TRS/HSSPFS: Project Information from the PCs/PIs

Theme-based Research Scheme (TRS) Second Round – Funded Projects with HKU as the Co-ordinating Institution


Functional Analyses of How Genomic Variation Affects Personal Risk for Degenerative Skeletal Disorders

Project Co-ordinator: Professor Kathy Cheah, Department of Biochemistry

“Genetic risk factors contribute significantly to susceptibility to develop intervertebral disc disease (IDD), yet only a few of them have been found,” Professor Cheah said. “The challenges are to define how genetic variation contributes to the risk, onset, severity and progression of the disease. Long-term applications include the prediction of total personal risk for IDD that will improve prevention and disease management, as well as the design of improved cell-based therapies to protect healthy discs from degeneration and retard or reverse the degenerative process.”


Sustainable Lighting Technology: From Devices to Systems

Project Co-ordinator: Professor Ron Hui, Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering

“We propose a new ‘Sustainable Technology’ concept for LED (light emitting diode) lighting, which is different from the conventional ‘Energy Star’ concept that focuses on energy-saving only,” Professor Hui said. “Energy-saving is not necessarily environmentally-friendly if the product lifetime is short and a lot of electronic waste is generated within a few years. By extending the lifetime and using recyclable materials, we hope the new technology could drastically reduce the amount of electronic waste arising from lighting systems, which consume about 20% of global electricity.”


Enhancing Hong Kong’s Future as a Leading International Financial Centre

Project Co-ordinator: Professor Douglas Arner, Department of Law

“Our project is to provide independent academic analysis of Hong Kong’s role as an international financial centre, both to enhance competitiveness and reduce the risk of crisis,” Professor Arner said. In terms of the significance of collaborative thematic research, Professor Arner commented, “For some issues, any single discipline is too narrow to provide a full understanding and analysis. For this project, it is a true team effort involving internationally recognised experts from economics, finance, geography, law and politics.”


Prestigious Fellowship Scheme under the Humanities and Social Sciences Panel (HSSPFS) – Funded Projects of HKU


Social Inequalities amidst the Global Agenda of Education for All (EFA): Local, Regional and Global Implications of Private Supplementary Tutoring

Principal Investigator: Professor Mark Bray, UNESCO Chair Professor in Comparative Education from the Faculty of Education

This project builds on the UNESCO global EFA agenda and focuses on shadow education – fee-paying supplementary tutoring that mimics the regular school system. “Shadow education has far-reaching economic, social and educational implications such as exacerbating social inequalities between prosperous and low-income families and causing a backwash on regular schooling,” Professor Bray said. “During the Fellowship, I shall work with UNESCO and other partners to identify more clearly the scale and nature of shadow education in a range of societies and to examine the policy implications.”


A Market under the Veil: The Micropolitics of Social Ties and Money in Hospital Care in China

Principal Investigator: Professor Cheris Chan, Department of Sociology

This project examines the use of interpersonal relationships (guanxi) and informal payments by red packets (hongbao) to gain access to quality healthcare at public hospitals in China. Professor Chan explained, “It builds on my earlier work on the relation between guanxi and money in Chinese society. The larger concern of the project is to integrate cultural sociology and symbolic interactionism with social network analysis so as to advance economic sociology analysis of market behavior.”


Wavelet Analysis on the Time-series of Climate Change and Social Crises in History

Principal Investigator: Professor David Zhang, Department of Geography

“Our research seeks to find out the relationship between climate change and social disasters in the past, which would provide consolidated evidence to the study of current climate impact and lessons to our modern society,” Professor Zhang said. “We will use a new and powerful tool called wavelet analysis to find out the details of the cyclic patterns embedded in the climate-crises relationship. This tool has not been used in any analysis of social parameters before.”


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