Hong Kong Astrobiology

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Astrobiology Associates at HKU

Dr. Li, Yi-Liang Associate Professor

I am interested in Astrobiology, which concerns the origin, evolution and the future of life on Earth and elsewhere. On the timeline of 13.7-billion-year evolution of the Universe, Earth is the only known planet that has a 4-billion-year record of life. My recent research projects are focused on mineral records of the important evolutionary transitions of life in Precambrian: I. The earliest interactions between the proto-atmosphere and the ultramafic rocky crust; II. The high-resolution morphology of the earliest sedimentary rocks from Isua, Greenland; III. The mineral ecophysiology of the early oxygenic photosynthesis; IV. The phosphatization mechanism of the early proto-metazoan.


  • EASC2126/2407
    Mineralogy and geochemistry/Mineralogy
  • EASC4403
    Biogeochemical cycle
  • EASC4911               Earth system: contemporary issues
  • CCST9043              Time's Arrow
  • GEOS7004
    Earth science and environmental management

Selected Publications

  1. Li J., Chan L.S., Li Y.L. (2015) The blueberry (iron nodule) from the Shark Bay area, Western Australia and its implication to the genetic environments of iron nodules on Mars. Science China - Earth Sciences, in press.
  2. Lv K.P., Norman L., Li Y.L. (2015) Gallionella could not produce multi-wall carbon nanotubes or nanofibers. Geomicrobiology Journal, accepted.
  3. Xu J., Zhu S.Y., Luo Y.T., Li Y.L. (2015) Uranium mineralization and its radioactive decay-induced carbonization in a black shale-hosted polymetallic sulfide ore layer, southwest China. Economic Geology, 110, 1643-1652.
  4. Hao X.L., Li Y.L. (2015) Hexagonal plate-like magnetite nanocrystals produced in komatiite-H2O-CO2 reaction system at 450°C. International Journal of Astrobiology, 14, 547-553.
  5. Sun S., Konhauser K.O., Kappler A, Li Y.L. (2015) Primary hematite in Neoarchean to Paleoproterozoic oceans. GSA Bulletin, 127, 850-861.
  6. Xu J., Li Y.L. (2015) An SEM study of microfossils in the black shale of the Lower Cambrian Niutitang Formation, Southwest China: implications for the polymetallic sulfide mineralization. Ore Geology Reviews, 65, 811-820.
  7. Tang M., Ehreiser A., Li Y.L. (2014) What lurks in the martian rocks and soil? Investigations of sulfates, phosphates, and perchlorates. Gypsum in modern Kamchatka volcanic hot springs and the Lower Cambrian black shale: applied to the microbial-mediated precipitation of sulfates on Mars. American Mineralogist, 99, 2126-2137.
  8. Sun S., Chan L.S., Li Y.L. (2014) What lurks in the martian rocks and soil? Investigations of sulfates, phosphates, and perchlorates. Flower-like apatite recording microbial processes through deep geological time and its implication to the search for mineral records of life on Mars. American Minealogist, 99, 2116-2125.
  9. Li J., Li Y.L. (2014) Simulation of the impacts of diagenesis or low-grade metamorphism on neutrophilic microaerobic Fe(II)-oxidizing biofilm. Science China - Earth Sciences, 57, 1021-1029.
  10. Li Y.L. (2014) Micro- and nanobands in late Archean and Palaeoproterozoic banded iron formations as possible mineral records of annual and diurnal deposits. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 391, 160-170.
  11. Li Y.L., Konhauser K.O., Kappler A, Hao X.L. (2013). The Diagenetic and Metamorphic Alteration of Biogenic Magnetite: Implications for Precambrian Banded Iron Formation. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 361, 229-237.
  12. Li Y.L., Cole D.R., Konhauser K.O., Chan L.S. (2013) Quartz nanocrystals in the 2.48 Ga Dales Gorge banded iron formation of Hamersley, Western Australia: evidence for a change from submarine to subaerial volcanism at the end of the Archean. American Mineralogist, 98, 582-587.
  13. Li Y.L., Sun S., Chan L.S. (2013) Phosphogenesis in the 2460 and 2728 million-year-old banded iron formations as evidence for biological cycling of phosphate in the early biosphere. Ecology and Evolution, 3, 115-125.
  14. Li Y.L. (2012) Hexagonal platelet-like magnetite as biosignature of thermophilic iron-reducing bacteria and its application to the exploration of the modern deep, hot biosphere and the emergence of iron-reducing bacteria in the Precambrian banded iron formation. Astrobiology, 12, 1100-1108.
  15. Li Y.L., Konhauser K.O., Cole D.R. Phelps, T.J. (2011) Mineral ecophysiological evidences of microbial activity in 2480 million years old banded iron formation. Geology, 39, 707-710.
  16. Li Y.L. Pfiffner S.M., Dyar M.D., Konhauser K., Vali H., Cole D.R., Phelps T.J. (2009) Degeneration of biogenic superparamagnetic magnetite. Geobiology, 7, 25-34.
Dr. Norman, Lucy Helen Postdoctoral Fellow

After completing a BSc (Hons) in Palaeobiology and Evolution at Portsmouth University (UK) and an MSc in Geoscience at University College London (UK) my interests turned to astrobiology. My self-proposed PhD research at University College London (UK) was supported by an Origins scholarship and focused on self-assembled reverse vesicles in hydrocarbon solvent. These reverse vesicles were studied as analogues for potential compartmentalisation mechanisms for putative hydrocarbon-based (rather than water-based) biota inhabiting Titan’s alkane lakes. This included the use of dynamic light scattering (DLS), small angle neutron and X-ray scattering (SANS and SAXS), transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and fluorescence confocal microscopy. I am currently working on astrobiological research with Dr YiLiang Li at HKU which includes studying some of the earliest metazoan fossils. My research interests include: the origins of life and multicellularity; the habitability of icy worlds and environments; theoretical, experimental and simulation research concerning the plausibility of non-water based biota; the self-assembly of micellar structures; and planetary science – specifically focused on Titan.

Selected Publications

  1. Science goals and mission concept for the future exploration of Titan and Enceladus (2014) G. Tobie, N. A. Teanby, A. Coustenis, R. Jaumann, F. Raulin, J. Schmidt, N. Carrasco, A. Coates, D. Cordier, R. De Kok, W. D. Geppert, J.-P. Lebreton, A. Lefevre, T. A. Livengood, K. E. Mandt, F. Nimmo, C. A. Nixon, L. Norman, R. T. Pappalardo, F. Postberg, S. Rodriguez, D. Schulze-Makuch, J. M. Soderblom, A. Solomonidou, K. Stephan, E. R. Stofan, E. P. Turtle, R. J. Wagner, R. A. West, and J. H. Westlake. Planetary and Space Science, 104, pp. 59-77.
  2. Joint exploration of Titan and Enceladus - Astrobiological potential of Titan and Enceladus (2013) White paper for ESA’s Cosmic Vision 2015-2025. F. Raulin with contributions of text from: G. Tobie, N. Teanby, D. Schulze-Makuch, J. Schmidt, L. Norman, R. Jaumann and A. Coustenis.
  3. Is there life on... Titan? (2011) L. Norman and A.D. Fortes. Astronomy & Geophysics, 52(1) pp. 39-42.
  4. Astrobiological Research Priorities for Titan (2009) White paper for the NASA Planetary Science Decadal Survey. M. Allen with contributions of text from: L. Norman, C. Nixon, C. Neish, J. Lunine, R. Lorenz, K. Kalogerakis, M. Gudipati, J. Friedson, A. Coates, C. Anderson.
Prof. Kwok, Sun Chair Professor

Prof. Kwok's research is mainly on interstellar chemistry and stellar evolution. He is widely recognized for his theory on the origin of planetary nebulae, which has transformed our understanding of the death of Sun-like stars. His more recent accomplishments include the discovery of proto-planetary nebulae, the missing link in our understanding of the late stages of stellar evolution, and the discovery of the unidentified emission feature at 21 microns, which is believed to be an unusual carbonaceous compound. Using space-based infrared telescopes, he has found that organic compounds with aromatic and aliphatic structures can be synthesized rapidly in the late stages of stellar evolution. These star-manufactured compounds are now known to have spread widely throughout the Galaxy and are believed to have played a role in the chemical enrichment of the early solar system.

Prof. Kwok has been a guest observer on most of the leading space and ground-based telescopes, including the Hubble Space Telescope, Infrared Space Observatory, the Gemini Observatories, Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope, United Kingdom Infrared Telescope, and the Very Large Array. More details of current research programs can be found here.

Prof. Kwok has lectured extensively around the world. He has given colloquia at universities and research institutes, lectures at symposia and conferences, and talks to the general public in over 20 countries.

Prof. Kwok has published over 300 articles in professional journals and popular magazines. He has two books published by Cambridge University Press: The Origin and Evolution of Planetary Nebulae in 2000 and Cosmic Butterflies in 2001. His book Physics and Chemistry of the Interstellar Medium (University Science Books, 2007) is used as textbook in many leading universities in the world. His most recent books are Organic Matter in the Universe (Wiley 2011) and Stardust: The Cosmic Seeds of Life (Springer 2013).


  • CCST9012
    Our Place in the Universe

Selected Publications

  1. Our Place in the Universe (2014) Kwok, S. Amazon.com
  2. Stardust: The Cosmic Seeds of Life (2013). Kwok, S. Springer, ISBN 978-3-642-32801-5.
Dr. Saz Parkinson, Pablo Miguel Assistant Professor

I currently hold a joint appointment as a research scientist at the Santa Cruz Institute for Particle Physics (SCIPP) and a research assistant professor in the Physics Department at the University of Hong Kong. I am a member of the Fermi LAT collaboration. I am also a member of the Milagro and HAWC collaborations. My research interests cover a broad range of topics in high-energy astrophysics, including pulsar astrophysics, gamma-ray bursts, and X-ray binaries. You can read about some of my work in the UC Santa Cruz News/Events page.

Selected Publications

  1. X-ray observations and the search for Fermi-LAT γ-ray pulsars (2014) Saz Parkinson, P. M.; Belfiore, A.; Caraveo, P.; De Luca, A.; Marelli, M.; Fermi-LAT Collaboration. Astronomische Nachrichten, 335(3), pp. 291-295.
Dr. Frew, David J Assistant Professor

Emission-line Surveys: Taxonomy of emission-line stars, Symbiotic stars, Cataclysmic variables

Planetary Nebulae: Multi-wavelength classification techniques; Distance scales; Population studies; Central stars; Role of binary interactions; Nebular spectroscopy/abundances

Astronomy Education: Space To Grow ARC-linkage Research Project

History of Astronomy: Ancient star catalogues; Historical light-curve of η Carinae; Archaeoastronomy; Australian Aboriginal Astronomy

Selected Publications

  1. Planetary Nebulae: Observational Properties, Mimics and Diagnostics (2010) Frew, David J.; Parker, Quentin A. Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia, 27(2), pp. 129-148.
Dr. Bojicic, Ivan Research Fellow

Selected Publications

  1. Multifrequency study of the Large Magellanic Cloud supernova remnant (SNR) B0513− 692 and new SNR candidate J051327− 6911 (2007) IS Bojičić, MD Filipović, QA Parker, JL Payne, PA Jones, W Reid, A Kawamura, Y Fukui. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 378(4), pp. 1237-1247.
  2. Radio planetary nebulae in the Magellanic Clouds (2009) MD Filipović, M Cohen, WA Reid, JL Payne, QA Parker, EJ Crawford, IS Bojičić, AY De Horta, A Hughes, J Dickel, F Stootman. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 399(2), pp. 769-777.

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