Dr. Stephanie Kwai-Yee Ma


President, Chairman and Members of the Selection Committee, Fellow Awardees, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen!

Thank you for this wonderful honor. I feel tremendously delighted, humbled and honored to be selected as the recipient of the Ton Duc Thang University Scientific Prize – Rising Star Award. What a great feeling it is to get an award just for doing something that you love and feel most passionate about!

The road in science and research can sometimes be lonely and one can often easily get discouraged and lost. I feel very blessed to have been able to meet many people in my life who has shaped me to what I am today. I would definitely not be standing here without the support of these great people.

Firstly, my parents and my husband, who are here with me this morning, for their unfailing support, encouragement, sacrifices and tolerance of my many long nights and weekends in the lab. Despite growing up in a family with members who primarily work in the business sector, they have always been very supportive with my wish to pursue a career in science and have been with me through all the ups and downs in my personal and career life. In particular to my husband Terence, I would not be here if he wasn’t so accomplished in his own right. He inspires me without even knowing it, has been selfless in supporting what I do, and has filled me with optimism and humor every day. I am also thankful to my two great sisters Jacqueline and Grace. They are the few people that understands me best and that I know I can count on when I need honest advice.

I am grateful for my fantastic graduate and postdoctoral fellow mentors Prof. Xin-Yuan Guan and Dr. Kwok Wah Chan at the University of Hong Kong and Dr. Juergen Vielkind at the University of British Columbia, who have not only just served as great role models, but kept me curious and helped build my passion for cancer research. I would also like to acknowledge my University, the University of Hong Kong, in particular Prof. Andy Hor, Vice-President and Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research), who nominated and encouraged me to apply for this award.

I have been extremely fortunate to have great support from my University, where I am surrounded by many fantastic colleagues, including my remarkable group of research postgraduate students and postdoctoral researchers in my lab. Science isn’t done in isolation, and none of my achievements are mine alone, so I have to thank all my wonderful colleagues, collaborators and most importantly my team members in the lab, past and present, for their hard work, contribution and dedication.

This award is not representative of my own achievement, but really a reflection of the guidance and support I have received throughout my career and also the work of my lab. I am still at the very early stages of my career. This award will serve as an encouragement for our quest to understand how we can further exploit stemness as a cancer cell vulnerability, in hope to find more novel preventative and treatment strategies for liver cancer and various gastrointestinal cancer types.

I hope that our work will translate to the clinic and one day make a difference to the lives of the many people facing the challenges associated with cancer around the world.

Thank you again. The honor is truly mine.