Professor Vivian YAM - Philip Wong Wilson Wong Professor in Chemistry and Energy, The University of Hong Kong
The Innostars Award 2021 winner:
“Creativity comes from your inner self and your exposure to the world and beyond.”
Professor Vivian YAM
When Professor Vivian Yam was a child, she was full of curiosity about the wonders of science and nature. Her interest in science was aroused by a serendipitous encounter. Since then, she has embarked on a relentless journey to pursue her passion by conducting research in inorganic chemistry and photochemistry, ultimately paving her way to becoming one of the greatest Hong Kong scientists of all time.
Despite her shining achievements in school, Professor Yam did not choose a discipline that might promise a lucrative career. Instead, she followed her passion in chemistry. Aiming to solve pressing issues and make an impact through real-world application, she pioneered the development of new classes of luminescent metal complexes, particularly small-molecule evaporable and solution-processable gold(III) complexes that emit light, with higher performance and longer operational stability to support OLED technology. The innovative gold(III) complexes can exhibit electroluminescence, serving as energy-efficient OLED emitters to produce light of different colours. Such complexes are more affordable and energy-efficient than traditional lighting and display technology, thereby reducing global energy consumption and alleviate anthropogenic global warming and climate change.
Contentment Lies in the Process of Scientific Research
Professor Yam regards chemistry as a science of great creativity, from its ability to create new molecules to its understanding and manipulation, leading to construction of things that never exist on earth with new functional properties. She considers failure an essential part of scientific research, for it can lead to rewards that are bigger than one can imagine. “One can never underestimate the outcome of failed experiments as it may open a new door to the next level of science. It is a lifelong, self-learning process,” she explained.
Decades of dedication and hard work have earned Professor Yam national and global accolades. At the age of 38, she became the youngest member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. She was also recently elected as President of the International Organization for Chemical Sciences in Development (IOCD) at UNESCO to promote chemical sciences for sustainable development.
Making Hong Kong Brilliant and Bright
Although Professor Yam has become a person of great renown in the global chemistry community, she never lost sight of her humble beginning. As a home-grown scientist of Hong Kong, she eagerly wishes to contribute and give back to the place where she belongs. She has carried on teaching and disseminating knowledge, not only to convey the message that Hong Kong is an excellent place for basic science research and to build the city’s reputation on the international stage, but also to promote the importance of science to the general public.
“We are living in a world full of challenges, and no singular effort can lead to success. Science has no borders. We must work together in a collaborative and collegial environment to make the world a better place,” she remarked.