A rising star in the world of scientific research Dr Kathy Leng Kai, Assistant Professor of the Department of Applied Physics, has made significant strides particularly in the field of materials physics. Her recent string of prestigious awards, including the Croucher Innovation Award and the TR35 Award for Asia Pacific from MIT Technology Review, has solidified her position as a key figure in the scientific community.


Dr Leng graduated from Nankai University in 2014 with Master of Science in Materials Science and obtained her PhD degree in physical chemistry from the National University of Singapore in 2018. In the same year, she won a Chinese Government Award for Outstanding Self- Financed Student Abroad, followed by a Prof Lee Soo Ying Early Career Gold Award from the Singapore National Institute of Chemistry in 2020.


She pursued her postdoctoral studies at the University of Cambridge before joining PolyU in 2020. She was the recipient of an Early Career Award from the University Grants Committee of Hong Kong in 2022.


Dr Leng earned several prestigious research awards in the year 2023.


Awarding Institutions

Excellent Young Scientist Fund (Hong Kong and Macau) 2023

National Natural Science Foundation of China

Young Innovative Researcher Award 2023


“Innovators Under 35” (TR35) for Asia Pacific

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Review

Croucher Innovation Award

Croucher Foundation


Four research accolades in 2023

Dr Leng and her research team

Dr Leng and her research team

Dr Leng's journey to success has been marked by strong determination and motivation, qualities nurtured in the inclusive and stimulating environment at PolyU. She credits the University for providing her with the resources and support to follow her scientific curiosity and make a positive impact in the world.


“PolyU has been the breeding ground for much of my research,” Dr Leng expressed her gratitude to the University and her peers, “I have been empowered to pursue curiosity-driven projects with the advanced facilities, the close peer network within the Department and the University’s dynamism that allows young scholars to grow,” she said.

The importance of interdisciplinary approach

As a materials scientist, Dr Leng achieved precise fabrication of hybrid perovskite monolayers and discovered unique physics in these monolayers. She succeeded in fabricating the first perovskite monolayer photodetector that achieved superior photoelectric conversion efficiency compared to its bulk counterpart. Additionally, she realised the noninvasive atomic-level resolution imaging of 2D hybrid perovskites and established an accurate structure-property correlation. These groundbreaking achievements pave the way forward for 2D hybrid perovskites microelectronics and optoelectronics in the future.


Dr Leng explained that she had a habit of perusing academic papers during her time at the University of Cambridge, and recounted how a chance encounter with a relevant article sparked her interest in a new topic. She also drew inspiration from interactions with and the experiences of her peers.


"As scientists, we should not only focus on our own discipline, but should also communicate with and learn from other disciplines," she said, also highlighting the significance of determination and the ability to push forward in the journey of scientific research.


PolyU's commitment to nurturing young scientists and achieving substantial breakthroughs for the benefit of future generations has been exemplified by Dr Leng's remarkable achievements. Her story is both an inspiration for aspiring researchers and a reminder of the importance of determination and dedicated efforts in the pursuit of scientific discovery.


Dr Leng received the Croucher Innovation Award (right) and the TR35 Award for Asia Pacific from MIT Technology Review (left)Dr Leng received the Croucher Innovation Award (right) and the TR35 Award for Asia Pacific from MIT Technology Review (left)

Dr Leng received the Croucher Innovation Award from Croucher Foundation (right) and the TR35 Award for Asia Pacific from MIT Technology Review (left)