Following the success of our knowledge exchange sessions last year, the Department of Microbiology organized four more knowledge exchange sessions for secondary school students during November 2017 – May 2018. The activities were held on 11th November 2017 (2 sessions), 27th January 2018 and 19th May 2018 by Dr Jade Teng, Dr Philip Yeung Dr Raven Kok, and Dr Jasper Chan, respectively. A total of 108 secondary school students and 4 teachers attended the four activities. Each session included a 30 minutes seminar, titled “Learn it the HKU way: Early diagnosis of Middle East respiratory syndrome”, which introduced the Middle East respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus (MERS-CoV) and the rapid method for the early diagnosis of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) developed by our team in HKU (presentation can be downloaded here), followed by a guided laboratory tour of facilities and equipments such as the BSL-3 laboratory, animal rooms, and PCR and sequencing machines, and 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 MERS-CoV and the rapid method for the early diagnosis of MERS developed by our team in HKU.

2. To show secondary school students the state-of-the-art equipment and procedures of coronavirus diagnosis 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 and many students commented that the presentations increased the knowledge on MERS-CoV and their diagnostic methods, especially on the research of the SARS and MERS epidemic and its impact on our health. The students were also impressed by the laboratory visit, the simple hands-on experience of using laboratory equipment, and the demonstration of the rapid test for virus detection. The students particularly enjoyed the interactive sessions which allowed them to ask questions and understand more of the research and medical field. Overall, the KE activities allowed the students to associate the importance of scientific research with the health of Hong Kong and the world, and the students expressed their interest in the topic by raising questions about the SARS and MERS epidemic during the interactive discussion, two important case studies of coronavirus infection which had significant impact locally and internationally.