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Bringing Innovation to Scientific Development

Bringing Innovation to Scientific Development

Cui Huanqing’s Story
Faculty of Engineering

Being an enthusiast in investigating living cells, Cui Huanqing, a third-year PhD student from the Faculty of Engineering, won the Third Prize in the category of Energy, Environmental and Chemical Engineering of The 8th Hong Kong University Student Innovation and Entrepreneurship Competition with his project named “Dynamic Assembly and Synergistic Control of Viscoelastic Networks and Biomolecular Condensates”.

Cui attended The 8th Hong Kong University Student Innovation and Entrepreneurship Competition Award Ceremony.

It is known that reproducing viscoelastic networks for modulating biomolecular condensates in synthetic systems remains an arduous task for scientists. To simplify the procedures, Cui proposed the innovation of using a new aqueous two-phase system (ATPs), which consists of poly(N-isopropylacrylamide) (PNIPAM) and dextran (DEX), to construct viscoelastic networks capable of being assembled and dissociated dynamically to regulate the self-assembly of condensates on-demand.

Photo showing the brief idea of Cui’s project

Cui’s project is impactful to the scientific development of biomolecules. “Our concept can potentially be applied to other macromolecules through other stimuli to develop materials with rich phase behaviour and hierarchical structures. This sheds light on developing advanced materials with cell-mimetic hierarchical structures that have the potential to regulate the liquid-liquid phase separation of biomolecules, thus control the self-assembly of biomolecular condensates on-demand”, he stated. He also hoped that the project would provide inspiration for the development of new strategies for the prevention and treatment of neurogenerative diseases.

Asking about his biggest reward throughout the competition, Cui highlighted its potent impact on his competence in thinking and communication skills. “It’s important to impress the judges and the audience with our novelty within a short period of time – that’s through a catchy Powerpoint slide”, Cui insisted. “With my experience in presentations, my summarization skills have been tremendously honed to achieve effective communication. Meanwhile, outlining the ideas in a precise manner has also further enhanced my cognitive skills.”

Cui having prepared materials for the presentation.

With his remarkable success in the competition, Cui didn’t forget to express his sincere gratitude to his supervisors and co-workers. “Their continuous encouragement and thoughtful discussions are undoubtedly influential for me to work on projects that make life-changing impacts on society.”

Written by:
Justin Lam
Year 3, Faculty of Arts
January 2023

Bringing Innovation to Scientific Development