Nature Chemistry | The Sceptical Chymist

Reactions – Ken Cham-Fai Leung

Ken Cham-Fai Leung is with the Center of Novel Functional Molecules, Department of Chemistry at the Chinese University of Hong Kong but in transit to The Institute of Creativity and Department of Chemistry at the Hong Kong Baptist University. He works on nanoparticle research and supramolecular chemistry targeted for biomedical applications.

1. What made you want to be a chemist?

I always amazed by the beauty of naturally occurred, complex molecules that possess specific functions. My curiosities drive me to understand their total synthesis and how modifications of these molecules alter their functions, trying to be acquainted with the origin of life too.

2. If you weren’t a chemist and could do any other job, what would it be – and why?

I would like to be a chef in hotel or restaurant. I think there are some similarities between experimental chemistry and cooking, and molecular gastronomy has been coined recently with many creativities. I wish to taste and characterize my own experimental products, e.g. healthier desserts, that I made up in the kitchen by tasting. It is a pleasure to share with my friends (who love eating!) if they taste good.

3. What are you working on now, and where do you hope it will lead?

I am now working on the developments of inorganic/organic hybrid nanomaterials for magnetic resonance imaging, fluorescent imaging, and controlled drug delivery. I hope that my students are interested and well trained in this field, then contribute to society.

4. Which historical figure would you most like to have dinner with – and why?

I would like to have dinner with Antonie van Leeuwenhoek who used the microscope to discover microorganisms. I would like to share his experience and feelings on seeing such novel microscopic world at that time. I also wish to let him know that now we have electron microscope for observing the nano- and atomic world as well.

5. When was the last time you did an experiment in the lab – and what was it?

I measured contact angles of nanomaterial on surface and synthesized core/shell nanoparticles with different functional molecules about a week ago. I like performing experiments and optimizing them.

6. If exiled on a desert island, what one book and one music album would you take with you?

It is quite difficult to choose only one book and one music album. I have too many favorites. In this case, I will take The Bible and Bon Jovi’s Crossroad, which can cheer me up and so I will try to turn a desert into an oasis.

7. Which chemist would you like to see interviewed on Reactions – and why?

I wish to see Professor David Leigh, who has been doing some interesting and creative chemistries at the University of Edinburgh, interviewed on Reactions with all these good questions.


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