走科学之路 · 筑健康生命——第六弹
香港中文大学（深圳）生命与健康科学学院（School of Life and Health Sciences, 简称LHS）于2018年11月14日正式成立，是港中大（深圳）继经管学院、理工学院、人文社科学院之后建立的第四所具有从本科至研究生培养体系的学院。
01. What is your learning experience?
I learned chemistry at the Department of Industrial Chemistry of Kyoto University, admiring Prof. Kenichi Fukui (1981 Nobel Laureate), who was a renowned theoretical chemist and had previously studied and taught in the same department. I later obtained my PhD degree in pharmaceutical sciences from The University of Tokyo. I also had the opportunity of working for a pharmaceutical company (Novartis). There I had the privilege of working with experimentalists (chemists, biologists, and pharmacologists) and learning a lot about how chemistry can be used to improve our everyday life. I did my postdoctoral studies at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Emory University, and Kyoto University, where I was influenced and inspired by the ways the supervisors looked at things and lived their lives. These experiences have made me interested more in both fundamental and practical aspects of chemistry.
02. What is your scientific research experience?
Ever since my undergraduate days for the final year project, I have long been engaged in computational chemistry research at various institutions including Novartis, Nanyang Technological University, and City University of Hong Kong. I have had so many chances to work with experimentalists along the way. In industry, I carried out computer-aided drug design to discover potent and selective inhibitors for cathepsin S, which is a cysteine protease and had been identified as a potential target for the treatment of neuropathic pain. When I was a postdoc, I mainly studied chemical reactions of enzymes and biomimetic metal-oxo complexes, and I also wrote quantum chemistry codes. Since getting an academic position, I have worked with group members on the development and application of computational chemistry methods for studying a wide range of systems including biological ones. I have also attempted GPGPU acceleration of our quantum chemistry code.
03. Can you introduce your research areas?
Broadly speaking, my research area is categorized as computational chemistry. More specifically, I am interested in computational and theoretical descriptions of chemical reactions and molecular interactions occurring in chemistry and biology. When I was a student, I studied rather small molecules, but my research targets have become more and more complex over the years. So today biological molecules such as enzymes are among the most important research targets of mine. Using computational chemistry, I try to understand chemical and biological events at the quantum mechanical level, and thereby derive design principles for obtaining molecules of practical significance such as drugs. While pursuing these interests, I also hope to pioneer new research fields with other people at CUHK(SZ).
04. Why did you choose to join CUHK(SZ)?
Most importantly, I was attracted by the academic environment of CUHK(SZ). I wanted to develop myself in this high-quality environment for education and research. Another important reason was the helpful atmosphere of the community. Soon after I had visited CUHK(SZ) in December 2019, the COVID-19 problem broke out, and then visa restrictions were imposed. I initially wondered if I could ever come to Shenzhen, even though I lived in the neighborhood (Hong Kong). However, through communication with the university people, I became increasingly aware of the helpful environment here, which made me inclined to work at CUHK(SZ). I deeply appreciate the help that I have already received so far.
05. Can you talk about your teaching philosophy?
One of my pedagogical goals is to let students understand how abstract concepts of computational/theoretical chemistry are linked to real-world problems. For that I draw upon my past experience working in industry; for example, I could work with synthetic chemists and biologists there, and I witnessed how computational chemistry techniques were applied to problems of practical importance like drug discovery. Indeed, this experience has already helped me a lot so far. As for the teaching in research activities, I am always happy when I see students creating their own scientific problem no matter how trivial or infeasible it might look to other people. While providing specific tasks and advice, I also encourage students to create and consider (if not solve) new questions.
06. What are your personal hobbies?
I used to play table tennis, but in recent years, most of the time I prefer to watch games rather than play myself. I know many outstanding Chinese table tennis players; in fact, this is one of the reasons I respect the Chinese culture!