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Man with an unsatiable thirst for maths

Update: February, 21/2012 - 10:19


Born in 1974, Nguyen Quang Dieu, vice chairman of the Maths and Computing Department at Ha Noi National University of Education, is the youngest maths professor in the country. An Vu speaks with him about his love of maths and his views on life.

Inner Sanctum: Why did you decide to become a mathematician?

Since my father used to be a mathematician, I developed a love for the subject from an early age. I always found magic in each number and formula. However, I never imagined that one day I would commit my life to maths. It was not until I attended class at the Ha Noi National University of Education as a student that I recognised maths as a drawing card. In 1993, despite the fact that very few people had been enrolled at the Math and Computing Department, the school management board decided to retain the department, which enabled me to pursue my passion. Thinking back, if the section had been closed down, I have no idea where I would have ended up.

Inner Sanctum: Since becoming the youngest math professor in Viet Nam, how did your life and work change? Besides teaching, are you into any other scientific project? If so, can you give us more specifics?

In general, there has been no change in my life or work. I continue my job as a lecturer and science researcher at the university just like before. At the moment, I am working on a project entitled Polynomial Convexity and the Monge-Ampere Operator in which I elaborate on my description of polynomial convex hulls which I first started while writing my doctoral thesis in 1997. As a subsequent intern at the Sundsvall University in Sweden, I first learnt about the Monge-Ampere Operator. This project involves classical maths research based on studies drawn from over the past 30 years. However, these topics are still new to Vietnamese researchers. Thanks to my research results, however, I was able to successfully instruct two local students in their doctoral thesis during 2010.

Inner Sanctum: You were awarded a Doctor of Science degree at 32. Did you think about working abroad?

As an introvert, I found it difficult to integrate with the Western lifestyle. Even though I was duly impressed with my foreign work environment, I eventually made up my mind to return to Viet Nam.

Inner Sanctum: You seem like a very busy man. Do you have time for your family and do they support your work?

I have received much support from my family, especially my wife. During my research at the Seoul and Chonnam National Universities in South Korea, I had the chance to go home every Tet (Lunar New Year) festival and summer holiday.

Inner Sanctum: How do you feel as the youngest professor in Viet Nam? What advantages and challenges has this title brought you?

I certainly feel a little bit proud, but when I look around, I see a lot of people my own age and even younger who have achieved great things. For this reason, I still give it my all. One advantage of my studies abroad has been the network of partners I have managed to accumulate. I remain convicted that success is based on the improvement of knowledge and not on good fortune alone.

Inner Sanctum: What do you think about the teaching and practice of maths at schools today? What could be done to encourage students to learn the subject better?

Schools are increasingly using more and more textbooks adapted from foreign materials to suit domestic studies. Most students focus on scores rather than take a deep interest in their subjects with the eye of securing a job after graduation.

In my opinion, students need scholarships based on a commitment of returning to Viet Nam.

Inner Sanctum: What is your advice to young people?

Youth is the combination of aspiration, creation and the desire to contribute. I hope young people will always nurture their ambitions and the goal for a better future for their families and country. However, they should retain the jubilance and innocence of their age. — VNS

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