Friday , May 24 2024

Young female scientists dedicated to neurological, materials sciences


Hà Thị Thanh Hương (fourth, right) and Nguyễn Hồ Thuỳ Linh (fifth, right of Việt Nam National University-HCM City were honoured with the 2023 Golden Globe Science and Technology Award for their scientific research. — Photo courtesy of VNU-HCM 

HCM CITY — With a passion for research, Hà Thị Thanh Hương, 34, a lecturer at the International University (IU), has been named one of the winners of the 2023 Golden Globe Science and Technology Awards for her scientific research in neurology aimed at raising awareness about mental healthcare in Việt Nam.

Hương, head of the Department of Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine at School of Biomedical Engineering of the IU under Việt Nam National University-HCM City (VNU-HCM), said she decided to return from the US to Việt Nam in 2018, and chose teaching and doing research at the IU after she graduated from Stanford University’s Neuroscience Ph.D. programme with financial support from the Vietnam Education Foundation Fellowship, a Stanford Graduate Fellowship, and a Faculty for the Future Award.

In 2020, she was the first Vietnamese scientist to win the Early Career Award from the International Brain Research Organization based in France for her research on the application of artificial intelligence and new biomarker tools to assist in the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease in Việt Nam.

“Studying abroad helped me to learn deeply about neuroscience and have more knowledge and skills to address the mental health problems in Việt Nam,” she said.

From the experience of examining and treating depression with her relatives, Hương was determined to pursue scientific research in neurology to contribute to improving the current mental health treatment gaps in the healthcare system and awareness of mental healthcare in the country.

Currently, her research team called Brain Health Lab focuses on solving problems related to brain health in the country, such as designing intervention methods to reduce cognitive decline in the elderly.

Hương shared that both her father and mother are teachers of biology and chemistry, and perhaps that’s why studying science subjects is quite easy for her.

But it wasn’t until she was a biology major student in high school, and she followed her relatives experience with psychiatric hospitals, that she realised the limitations of the current mental health care system in the country, and decided to try to improve the situation.

She was fortunate enough to study with many leading lecturers and professors at the School of Natural Sciences under VNU-HCM, who passed on a passion for scientific research to her.

“When I go abroad to learn deeply about neuroscience, that gives me great courage to keep moving forward along my scientific research path,” she said.

Her desire is to change the way society understands mental health.

People cannot simply meet a person with depression or anxiety disorders and tell them to be less depressed, less sad and less anxious. It’s similar to the person with Alzheimer, they really cannot remember, even if they try, she said.

“People need to know that mental illness is like any other medical illness that requires effective treatment,” she said.

Doctors also need to use accurate methods in diagnosing, monitoring and treating patients with mental illness.

Women face more difficulties and pressures than men in pursuing scientific research, Hương said.

“But in return, every time I see my students become more mature, or when I hear that a patient is making good progress thanks to our research, I feel like every challenge is worth it,” she said.

She always told herself that every day she has to learn more from her colleagues and students to be able to do better.

“Perhaps what I have done has not immediately changed the overall picture of mental healthcare in Việt Nam, but my colleagues and the next batch of students will continue on this scientific research path,” she said.

In the 21st century, there are many career options that are well-suited for women. There won’t be many people who will judge a woman if she chooses to be a football player, or a lawyer, or a scientific researcher.

“I wish for young girls who are interested in scientific research to stand firm and do the hard work necessary to achieve their goals,” she said.

She hopes to have the opportunity to learn more from the outstanding female Vietnamese scientists, and if possible, work together to do something to help the female students who love science.

Nguyễn Hồ Thuỳ Linh and her students conduct research at a laboratory at the University of Natural Sciences under the Việt Nam National University-HCM City. — Photo courtesy of VNU-HCM

Passion for new materials

One of three outstanding female scientists who won the 2023 Golden Globe Science and Technology Award, Nguyễn Hồ Thùy Linh, 33, head of the Materials for Chemistry, Biology and Environment Research Group of the Centre for Innovative Materials and Architectures (INOMAR) at the VNU-HCM, is doing research in the field of materials science.

This is an interdisciplinary research topic that includes physics, chemistry, technical applications and industrial production processes, especially in the field of catalysis in chemistry, biology and the environment.

Linh said chemistry was an attractive subject throughout her study in high school.

Thanks to the opportunity to work as an intern at the INOMAR with the leading scientists in the field of metal-organic framework (MOF)/Zeolitic imidazolate framework (ZIF) and many modern machines and equipment, Linh realised her great passion for scientific research, and had a desire for high-quality publications and seriousness in research work.

During her scientific research journey, Linh has encountered many difficulties and challenges in accessing new knowledge, limited equipment and machinery, and the rapid growth of external and internal researchers.

She recognises her limitations, and always thinks beyond what she has done and looks towards new challenges.

She expressed her belief that a challenge is not easy and women have their own advantages.

“When instructing my female students to do scientific research, I often advise them to take advantage of ingenuity, meticulousness, and perseverance because these factors largely determine the results of their work,” she said.

The position of women in today’s society has changed markedly and she recognised the achievements of women in all facets of life, especially in the field of science.

Many female Vietnamese scientists have been named among the world’s outstanding researchers for their influential research projects such as Nguyễn Thục Quyên, Hồ Thị Thanh Vân, Lưu Lệ Hằng and Huỳnh Mỹ Hằng.

“I hope that female scientists always believe in themselves, strive to pursue their passion and contribute more valuable research to society,” she said.

The annual Golden Globe Science and Technology Awards, jointly organised by the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Central Committee of the Hồ Chí Minh Communist Youth Union, honours outstanding young talents under 35 years old, who are studying, doing scientific research, and working at home and abroad in the fields information technology, digital transformation and automation, medical and pharmaceutical technology, biotechnology, environmental technology and new material technology. — VNS

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