the University of California, Los Angeles
the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
Dr. Lai Kwok On received his Bachelor degree of Biochemistry from the University of Hong Kong. He then pursued postgraduate studies in Prof. Nancy Ip’s laboratory at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST). Using a combination of molecular, biochemical and cellular approaches, he studied the signal transduction mechanisms in the nervous system. With the award of the Croucher Foundation Fellowship in 2003, he performed postdoctoral research with Prof. Kelsey Martin at UCLA in the United States. Using different optical methods to image nerve cells (neurons) of both the sea slug Aplysia and rodent hippocampus, he focused on understanding how synapses communicate with the nucleus in neuron to regulate gene expression. This study, which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA (PNAS) in 2008 and was highlighted in Faculty of 1000 Biology, provides one of the first examples of synapse to nucleus protein trafficking in neuron during synaptic plasticity. This leads us to a better understanding of the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying long-term memory.
Dr. Lai is now an Assistant Professor in the School of Biomedical Sciences (Faculty of Medicine) at the University of Hong Kong. His research focuses on understanding the molecular and cellular basis of synapse development and plasticity in neurons. Specifically, he aims to unravel the signaling mechanisms by which neurons modulate synaptic connectivity in response to changes in neuronal activity, which is fundamental to our understanding of higher brain function, such as learning and memory, at the cellular level.