Professor Yam obtained her BSc (1st Class Hons) in 1985 and PhD in 1988 both from The University of Hong Kong.
After spending 2 years on the faculty of City Polytechnic of HK (now City Univ), she joined HKU Chemistry in 1990, rising through the rank of Senior Lecturer, Reader, and Chair Professor in 1999. She is currently the Philip Wong Wilson Wong Professor in Chemistry and Energy and Chair Professor.
She was elected to Member of Chinese Academy of Sciences in 2001 at age 38 as the youngest member, Foreign Associate of US National Academy of Sciences in 2012 at age 49, and Fellow of TWAS in 2006 at age 43.
She was Laureate of 2011 L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Award, the first Chinese female chemist for this award, and recipient of 2015 RSC Ludwig Mond Award, 2015 Bronze Bauhinia Star of HKSAR Government, 2005/06 RSC Centenary Medal (now RSC Centenary Prize), 2005 State Natural Science Award (2nd Class Prize), 2006 Japanese Photochemistry Association Eikohsha Award, 2014 Chinese Chemical Society (CCS)-China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation (Sinopec) Chemistry Contribution Prize (highest award of CCS), Docteur Honoris Causa (U Rennes 1, 2013), 2015-16 Lee Lectureship (U Chicago), 2013 Seaborg Lectureship (UC Berkeley), 2011 Ho Leung Ho Lee Foundation Prize for Scientific and Technological Progress, 2007 HK Fulbright Distinguished Scholar, 2000-01 Croucher Foundation Senior Research Fellow, 2002 Ten Outstanding Young Persons of HK and 2008 HK Outstanding Women Professionals & Entrepreneurs Award and others.
Her research interests include inorganic/organometallic/supramolecular chemistry, and metal-based molecular functional materials; in particular, molecular design of novel chromophoric/luminescent materials with tunable excited-state properties/functions, laying foundation for development of new solar-energy materials for organic photovoltaics and phosphorescent materials for OLED/WOLED display and lighting relevant to energy research. Her seminal works include luminescent metal-alkynyls, metal clusters, and utilization of non-covalent metal-metal interactions for directed supramolecular assembly and stabilization of nanostructures, conformations and organogels, and as spectroscopic reporters of aggregation, and morphology and microenvironment changes.