HKMU sets up MARS to further microalgae research in the Greater Bay Area and Southeast Asia

School of Science and Technology HKMU sets up MARS to further microalgae research in the Greater Bay Area and Southeast Asia

HKMU sets up MARS to further microalgae research in the Greater Bay Area and Southeast Asia

Date: 28 September 2023

Hong Kong Metropolitan University (HKMU) has a long and excellent track record in environmental science research, especially on harmful algal blooms (HABs) and beneficial applications of microalgae. To further microalgae research in the Greater Bay Area (GBA) and Southeast Asia, in 2022, the School of Science and Technology (S&T) of HKMU established the first open-access microalgae collection and research centre in Hong Kong: the Metropolitan Algal Repository and Supply (MARS).

Microalgae are single-celled photosynthetic organisms found in freshwater and marine environments. Although they average only five micrometres in size, they have a significant impact on the environment and on mankind. Prof. Fred Lee Wang-fat, Associate Dean of HKMU’s School of S&T and a researcher specialising in microalgae biology, pointed out that in recent years, many studies have found that microalgae have high application value. For example, they can be converted into biofuels and bioplastics. However, different microalgae species have different characteristics, and harmful algal blooms, for instance, can cause serious ecological damage and huge economic losses to the aquaculture and capture fisheries industries. “Therefore, the classification, identification and utilisation of microalgae are of great benefit to the environment, society and the economy,” he added.

To speed up the progress of related research, many countries in Europe and the United States have set up algal repositories in recent years. Dr Sidney Chan Man-ngai, Assistant Professor in HKMU’s School of S&T, said that Hong Kong also needs a platform to facilitate academic research in this field. Currently, MARS is the only open-access algal repository in Asia, apart from Japan. “With  Hong Kong’s natural advantage of being backed by the Motherland and interacting with the rest of the world, MARS can provide solid support for algal research in the GBA and Southeast Asia, and serve as a platform for exchanges with the rest of the world,” he elaborated.

The aim of the well-equipped MARS is to more effectively collect, conserve and utilise microalgae resources. Microalgae samples will be collected regularly from the coastal areas of Hong Kong and other parts of the GBA for analysis and identification in order to determine their species and characteristics. In addition, MARS will preserve the samples and document relevant information, such as species and their growth condition, in the database to facilitate future research to further explore the diversity of, and applications for, microalgae.

MARS will also organise workshops, seminars and training to enhance the knowledge and awareness of local teachers, students and academics on the microalgae ecology to promote knowledge exchange and cooperation, advance the development of microalgae research, and share the latest research findings with the public. It will also set up an online platform to disseminate microalgae-related information and research achievements, as well as to provide distribution and deposition services of algal strains, to provide easier access of microalgae samples to researchers and relevant organisations.

Prof. Fred Li said he hopes that MARS will lay a solid foundation for microalgae research at HKMU and elsewhere in Hong Kong. Looking forward, MARS will continue to undertake advanced research and contribute to the study of environmental science both locally and globally.

Leveraging HKMU’s strengths in microalgae study, a research team from the School of S&T will initiate a study on “Oxidative activity of mangrove leaf phenolics and their inhibition and physiology of harmful algal species, and the underlying molecular mechanism”, to explore new directions in the prevention and control of harmful algal blooms. The project recently received funding of over HK$1 million from the Research Grants Council under the “Competitive Research Funding Schemes for the Local Self-financing Degree Sector”.

Jonathan Chiu
Marketing Director
3DP Technology Limited

Jonathan handles all external affairs include business development, patents write up and public relations. He is frequently interviewed by media and is considered a pioneer in 3D printing products.

Krutz Cheuk
Biomedical Engineer
Hong Kong Sanatorium & Hospital

After graduating from OUHK, Krutz obtained an M.Sc. in Engineering Management from CityU. He is now completing his second master degree, M.Sc. in Biomedical Engineering, at CUHK. Krutz has a wide range of working experience. He has been with Siemens, VTech, and PCCW.

Hugo Leung
Software and Hardware Engineer
Innovation Team Company Limited

Hugo Leung Wai-yin, who graduated from his four-year programme in 2015, won the Best Paper Award for his ‘intelligent pill-dispenser’ design at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineering’s International Conference on Consumer Electronics – China 2015.

The pill-dispenser alerts patients via sound and LED flashes to pre-set dosage and time intervals. Unlike units currently on the market, Hugo’s design connects to any mobile phone globally. In explaining how it works, he said: ‘There are three layers in the portable pillbox. The lowest level is a controller with various devices which can be connected to mobile phones in remote locations. Patients are alerted by a sound alarm and flashes. Should they fail to follow their prescribed regime, data can be sent via SMS to relatives and friends for follow up.’ The pill-dispenser has four medicine slots, plus a back-up with a LED alert, topped by a 500ml water bottle. It took Hugo three months of research and coding to complete his design, but he feels it was worth all his time and effort.

Hugo’s public examination results were disappointing and he was at a loss about his future before enrolling at the OUHK, which he now realizes was a major turning point in his life. He is grateful for the OUHK’s learning environment, its industry links and the positive guidance and encouragement from his teachers. The University is now exploring the commercial potential of his design with a pharmaceutical company. He hopes that this will benefit the elderly and chronically ill, as well as the society at large.

Soon after completing his studies, Hugo joined an automation technology company as an assistant engineer. He is responsible for the design and development of automation devices. The target is to minimize human labor and increase the quality of products. He is developing products which are used in various sections, including healthcare, manufacturing and consumer electronics.

Course Code Title Credits
  COMP S321F Advanced Database and Data Warehousing 5
  COMP S333F Advanced Programming and AI Algorithms 5
  COMP S351F Software Project Management 5
  COMP S362F Concurrent and Network Programming 5
  COMP S363F Distributed Systems and Parallel Computing 5
  COMP S382F Data Mining and Analytics 5
  COMP S390F Creative Programming for Games 5
  COMP S492F Machine Learning 5
  ELEC S305F Computer Networking 5
  ELEC S348F IOT Security 5
  ELEC S371F Digital Forensics 5
  ELEC S431F Blockchain Technologies 5
  ELEC S425F Computer and Network Security 5
 Course CodeTitleCredits
 ELEC S201FBasic Electronics5
 IT S290FHuman Computer Interaction & User Experience Design5
 STAT S251FStatistical Data Analysis5
 Course CodeTitleCredits
 COMPS333FAdvanced Programming and AI Algorithms5
 COMPS362FConcurrent and Network Programming5
 COMPS363FDistributed Systems and Parallel Computing5
 COMPS380FWeb Applications: Design and Development5
 COMPS381FServer-side Technologies and Cloud Computing5
 COMPS382FData Mining and Analytics5
 COMPS390FCreative Programming for Games5
 COMPS413FApplication Design and Development for Mobile Devices5
 COMPS492FMachine Learning5
 ELECS305FComputer Networking5
 ELECS363FAdvanced Computer Design5
 ELECS425FComputer and Network Security5