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Viva Voce

Lam Hon-ming's Long Romance with Legumes

Prof. Lam Hon-ming


How severe is food shortage?

According to a UN report, the number of undernourished people worldwide rose to 815 million in 2016 (520 m in Asia; 243 m in Africa), accounting for 11% of the world’s population. In other words, one in nine had starved while one died of hunger every few seconds.

What’s the challenge of teaching in the new GE course ‘Grand Challenges for Global Citizens in the 21st Century’?

My topic is ‘Hunger and Sustainable Agriculture’. No one can stay away from the effects of a widespread crop failure. Scientists are responsible for developing new technologies to increase crop yield and quality. Besides not wasting food, ordinary citizens have to work together to keep the balance between food supply and sustainable development with the application of the technologies.

Are you satisfied with the recognitions you received for your soybean research?

The credit goes to every one in the research team. It’s certainly encouraging to have received such recognitions, but it’s not the ultimate goal of research. I want to get to the bottom of things and contribute my little part to the betterment of civilization and human livelihood.

How do you view the next stage of your teaching and research?

I hope to nurture the next generation of researchers through teaching and to inspire more related research through my work with the aim of improving the human lot. We might not be as well endowed in research funding as our mainland counterparts. But Hong Kong is an international city, and CUHK has set up a close network with overseas research institutions. We have an edge in forefront, innovative and bold research.

You are also active in social media. Why?

The University is a good platform for me to know researchers from all corners of the world, as well as visiting villages and doing fieldworks around the world. In addition to my roles as teacher and hostel warden, I also take part in secondary school curriculum development and the promotion of STEM education. I hope I can share all these experiences in the social media to impart a positive attitude so as to encourage the students to broaden their horizons and be more considerate and develop rational thinking. Some of the students will not usually raise anything with me but they would check out my Facebook.

How do you view the ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes’ left by netizens?

The spirit of science is the attainment of truth via logical thinking. This is the same for debate. I don’t mind disagreements at all and would welcome facts and points of view. One must always remain rational and objective, and should be neither angered nor vexed by the trolls.

You’ve been practising kung fu (Choy Lee Fu) for years. Anything in common between kung fu and your work?

The purpose of joining the New Asia Chinese Kung Fu Society with my daughter is twofold: to work out and relieve stress, and to have a father-daughter time regularly. I had a tough start more than 15 years ago, but I also realized the importance of persistence. The object of pursuit is not perfection but overcoming challenges and continuous improvement. This also applies to work.


This article was originally published in No. 524, Newsletter in Oct 2018.

Lam Hon-ming soybean research director School of Life Sciences Molecular Biotechnology Programme State Key Laboratory of Agrobiotechnology Centre for Genomic Studies on Plant-Environment Interaction Areas of Excellence general education kung fu