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Leader of the Year 2015 -
Pioneer in Chemistry - Maintaining a Leading Position in the Field

Professor Vivian Yam

Professor Vivian Yam

任詠華BSc 1985; PhD 1988

Acknowledgement: Sing Tao Daily "Leader of the Year 2015" booklet.

Chinese version here.


Professor Vivian Yam, Chair Professor of the Department of Chemistry of the University of Hong Kong is an outstanding scientist born and raised in Hong Kong. Professor Yam’s research mainly focused on the development of luminescent materials. Her work has gained worldwide recognition and has resulted in numerous awards. In 2001, she was elected as a Member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences as the youngest member of the Academy. In 2012, she was elected as a Foreign Associate of the US National Academy of Sciences. In 2015, Professor Yam joined the Academy of Sciences of Hong Kong as the Founding Member of the Academy. She has also been elected as the Leader of the Year 2015 for Education / Professions /Technology & Innovation category.


Devotion to scientific research

Professor Yam is fully dedicated to scientific research. She works “from 7am to 8.30pm” almost every day at the university. She thanked her family for their support and understanding throughout these years so that she could immerse herself in her work without worries. She also thanked the postgraduate students, postdoctoral fellows and research personnel in her research group for their all-out efforts. Besides, she expressed her sincere gratitude to Professor Chi-ming Che, who is also a Chair Professor of the Department of Chemistry of HKU and was her PhD supervisor. Professor Che was also the recipient of the Leader of the Year for Education / Research category in 2007.


Last year, Professor Yam became one of the 27 founding members of the Academy of Sciences of Hong Kong, recognising her contribution to scientific research in Hong Kong. As a leading researcher as well as a scientist, Professor Yam would like to promote the importance of science, especially chemistry to the general public. She pointed out that the public had a misunderstanding of chemistry, often associating chemistry with some global problems, for instance, environmental pollution and synthetic substances that are harmful, etc. Professor Yam believed that it is through the interdisciplinary collaborative efforts amongst chemists and scientists in other fields that these issues could be solved. In fact, chemistry is closely related to our daily lives. It can benefit mankind in biomedicine, biology, materials, energy, and engineering science. Professor Yam’s research interests include inorganic chemistry, organometallic chemistry, supramolecular chemistry, photophysics and photochemistry. Through the control of intermolecular interactions, compounds with different molecular arrangement and alignment and optical properties can be achieved. In particular, Professor Yam is working on the employment of gold (III) compounds as phosphorescent materials for organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs). Various patents have already been filed by Professor Yam and her team regarding this research work. Professor Yam is currently seeking cooperation with the industry to transfer the technology into more energy efficient applications.

Professor Yam said that it is important for Hong Kong scientists to possess their own IP rights and patents. She believes that a well-developed society should be capable of cultivating and nurturing confident and successful scientists of its own.


To be inspired and to inspire

Professor Yam has devoted tremendous efforts to nurture young scientists. Despite her busy schedule and heavy involvement in various research activities, she is determined to teach five undergraduate courses with her colleagues every year, simply because she believes that education of the next generation is of crucial importance and she has the responsibility to pass on her knowledge, to inspire the next generation of scientists and to arouse her students’ interest in scientific research. Besides, she is very strict with her postgraduate students and is often critical about their work. She said students can only improve if they learn to be open to criticism and challenges, and they should never close themselves up. Professor Yam has high expectations of her students. She hopes that her postgraduate students are not only studying just for a degree, but also can open up a new research area that they can be proud of themselves when they graduate. “As a scientific researcher, we should be innovative and take the lead rather than just following the trend,” she said.

Focus and work hard. One should not mind too much about gains and losses but should continue to strive for excellence.

  • Professor Vivian Yam
  • Professor Vivian Yam
  • Professor Vivian Yam