HKUST Scholar Prof. DAI Xi Wins Tan Kah Kee Science Award and Highest Honor of State Natural Science Award

Prof. DAI Xi, Dr William M W Mong Professorship in Nanoscience and Chair Professor of Physics at The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), received the Tan Kah Kee Science Award in Mathematics & Physics today (June 25) for his achievements in topological electronic states. This comes a day after he and his research collaborators were recognized with the State Natural Science Award (First Class) by President XI Jinping for the same groundbreaking discoveries, which have opened up new avenues of innovations in condensed matter physics and material science.

Prof. Dai is the second Hong Kong scholar to be presented the Tan Kah Kee Science Award, and the third Hong Kong scholar for the State Natural Science Award (First Class). Prof Dai earned both accolades with his research collaborators – Prof. FANG Zhong and Prof. WENG Hongming, director and researcher from the Institute of Physics (IOP) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) respectively.

The State Natural Science Award (SNSA) is China’s most prestigious honor in the field of natural science, aiming to recognize academic excellence in basic and applied research. Due to the rigorous selection criteria of this top first-class award, it had been left vacant multiple times in the past. The project that Prof. Dai participated in was the only awardee of the top honor this year.

Meanwhile, the biennial Tan Kah Kee Science Award honors prominent Chinese scientists who have made outstanding achievements in mathematics, physics, chemistry, life sciences, earth sciences, information technology sciences, and technological sciences. Each winner will receive a certificate and a gold medal, together with a RMB 1 million funding for the whole team.

HKUST Vice-President for Research and Development (VPRD) Prof. Tim CHENG expressed his heartfelt congratulations on Prof Dai’s success. “Prof Dai’s outstanding achievements on topological materials has helped bridge the gap between theoretical physics and experimental sciences, unleashing immense potential for computational methods to drive experimental breakthroughs. The honor is also a testament to the University’s steadfast commitment to promoting basic research – an area that is inherently challenging but vitally important as the foundation for transformative innovations. HKUST is dedicated to empowering researchers like Prof Dai to push the limits of what is possible through their creativity, expertise and perseverance,” he said.

As a leading expert in the theory of quantum materials, Prof. Dai strives to take abstract theoretical ideas about topological matter and realize them in real-world materials-ultimately helping scientists to create a new database of topological materials. Representing a groundbreaking new class of matter, topological electronic states fundamentally alter our understanding of material states and their properties. Thanks to Prof. Dai’s continuous pursuit in this area, he and his team have uncovered numerous significant scientific discoveries, including the development of innovative computational methods that enabled them to successfully predict and validate the existence of the first quantum anomalous Hall effect insulator; advanced computational techniques that fostered the prediction and discovery of the first Dirac semimetal and the first Weyl semimetal; and the proposal and implementation of a versatile computational method based on non-Abelian Berry connections, which has become the primary tool for determining the topological classification of materials, significantly accelerating progress in the field of topological quantum matter.

His findings have also been incorporated into graduate-level textbooks, cementing their importance in the academic curriculum. Moreover, these achievements have showcased the vital role of the “computation-driven experiment” research paradigm, which has significantly accelerated progress in the study of topological states. This approach has propelled the field to new heights, facilitating rapid advancements and ensuring that China remains at the forefront of international research in this field.

With the profound impact of these remarkable discoveries, Prof. Dai has earned numerous international recognitions, honors and awards over the years, including the OCPA’s Achievements in Asia Award, the KC Chou Foundation’s Fundamental Physics Prize, and the James C. McGroddy Prize for New Materials from the American Physical Society.

About The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) ( is a world-class university that excels in driving innovative education, research excellence, and impactful knowledge transfer. With a holistic and interdisciplinary pedagogy approach, HKUST was ranked 3rd in the Times Higher Education’s Young University Rankings 2024, while 12 of its subjects were ranked among the world’s top 50 in the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2024, with “Data Science and Artificial Intelligence” being ranked first in Hong Kong and 10th in the world. Our graduates are highly competitive, consistently ranking among the world’s top 30 most sought-after employees. In terms of research and entrepreneurship, over 80% of our work was rated “Internationally excellent” or “world leading” in the latest Research Assessment Exercise 2020 of Hong Kong’s University Grants Committee. As of June 2024, HKUST members have founded 1,747 active start-ups, including 10 Unicorns and 14 exits (IPO or M&A).

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