the potential utility of stem cells in neuroregeneration.

Supervisor(s) Research Interest

Dr RCC Chang

Neurodegeneration; Neuroimmunology; Alzheimer's disease; Parkinson's disease dementia; Microglia; Neuroprotection; Post-operative cognitive dysfunctions

Dr MCH Cheung

Neural development; Modelling neurological diseases and melanoma 

Dr ML Fung

Hypoxia physiology

Dr R Hervas Millan

Functional protein aggregation; Functional amyloids; Electron-cryo microscopy; Memory persistence; Cellular memory

Professor JD Huang

Synthetic biology; Vaccines for infectious diseases and cancers; Biological pattern formation

Professor MSY Huen

DNA repair; Genome stability; DNA damage responses; Cell cycle checkpoint control

Dr R Jauch

Protein design and stem cell engineering; Directed molecular evolution in mammalian cells

Dr CSW Lai

Two-photon in vivo imaging; Learning and memory; Synaptic plasticity 

Dr CW Lee

Extracellular matrix remodelling in synapse development and disease 

Dr LW Lim

Behavioural, cellular and molecular neuroscience; Neuromodulation in psychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders 

Dr YQ Song

Human genetics; Bioinformatics and functional genomics

Cell signalling defines the means via which cells sense and respond to internal and external cues, and is fundamental to cell proliferation and survival, cell-cell communication, and cell differentiation and organismal development. For instance, when cells detect changes in nutrient levels within its microenvironment a cascade of signalling events would ensue such that cell and tissue homeostasis can be maintained. One important focus of study within our School is cell signalling and how its alteration can lead to diseases including cancer. Members of our School are also researching on a wide variety of aspects of biology implicated in the origin and growth of cancer, including cancer stem cell and self-renewal, DNA replication and repair, metabolism, metastasis, cell cycle and immune escape.

Supervisor(s) Research Interest

Dr CP Chan

Molecular virology and innate immunity; Molecular biology and transcriptional regulation

Dr LWT Cheung

Cancer driver mutations; Cancer signalling; Drug sensitivity and resistance mechanisms

Dr MCH Cheung

Neural development; Modelling neurological diseases and melanoma

Dr YP Ching

Centrosome biogenesis; Rho signalling; Chromosome instability and cancer metastasis

Dr CYS Chung

Chemical biology; Proteomics; Mass spectrometry; Molecular imaging; Medicinal chemistry

Dr ML Fung

Hypoxia physiology

Dr B Gao

Cell signalling in development and disease; Genetic and molecular basis of skeletal disorders

Dr M He

Tissue development and regeneration; Mouse genetics and human organoids for disease modelling

Professor MSY Huen

DNA repair; Genome stability; DNA damage responses; Cell cycle checkpoint control

Dr A Javed

Multi-omics analysis of cancers and rare diseases; Computational biology

Professor DY Jin

Molecular virology and oncology

Dr SC Kwon

RNA biology and genome engineering

Professor PT Liu

Stem cells; Genetics and genomics; Developmental Biology; Haematopoiesis and immune cell functions; Cancer cell killers; Cell-based therapies

Dr SKY Ma

Cancer stem cells; Tumour microenvironment; Drug resistance; Targeted therapy; Liver cancer; Basic/translational cancer research

Dr CM Qian

Epigenetics and genome instability; Structural biology

Dr RR Sugimura

Organoids and stem cells; Cell engineering; Immunology; Cancer immunotherapy

Dr CM Tong

Cancer targeted therapy; Therapy resistance and cancer stemness

Dr ASL Wong

Genome editing; Protein engineering; Synthetic biology; Combinatorial genetics; Drug target discovery; Disease biology

Dr JWH Wong

Cancer genomics; Proteomics and bioinformatics

Dr CH Yu

Cell adhesion and cytoskeleton regulation; Podosome and invadopodium; Mechanobiology; Phosphatidylinositol signalling; Fluorescence microscopy

Professor ZJ Zhou

Stem cell self-renewal and differentiation in development; Aging and cancer

Technological advances in genomics, proteomics, metabolomics, imaging, and access to a wide variety of digital health data in electronic health records, require a big data approach to scientific discovery and digital health innovation. Our School has expertise in developing and applying state-of-the-art statistical and computational methods to harness these big data to address a variety of biomedical problems. Key research areas include discovery of mutational signatures in cancer genomes, discovery of rare stem cell populations in cancers using single cell transcriptomic data, identification of causal mutations and the developmental origin of rare diseases, discovery of how altered gut microbiome can impact health, the use of metabolomics and proteomics technologies to identify novel disease biomarkers, and use of wearable devices, smartphones and artificial intelligence in modern digital healthcare.

Supervisor(s) Research Interest

Professor D Chan

Skeletal and matrix biology; Animal models of diseases; Stem cells and regeneration

Dr JWK Ho

Bioinformatics; Artificial intelligence; Medical big data; Digital health technology; Metagenomics; Single cell genomics

Dr YH Huang

Bioinformatics; Single-cell genomics; Statistical modelling

Dr A Javed

Multi-omics analysis of cancers and rare diseases; Computational biology

Professor PT Liu

Stem cells; Genetics and genomics; Developmental Biology; Haematopoiesis and immune cell functions; Cancer cell killers; Cell-based therapies

Dr YQ Song

Human genetics; Bioinformatics and functional genomics

Professor R Sun

Advance virology and immunology by integrating genomic, proteomic, structural, quantitative, and deep learning approaches

Dr JWH Wong

Cancer genomics; Proteomics and bioinformatics

Research in developmental biology provides invaluable insights into the molecular events that underlie the diverse cellular changes as tissues and organs are formed during embryogenesis. However, as tissues and organs are formed from a single totipotent stem cell, namely the fertilized zygote, that undergoes well-defined cell divisions and progressive lineage differentiation to specific cell types in the body, it is tightly linked to stem cell biology. Further, it also links to the study of rare diseases where mutations in specific genes can result in developmental defects. Thus, this research area of the School in stem cell biology, developmental biology and functional genetics work hand in hand to resolve complex questions in understanding disease mechanisms, control of stem cell differentiation and cell function, with the opportunity to provide therapeutic interventions through drug discoveries and application of regenerative medicine. Specific areas of focus include musculoskeletal, neurological, metabolic, and ageing defects.

Supervisor(s) Research Interest

Professor D Chan

Skeletal and matrix biology; Animal models of diseases; Stem cells and regeneration

Dr MCH Cheung

Neural development; Modelling neurological diseases and melanoma 

Dr B Gao

Cell signalling in development and disease; Genetic and molecular basis of skeletal disorders 

Dr M He

Tissue development and regeneration; Mouse genetics and human organoids for disease modelling

Professor JD Huang

Synthetic biology; Vaccines for infectious diseases and cancers; Biological pattern formation 

Dr R Jauch

Protein and stem cell engineering 

Dr SC Kwon

RNA biology and genome engineering 

Dr HGS Ling

Metabolic reprogramming of T cells in chronic inflammatory diseases 

Professor PT Liu

Stem cells; Genetics and genomics; Developmental Biology; Haematopoiesis and immune cell functions; Cancer cell killers; Cell-based therapies 

Dr YQ Song

Human genetics; Bioinformatics and functional genomics 

Dr JSC Ti

Employing fluorescence and electron microscopy to dissect the function of microtubules and microtubule-associated proteins 

Dr KM Yao

Secreted PDZD2 as novel regulator of Hedgehog signalling; FOXM1 and regulation of stem cell function

Dr CH Yu

Cell biology of adhesion and cytoskeleton regulations; Fluorescence microscopy; Mechanobiology; Podosomes and cancer invadopodia

Professor ZJ Zhou

Stem cell self-renewal and differentiation in development; Aging and cancer

A transdisciplinary understanding of biomolecule function at the atomic level provides insights into the molecular biology underlying all of life and medicine. We are now moving from observations of the structure and dynamics of molecular complexes and machines (structural biology), towards perturbing these systems (chemical biology), through to re-engineering biomolecules by both rational design and evolution (synthetic biology). Our School has deep expertise in these areas - integrating structural biology with functional proteomics, nucleic acid evolution with translational technology, and artificial biological circuits with genome engineering. Such approaches are allowing new ways to better understand biology and medicine, and allow translational angles across therapeutics, diagnostics and bioengineering.

Supervisor(s) Research Interest

Dr CYS Chung

Chemical biology; Proteomics; Mass spectrometry; Molecular imaging; Medicinal chemistry 

Professor Q Hao

Structural biology; Synchrotron radiation methods; Epigenetic regulators 

Professor JD Huang

Synthetic biology; Vaccines for infectious diseases and cancers; Biological pattern formation 

Dr R Jauch

Protein and stem cell engineering 

Dr CM Qian

Epigenetics and genome instability; Structural biology 

Professor R Sun

Advance virology and development biology by integrating quantitative, structural, genomic, proteomic and immunological approaches 

Professor JA Tanner

Nucleic acid nanotechnology and chemical biology 

Dr ASL Wong

Genome editing; Protein engineering; Synthetic biology; Combinatorial genetics; Drug target discovery; Disease biology 

Dr JWH Wong

Cancer genomics; Proteomics and bioinformatics

Find Out More

Interested candidates are advised to email the relevant supervisor/contact point for more information on projects or research areas.  Please enclose with your email: (i) your CV, (ii) a brief description of your research interest and experience, and (iii) two reference letters (not required for HKUMed UG students seeking MRes[Med] or URIS projects)

Research postgraduate studies enquiries specific to the department/school’s research should be directed to the Departmental Research Postgraduate Advisor: Dr RCC Chang ( rccchang@hku.hk)

Information on the research programme, funding support and admission requirements could be found on the RPg Admissions website.

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