Sunday, August 16 2020


Women doing scientific research: passion wins difficulties

Update: March, 08/2019 - 06:30
Associate Professor Nguyễn Thị Hà instructs students to do experiments . – Photo courtesy of Việt Nam National University
Viet Nam News

Khánh Dương

HÀ NỘI — It is unusual for female lecturers to work less than 12 hours a day at the Việt Nam National University of Science.

More often than not, you’ll find them still hard at it long after they were meant to be heading home.

This is life at the National University of Science.

A typical day at the Department of Environmental Technology under Faculty of Environmental Sciences involves so much more than just standing in front of a classof students.

Environmental training, laboratory research, monitoring experiments, fieldtrips, writing scientific journals are all part and parcel of the job.

This week, nine female lecturers were rewarded for their hard work.

Collectively, they received the 2018 Kovalevskaya Award, a prestigious prize named after a Russian female mathematician to honour outstanding female scientists for their excellent contributions to scientific research.

Timing could not be better as they were awarded the prize close to this year’s International Women’s Day (March 8).

It’s the first educational facility in Việt Nam to offer undergraduate and postgraduate trainings in environmental sciences.

Scientists multi-task, taking on duel roles as both lecturers and researchers.

Female staff spend most of their research time on specialised areas of solid waste treatment and utilisation, as well as finding techniques for environmental analysis and assessment.

Recycled waste to make useful products have received quality assessment certificates and are used in manufacturing facilities and households which have limited funds.

“The technology we apply is not new but we look to make use of available sources of waste and apply suitable low-cost technology to develop waste-to-product idea to reduce production costs and aim at zero waste in the near future,” Associate Professor Nguyễn Thị Hà, head of department told Việt Nam News.

They have succeeded in making use of waste mud to make colour ceramics for porcelain and pottery products at Hà Nội’s Bát Tràng pottery village, utilising paper pulp to grow mushrooms and purifying arsenic contaminated underground water in Hà Nội.

They also invented quick test kits with low cost to measure levels of preservatives and artificial sweetener to help inspect food safety.

The female scientists most of whom study postgraduate abroad have led 33 scientific researches and participated in 65 projects around the world and contributed extensively to books and journals.

Associate Professor Hà said that women working in the field of environmental technology reguarly come into contact with dirty and toxic waste.

“But we don’t think our work is hard,” she said. “Female scientists, are meticulous, skillful and patient in every detail of on-site researches, which is probably advantage of women over men.”

Balance between work and family

The oldest woman on the team is 51 and the youngest is in her early thirties. Many of them are young mothers. Balancing training and research tasks with being a wife and a mother.

Nguyễn Minh Phương, gave birth to her first baby when she was studying for her PhD in in Germany four years ago.

“My husband and I were both worried,” she said. “I was not sure if I could give birth and continue my PhD.

“My instructor gave me the confidence by saying ‘I believe that you can do the two things at the same time,” Phương said.

“I remember the days when I had to carry my baby in one arm and use other hand to type my assignment on computer,” she said.

Phương completed the course in three and a half years.

“Women working in science should always have confidence in themselves. If you really want to continue, please go ahead in spite of hurdles that sometimes pull you back.

“You move slower but do stay on your point. Maybe success will come to you later than others but you will make it,” she said.

Sending a message to her female students, lecturer Hà believes that only when you really like environmental technology and love making miracles by turning dirty smelly waste into useful items, can you pursue this tough career.

“Keep the passion and be patient. They may not become successful in the short term but with the help of lecturers and personal determination, day by day, I hope that my students will achieve something meaningful.”

Just like Phương has done for herself. — VNS

A group of female lecturers and researchers, including those who are currently working and retirees of the Department of Environmental Technology under Faculty of Environmental Sciences, Việt Nam National University of Science. – Photo courtesy of Việt Nam National University

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