Faculty of Science, The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) - LUI Leif (Physics, Year 3)

Faces of CUHK Science

Civility, Compassion, and Change for Good: RHYTHM AND LAWS - Leif LUI

LUI Leif

(Physics Year 3)  

Group photo of ITC Scholarship 2022 Recipients

 CUHK Physics student LUI Leif (fourth from left) received Innovation and Technology Scholarship 2022.


Did you know that in 2021-22 alone, Science Faculty students received over HK$13 million in scholarships? Among the scholarships, a few stand out in particular for their extremely competitive nature, and the Innovation and Technology Scholarship, organised by The Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups with the joint sponsorship and support of the Innovation and Technology Commission and HSBC, is truly a prestigious scholarship. With an aim of nurturing and encouraging outstanding science undergraduates in Hong Kong, the Scholarship has been acknowledging promising young talent since 2011, and the Science Faculty at The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK Science), has been proud to be home to a great number of these scholarship recipients.

One of the 2022 Scholarship recipients is Leif LUI, currently Year 3 student in Physics. Receiving the Scholarship is a testament of his outstanding academic achievements and immense potential, and with the support from the Scholarship, Leif will soon embark on a new journey to enrich his study of physics to study abroad at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in the United States in the spring of 2023 to take graduate courses and also enjoy some public lectures.


A Rhythm to Discover the Laws of Nature

Leif has a keen interest in gravitational wave and black hole physics, but the exact route of how he honed in on this field was a rather winding route, but as Leif explained, it was all for the better to have had a thorough exploration of his interests than to have jumped hastily into a conclusion.

From a young age, Leif had always had an affinity for science, which began with entomology, the study of insects. His appetite for knowledge grew with age, and he began to delve deeper into the pure sciences. By his high school years, his late grandpa, who was a chemical engineer, sparked Leif’s interest in chemistry. At that point, one of his friends was really into physics, and encouraged Leif to explore the subject in greater depth.

However, Leif actually hesitated at this suggestion at first, because he felt insecure about his mathematical abilities. However, he came to realise and appreciate “the purity of the subject”, and appreciated the beauty of things in that natural phenomena, though seemingly random and unrelated, could actually be traced back to some laws and principles governing them, a sort of predictive ability behind the natural order of things.


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Leif appreciates "the purity of the subject" in Physics.


Thus began his fascination with physics, and it did take Leif some time to really hone-in on his key research topics of gravitational wave and black hole physics. His exploration took him actually from his previous tertiary institution to CUHK Department of Physics via admission as an advanced standing student. During his course of exploration, he dabbled in various topics, such as condensed matter physics, solid state physics, cosmology, and particle physics. With a good idea of his own strengths and interest, he finally decided on a field that he thought he could devote himself to. What fascinated Leif about this field is that they complement each other, in that the study of black holes, though the use of telescopes such as the Event Horizon Telescope is immensely useful, gravitational wave physics could also provide another way to understand black holes in the universe. Leif explains this using an analogy of observing waves, “It's akin to imagine looking upon a swimmer or someone else making a water pattern far away from a source, and you look at the wave patterns. You can discern, from this wave pattern, this guy is swimming freestyle, or this guy is swimming backstroke, or oh, this guy is just struggling in the water, or something like that.” Through the studying and analysing of patterns or rhythms of gravitational waves, in essence, black holes and other previously unseen in the universe are now exposed.


Steadfast Progress towards Future Career

Leif took time and care to explore his way around the various topics of physics before finally deciding on black hole and gravitational wave physics, progressing at his own pace and rhythm. His interest in this topic has resulted in him pushing back his undergraduate graduation, but he has gained much more in terms of developing fruitful relationships with faculty members and experience working on various research projects and internships. One teacher who has left a particularly lasting impression on Leif, influencing him in his thinking, has been Prof. LI Guang Feng Tjonnie of the Department of Physics. Leif explains that as a young undergraduate, he had been admitted to CUHK with the mindset that the most important thing in school was to get the top grades. However, after meeting Professor Li, Leif slowly realised that grades were important, but the most crucial thing was to really learn something from his courses. Leif shared that in one of the classes he took from Professor Li, the final exam was not only written, but there was also an oral exam, which was Professor Li’s way of testing how thoroughly students really grasped the concepts taught in the course.

Professor Li has not only opened Leif’s mind to what it means to study in school, but he has also been supervising Leif’s research. His fascination with research has actually become his aspiration in life, in that Leif wishes to pursue a life in research and teaching as a professor at university.


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Leif appreciates the rigorous training he has received at CUHK thanks to his professors.


Building Bridges and Breaking Norms

Not only is Leif fascinated by boundless knowledge in the world of physics, he would like to get more people into the subject. To this end, he started his own YouTube channel named Relatively Awesome to share talks on topics of his interest, building a bridge between his research interests with the public to encourage more young people to study physics. Another bridge that he hopes to build is to encourage more women to study and develop their careers in science, especially physics. He says, “There is a very disproportionate ratio between males and females in physics. Professor Ching (referring to Professor CHING Shuk Chi Emily of the Department of Physics, CUHK) really did a great lecture on Women in Science (video 1, 2, 3), and I thought that was really inspiring to me. I thought that she's not only a great teacher, but also a great researcher, so I think that oh, there are people like this, so we should actually encourage these people…We should not discourage these people from pursuing a life in science, but we should actually encourage them and I believe that they have a lot to contribute.”


Leif LUI

Leif is keen on encouraging more people to participate in science.

As Leif has shown over the course of his studies, he may take time to find the answers to questions, but he will remain committed to his pursuits and continue making progress at his own rhythm. We wish him all the best in his exchange at Caltech, and hope that he will achieve all that he puts his heart and mind to.


December 2022


Text: Christine Ling  |  Editing: Cally PAK & Cindy SUNG