The dream of mathematician Phan Ha Duong

Appointed as an associate professor at University Paris 7 at the age of 26, Phan Thi Ha Duong is currently the youngest woman in Vietnam to hold this title. Duong has also been honored by Forbes as one of 50 most influential women in Vietnam. 
Duong received a scholarship from the French government when she was a third-year math student at Hanoi University (now National University). Because of her outstanding performance, Duong was given the opportunity to pursue her fourth year at University Paris 6, which is an amazing feat for a Vietnamese student.

After receiving her master’s degree in algebraic geometry in 1995, Duong chose to go for a PhD degree in computer science even though she was advised to further study algebraic geometry by her advisor, Professor Christian Peskine, who is the director of the Mathematics Institute of Universities Paris 6 and 7.

Phan Thi Ha Duong is the youngest woman in Vietnam to have been granted the Associate Professor title.

The images of Duong and other international mathematicians published on the Math Day for Development website.

Duong (third from right) in a discussion at Math Day for Development.

“Computer science in Vietnam at that time was rather new and application-driven. But once developed, computer science has required more fundamental research, including mathematics,” Duong explained.

In January 1999, Duong’s doctoral dissertation in computer science was rated excellent by the Grading Committee at University Paris 7. At that time, the Computer Science Faculty of Paris 7 recruited three associate professors using a strict recruitment process. Duong surpassed 100 candidates, many of whom held a postdoctoral degree or had years of training experience, to take the first position in this recruitment.

With an associate professor’s monthly salary of 3,000 euros and opportunities to join scientific research seminars and conferences, Duong could spend all her time on research and training. After 12 years of studying and working in France, Duong decided to return to Vietnam in 2005 to realize her dream of teaching mathematics to Vietnamese students.

“My freshman year teacher at Hanoi University inspired a passion in me to become a teacher. I dreamt of the day that I would be standing at the lecture hall dais, passing on my love for mathematics to generations of Vietnamese students,” Duong said.

Duong was honored by Forbes as one of 50 most influential women in Vietnam in 2018.

At the Math and Science Summer Program (MaSSP) 2019.

Duong’s creative math teaching methods inspire young math lovers.

With students attending MaSSP 2019. 

Associate Professor Phan Thi Ha Duong was the only Vietnamese representative invited to Math  Day for Development held at the UNESCO Center in France in March 2019. The event was attended by over 300 mathematicians from around the world.
Duong is now a lecturer of postgraduate programs in mathematics at the Institute of Mathematics, Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology.

She also works as a researcher at the Department of Mathematical Foundations, Institute of Mathematics. Her current research focuses on applied mathematics for information technology, including discrete mathematics.

Given Vietnam’s dynamic economic development, Duong believes that in the near future, mathematicians like her will work with entrepreneurs to solve their mathematical problems like other western countries have done in the past.
Story: Thao Vy - Photos: Viet Cuong

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