The Department of Microbiology organized four knowledge exchange sessions for secondary school students during September 2016 – April 2017. The activities were held on 24th September 2016, 8th October 2016 (2 sessions) and 8th April 2017 by Dr Raven Kok, Dr Jade Teng, Dr Philip Yeung and Dr Jasper Chan, respectively. A total of 93 secondary school students and 5 teachers attended the four activities. Each session began with a 30 minutes seminar, titled “Coronavirus discovery in Hong Kong”, which introduced the discovery of coronavirus in Hong Kong (presentation can be downloaded here). The students were then led on a guided laboratory tour by our research staff and postgraduate students, to view and learn about our facilities and equipment such as the BSL-3 laboratory, animal rooms, and PCR and sequencing machines, followed by a 30 minutes researcher-student interactive discussion on recent advanced research platforms and technology.

The main aims of the knowledge exchange programme were:
1. To introduce to secondary school students the diversity of coronaviruses discovered by our team in HKU and the methods of coronavirus discovery.
2. To show secondary school students the state-of-the-art equipment and procedures of coronavirus discovery in HKU.
3. To arouse the interests of secondary school students on scientific research and impress them on its importance for Hong Kong, China and the world.

The general feedback from the participants was very positive with many inspired to further pursue on the topic of coronavirus research. The students were also impressed by the laboratory visit and many were keen to have some more hands-on experience if similar activities were held again in the future. Overall, the KE activities allowed the students to gain a better understanding of virus discovery and the equipment that is utilized to achieve the discovery. Moreover, the activities were successful in arousing the interest of the students particularly in inspiring them to consider the broader picture of disease control from virus discovery to infectious disease control worldwide.