The Faculty’s research landscape is diversified and inclusive, with three defined Interdisciplinary Strategic Research Clusters: Environment, Health, and Data. On basis of the solid foundation with individual domain expertise and the established collaboration network, the Faculty endeavors to expand the strategic collaboration in academia and with industry at both institutional and individual levels in an international context to work on interdisciplinary research projects/initiatives/schemes and deliver impactful and innovative outputs to advance technological breakthroughs and tackle worldwide grand challenges.
Not only does this research cluster align with the University’s Strategically Oriented Research Themes (SORTs) on the areas of “Smart Systems & Sustainable Society (S4) and “Future Innovative Technologies (FIT), it is also in line with one of the strategic research themes identified by the Research Grants Council for the long-term development of Hong Kong, namely, “Developing a Sustainable Environment”.
The cluster has earned a solid international reputation in water environmental engineering, with emphasis on water resource planning, system integration and life-cycle analysis, water and wastewater treatment as well as wastewater-based epidemiology and environmental health in the One-Health framework. Remarkable achievements have also been made by researchers in sustainable energy engineering, especially wireless power transfer, smart grid and electric vehicles as well as energy storage and conversion.
Researchers in this cluster have active and fruitful research collaborations with local and overseas universities. In particular, they have successfully obtained and led five theme-based research scheme projects to investigate frontier technologies for developing a sustainable environment, namely:
- Assess Antibiotic Resistome Flows from Pollution Hotspots to Environments and Explore the Control Strategies
- Enhanced Separation and Sludge Refinery for Wastewater Treatment - Solving the Nexus of Pollution Control and Resource Recovery in Mega Cities
- Wireless Power Transfer: The Next Stage
- Sustainable Power Delivery Structures for High Renewables
- Sustainable Lighting Technology: From Devices to Systems
Sustainable Urban Water Environment
Wireless Power Transfer System
Many human health challenges can be tackled by innovative engineering solutions. Our faculty members have been leading research and development in biomedical engineering, data and health, technologies and health, and environmental studies of health etc. We aim to accelerate scientific discovery and empower new generation of diagnosis and treatment of diseases, and to develop technologies for human health and infection control. Highlighted areas:
- Frontier Research in Biomechanics and Biotransport: We are at the frontiers in understanding the biomechanics of the functioning biological systems, at levels from organs, bones, cells, and cell organelles. We aim to achieve breakthrough in areas of drug delivery, disease detection and treatment. We develop innovative microfluidic devices for mimicking physiological conditions (e.g. eyes), and for screening and selection of compounds with therapeutic functions.
- Cutting-edge Biomedical Imaging Technologies: We are in the forefront of advanced MRI methodologies for the study of anatomy and functions in animal models of human diseases; ultrafast optical microscopy for large-scale cancer screening and 4D microscopy, deep-learning single-cell analysis; and novel ultrasound imaging techniques to investigate the kinematics, and function of soft tissues, with a current major focus on cardiovascular disease.
- Advanced Biomaterial and Tissue Engineering: We established leading expertise in the development of natural biomaterials and stem cell based technologies for tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. These integrative technologies have been found instrumental in a wide range of applications, including functional replacements for tissues (e.g. cartilage, bone, intervertebral disc), and 3D culture systems (e.g. stem cells and genetically engineered cells) for pharmaceutical applications.
- New-generation Computational Biomedicine: We develop new advanced computational methodologies and apply them in a wide variety of biomedical research and clinical applications. These applications include analysis of protein structure and function, synthetic biology, CRISPR-based genome engineering, high-throughput sequencing, understanding biophysical and biomechanical phenotypes of tissues and cells, deep learning of multi-faceted biological/clinical data for scientific discovery and disease diagnosis/prognosis.
- Environmental Studies of Infection: We explored the new mechanisms in disease transmission in environment and redefined transmission routes of respiratory infection including SARS, influenza, and COVID-19. We develop new technologies for infection control.
- Technologies for Health: We investigate wearable and environmental sensor technologies for health monitoring. We develop robotic, AI and cloud computing technologies for mobility support of the elderly and mobility-impaired persons. We also study various machine learning and AI methods (computer vision and natural language processing) for prediction, diagnosis and treatment assistance of geriatric diseases (e.g., Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease).
- Big Data and Health: We investigate how different sources of big data can be useful for giving insights about healthcare. We construct large knowledge graphs that describe relationship information about drugs, viruses, and genes, with the goal of finding drugs that can be useful for curing viruses such as COVID-19. We also develop data analytics systems and methodologies to investigate how train passenger traveling behaviours are affected during the pandemic, in order to give advice to policymakers on having a more balanced decision concerning traveling convenience and health safety.
The Data cluster in the HKU Engineering Faculty aligns itself with the University-level strategic research themes of “Smart Systems & Sustainable Society (S4) and “Future Innovative Technologies (FIT), and the university initiative on IDS (HKU Institute of Data Science). The cluster gathers researchers and research activities aiming at creating critical masses in the development of data science, artificial intelligence, large-scale systems, and its engineering applications. It is an open forum that facilitates interdisciplinary interactions, enables data sharing, motivates inter-department and external collaboration, and builds up synergy with other strategic research themes and clusters such as health, environment, new materials, smart systems, and social good. Some representative projects include:
- Big Data Systems and Algorithms.
This theme includes load imbalance of large-scale and massive-GPU training, security and privacy breaches of user data, and single-point failures of training and serving devices. Our research has led to high-impact research and external competitive awards (e.g., Croucher Innovation Award, SIGMOD Research Highlights Award, and commercial software transfers to global leading IT industries.
- Data Science for Social Good.
In many areas of social science (e.g., family care and gerontology), it has become increasingly important to extract insight from the huge amount of data collected (e.g., questionnaire surveys, behaviors of social workers and users in software systems and games). It is interesting to develop novel data analytics solutions, such as prediction, recommendation, AI, natural language processing, which can benefit policymakers, NGOs and frontline workers, as well as the community at large. This is also a promising and important theme to provide data and AI-driven services to support active, independent, quality of life for the elderly, including tailored mobility support, health monitoring, active living recommendation and tailored disease treatment according to individual health situations. We have conducted high-quality and high impact research projects with substantial funding from Innovation and Technology Fund (ITF) and Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust (HKJC), and awards from HKU Knowledge Exchange (Engineering) and Asia Smart App Awards Competition.
- Data and AI for environment and health.
We are interested in understanding the structure and function of genomes. The core strength of our research is in developing novel algorithms, computational systems and domain-specific databases for large-scale biological and medical data analysis. We are also interested to target at shortening the waiting time significantly through AI-assisted screening and diagnosis on cardiovascular diseases, scoliosis, and knee osteoarthritis. We have conducted high-quality research and obtained grants from Theme-based Research (TRS) and Innovation and Technology Fund (ITF).
- Industry 4.0 Big Data for Smart Systems Analytics.
In this theme, we would like to study enabling technologies for smart systems such as Physical Internet, Internet of Things (IoT), Cyber-physical Systems (CPS), Digital Twin, and Blockchain for data collection in smart manufacturing, LSCM, and construction. We also aim to develop data-driven methods for decision-making problems in complex systems and analytical modelling powered by big data (e.g., optimisation, high-dimensional statistics, stochastic modelling, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and systems simulation). We also investigate a Big Data Analytics framework using machine learning algorithms to explore the hidden patterns from collected heterogeneous data. We have obtained grants from Innovation and Technology Fund (ITF) and Partnership Research Programme (PRP) for conducting large-scale and high-impact projects.