National Central University
Nguyen Huy Bich
My name is Nguyen Huy Bich, a former Ph.D. student of the National Central University (hereinafter as NCU), Taiwan. I am the first Vietnamese student to pursue a Ph.D. (2006) and graduate from NCU, Taiwan (2010), with a major in Mechanical Engineering. I am currently an associate professor and researcher at Nong Lam University Ho Chi Minh City (NLU), Vietnam, as well as being the Dean of the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering of NLU from 2012 to the present (July 2021).
In 2006, only a few Vietnamese students were aware of Taiwan’s educational opportunities. Fortunately, I had a Taiwanese friend who had studied with me at the University of Sydney, Australia from 1998-2000. During this time, he had given me a good idea of the quality of Taiwan’s education for Ph.D. students. I learned that Taiwan was well-invested in research, and most of the professors were trained from the US. Moreover, Taiwan’s annual investment in research is great, and the system operates according to the model with the same output standards as major American universities. It must be said that Taiwanese universities had a high integration with international educational quality. Since returning to Vietnam in 2000, I set the goal of learning and working as a Ph.D. student in Taiwan. From that moment, I did considerable research on Taiwan, and realized that the culture and customs of the two countries were quite similar. Finally, in 2006, an opportunity presented itself, when Taiwan’s National Science Council (NSC), now the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST), publicly announced full scholarships for Vietnamese students to undertake graduate studies in Taiwan. I applied and was lucky enough to be awarded one of five postgraduate scholarships as a Ph.D. student in Taiwan. Without further financial worries, I began researching universities in Taiwan and found NCU professor, Dr. Chen-Jyh Chen, whose specialty happened to be my research interest, heat exchange, and his research reputation in this area is quite high. Gratefully, he agreed to accept me as his PhD student. Therefore, I applied to the NCU, got accepted immediately, and formally became a Ph.D. student of NCU in September 2006.
Four years as a Ph.D. student is an extremely valuable time, when I learned and went through the fundamental aspects of a researcher, including formulation of the problem, solving the problem, understanding the ways to achieve the research results, publishing the results by writing articles, and academic communication with scientific journals. All of this was learned through my courses, experience, and enthusiastic professors that I respected very much. Anyone who has been a doctoral student knows that publishing articles in SCI-indexed scientific journals is a legitimate desire as well as an indicator evaluating their research capacity. NCU trained me to meet these requirements.
An advisor/mentor is the one who will train and guide you, playing a very important role. I was fortunate to have studied and worked in the Lab with a very respectable Professor at NCU, Prof. Chen-Jyh Chen. A particularly touching story engraved in my mind is my professor’s gift to me-an electric blanket. I went to NCU in September 2006 from Ho Chi Minh City, a place that has no cold weather. My first experience of Taiwan’s winter at NCU was thus drastic. At that time, Professor Chen personally brought me an electric heating blanket, and told me I could use this to sleep through the cold winter. Such moments were precious.
Anyone doing research must consider how to publish articles in journals to qualify for graduation. If a researcher is alone without instructions, this can easily become an obsession. Fortunately, I did not fall into this situation. I still vividly recall my second year, when I boldly wrote an article with initial research results, and asked Professor Chen to review it. While this is quite early for a Ph.D. student, my mentor was happy to assist me, reading each sentence, clarifying each idea, and reviewing each word. In my third year, my first research paper was sent to the specialized journal Physics of Fluids, which is the top journal specializing in fluid mechanics. During my time at NCU, I published three articles and was enthusiastically helped by my professor; we would go over each sentence, review each idea, and discuss the topic as colleagues. Sometimes, we would spend the whole afternoon editing only one sentence. I am deeply grateful for the training given to me by Prof. C.-J. Chen.
The four years I spent in my lab at NCU is a time with many fond memories, because I lived and worked with a team of 22 very sincere Taiwanese friends, who contributed, shared, and wholeheartedly helped me in all my research work and daily life. My lab was like a big family; we worked in harmony with each other, ate together, shopped, picnicked, went to the doctor together, and so on. It was a great learning environment, with considerable teacher-student love, and friendship regardless of ethnicity. All of this allowed me to be happy and study well at NCU. When away from home and family, being able to study and live in a caring environment and responsible community like where you were born is very important.
Finally, I would like to inform you that research equipment in the laboratory, reference materials (SCI articles or documents must be purchased), the cost of attending international scientific conferences in the world, are very important issues and can be said to have a great influence on the process of studying at the Ph.D. level. Fortunately, when studying in Taiwan in general, and NCU in particular, these aspects are fully taken care of. For example, I remember when I did an experiment that required me to use a device to capture the movement of liquid microdroplets with high resolution, 150 frames per second (FPS), which was quite expensive, the professor directed its purchase and supply immediately, within a week. Similarly, researching reference materials was also very convenient, and when needed, the library would help you to the fullest. The government of Taiwan also supports Ph.D. students in terms of funding to attend international conferences. I was sponsored at two conferences in Korea and Singapore, while other friends were supported to go to the US and Europe, depending on their requirements.
The learning environment, the way of training, the facilities, the civilized community culture, and my professor’s mentorship are the factors that helped me to rise up, complete my research, and get a Ph.D. degree after four years and three months of hard study at NCU. From this launching pad and foundation, my research work has gradually developed, and in turn, I have been able to train future generations of students in Vietnam.
Before going to NCU Taiwan as a Ph.D. student, I was a lecturer at the NLU; after obtaining my Ph.D., I returned to the NLU to continue teaching and research. However, as a Ph.D. graduate from NCU, I have strived to improve the quality of teaching, research, and development of my faculty and department. The skills and knowledge I obtained from the NCU helped me to quickly rise and assert my position in the faculty. Less than two years after returning to Vietnam from NCU, I was elected and appointed to the position of Dean of the Faculty with six training disciplines, nearly 2000 students, staff, and more than 100 graduate and postgraduate students. I have tried to apply the skills and values I gained from my professors and an internationally ranked university into my everyday practice in my professional work, improving personal skills, as well as the efficiency and quality of the faculty at Vietnam University. After a few years in the role of Dean, the Faculty has become one of the most developed faculties of the Vietnamese university system, and the NLU. The faculty has been rewarded by the Ministry of Education and Training as a typical unit for five consecutive years from 2015 to 2020 in the Vietnamese education sector, and I have been awarded the title of Meritorious Teacher by the President of Vietnam in 2020, a title honoring excellent teachers who make great contributions to the country’s education. Four years after graduating from NCU, I was appointed as an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering in 2015. Compared to the general practice, this is quite soon for a graduated Ph.D. In my opinion, this recognizes the quality of postgraduate training at NCU, as well as the skill of research and publication in scientific journals. In addition, while surveying my fellow Vietnamese graduates from Taiwan universities (as the president of the Taiwan Alumni Association in Vietnam), I observed that after a short time, they all excelled in their careers and rose to positions in the Department, Faculty, School, were recognized as associate professors quite early, and had good scientific reputations.
From my experience, knowledge, and skills gained at NCU, Taiwan, I can boldly and confidently recommend others to choose NCU in particular, and Taiwanese universities as a destination for studying abroad. After returning to Vietnam, I have encouraged many Vietnamese friends to study in Taiwan, and most of them have been successful. I have introduced more than 10 lecturers to NCU, five of whom have graduated. The above description is my experience, and I hope it can be of use to others in developing their careers and making useful contributions to science and society.