- Scholarship in 2022 at Massachusetts Institute of Technology
About So Yee Cheung’s work
So Yee Cheung is an astrochemist studying polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in molecular clouds. Aromatic molecules and organic rings are of great interest in interstellar chemistry and terrestrial chemistry because of their biological significance. A significant portion of carbon is believed to be locked in Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) in space, but only in recent years are there aromatic species detected in the astrophysical environment.
It is proposed that these organic rings form from acyclic hydrocarbons. However, current chemical models are lacking complete pathways that reproduce the abundances of PAHs observed in molecular clouds.
Cheung is researching what aromatic molecules are present in prestellar sources, and how these PAHs are formed, through laboratory experiments, astronomical observations and astrochemical modelling. She is using reaction screening studies to assign unidentified lines in spectra of interstellar surveys, identify previously unknown PAHs of interest and measure high-resolution rotational spectra of molecules of interest. Based on the results from reaction screening, she will conduct astronomical observations to search for target PAHs in space. With the information from reaction screening studies and observations, astrochemical modelling will be useful for studying possible reaction pathways involving PAHs and to improve the agreement between observed and predicted abundances of PAHs.
So Yee Cheung is a PhD student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She earned a BSc, with a Major in Chemistry and a Minor in Astronomy, from the University of Hong Kong, with a year abroad at University of Cambridge. She has previously won the Innovation and Technology Scholarship, the Rayson Huang Scholarship in Chemistry, and Vacoas II Trust Scholarship, and was on the Dean's Honours List at HKU. She is a co-founder of the social start-up Vera Technology Company Ltd, which was supported by the Funding Scheme for Youth Entrepreneurship in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area.