I was born in Nha Trang, a city with a beautiful beach in the centre of Vietnam. When I was 6 years old, I watched a programme on television that influenced my career decision. It was a scientific programme about exploring the life in water. In the programme, the microbial contents of one drop of water, taken from a lake, were shown under the microscope. From then on, I knew that I wanted to work in science. It was not a real decision but more a strong sense of curiosity.
Later, the completion of the human genome sequence project caught my attention. This was a great achievement in molecular biology and I realized that studying molecular biology gives one the opportunity to explore many different aspects of human biology. This is why I chose to study biotechnology, especially medical biotechnology at the University of Natural Science, in Ho Chi Minh City.
I enjoyed the technical and practical side of molecular biology but I wanted to develop further by undertaking a PhD with the aim of becoming an independent research scientist. I was successful in applying as a DPhil student at Oxford University. My project focuses on the prevalence, molecular epidemiology and mechanisms of multi-drug resistance in Enterobacteriaceae isolated in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
Being a PhD student of Oxford University, I had a chance to visit the UK to attend the Matriculation on 18 October 2008. The students wore formal University dress in the form of a gown and mortar board (hat) and gathered at the College (Kellogg), signed a book, and then walked to the Examination Schools, where the ceremony took place. It took us about 30 minutes to walk there through the centre of Oxford. We waited in a big room for about 15 minutes until the Chancellor of Oxford University came in with a long stick and 2 men in distinctive clothing. Then the ceremony began. The Chancellor of the University addressed the future students in Latin and then in English, stating the rules and regulations of the University that attendees must obey to become students there. The Chancellor’s address lasted for around 15 minutes and afterwards the students were formally accepted at the University. For me, it was a fantastic moment reminding me of the famous Harry Potter movies.
Although many people warned me about the food and weather in the UK, it seems to me that it was not true. The food was good and diverse. I was lucky that I could enjoy autumn in Europe. The leaves of the trees changed from green to a reddish-brown. Moreover, there was little rain and a lot of sunshine. My biggest impression of the UK is one of green from the many parks. They are everywhere and instilled in me a feeling of peace. I also visited Covent Garden, where many people imitate statues and Sherlock Holmes Museum at 221B Baker Street. He has always been one of my idols.
For me, a PhD is a first step in my career. I would like to do more than that. After completing my PhD, I would like to work as a post-doc to lead an independent research group and teach at the University in Ho Chi Minh City so I can share my knowledge with young Vietnamese scientists. I also would like to form “a bridge” between Vietnamese researchers and those from other countries. I have a wish that someday, Vietnam can integrate in the international scientific community, but for this to happen we need to build our knowledge and capacity.