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First Vietnamese researcher receives Early Career Award from International Brain Research Organization



A university lecturer has become the first person in Vietnam to receive an Early Career Award from the International Brain Research Organization.

Dr. Ha Thi Thanh Huong, 31, a lecturer at the School of Biomedical Engineering of the International University under the Vietnam National University-Ho Chi Minh City, is among the 15 researchers in the world to be honored with this year’s Early Career Award.

In 2018, having obtained a PhD in neuroscience at Stanford University in the United States, Huong returned to Vietnam to seek solutions to human brain problems, contributing to the improvement of Vietnamese people’s intellectual and mental health.

The award, valued at EUR5,000 (US$5,870), is to support researchers in the early stages by providing additional funding for their research.

The Early Career Award is decided based on the quality of candidates’ published articles, as well as the importance and persuasiveness of their topic.

Applicants are required to submit a scientific résumé and an online application describing their ongoing research project while clarifying how they will use the funding and the importance of the project.

Alzheimer’s is one of the most fatal diseases in the elderly, Huong told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper, adding that research on it is becoming increasingly urgent given an aging population in Vietnam.

“I applied for this year’s award to look for financial support for a project on Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis. My team and I are developing a tool that can be more accurate, reduce invasiveness, and lower the cost for diagnosing the disease,” Huong elaborated.

“We will apply artificial intelligence to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) analysis, and use breakthrough molecular biology tools such as RNA sequencing in blood samples.”

The group has submitted four reports at an international conference on biomedical engineering and received funding from the Vietnam Alzheimer’s Network, a program sponsored by the U.S. National Institute of Health.

The team’s diagnostic model using artificial intelligence also entered the top 20 at a contest for innovation and artificial intelligence application organized by the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Science and Technology earlier this month.

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A mother of hundreds of children in Vietnam



Ton Nu Quynh Duong, 66, started her first work of public philanthropy in 2010 and has since devoted her life to it.

Her philanthropic mission began with a child care home of Phu Thuong at Phu Thuong Commune, Phu Vang District, Thua Thien-Hue Province, located in central Vietnam.

“[The children in need] call me ‘mom’ and I consider them my children too,” Duong said.

“In many cases, I feel richer than a billionaire because of having more than one hundred children, who are more valuable than gold or silver.”

Making a dream come true

Inside a small kitchen of the Phu Thuong childcare center, a slim woman with grey hair is preparing meals for her thirty ‘children.’

The house is cozy despite the chilly weather outside.

As a former teacher, Duong graduated from the faculty of biology of the Hue University of Education.

During her teaching career, she worked at some of the high schools in Phu Loc District, Thua Thien-Hue

She is loved by many generations of students after more than thirty years of devotion and sympathy.

When she was a young teacher, Duong often felt concerned about the poor and studious children.

Many of them were forced out of school to earn a living.

At that time, the only way she could help them was to pay a visit to their home after school.

She tried to persuade their parents to let them return to the classroom by offering to help them with part of their tuition. 

More than one hundred students were able to continue studying thanks to teacher Duong’s support.

Apart from teaching for extra hours, she spared a part from her humble monthly salary to provide them with notebooks, clothes, and textbooks.

“Many of the first generation of students have become successful and want to pay it forward,” Duong told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper. 

“So, they offer help to the students that suffer the same plight as them in the past.

“That generation has succeeded, and as a circle, many of them have returned to help difficult generations.

“My job is like sowing, it’s time for those seeds to germinate and I feel really happy about that.”

Around mid-2008, Duong accepted a job offer at Xuan Phu Childcare Center while she was working as a teacher at Phu Loc Middle School.

The underprivileged children’s living conditions at the center made her obsessed.

The children who should have been in the arms of their parents were left alone.

She told herself that if she had the opportunity and appropriate resources, she would spend the rest of her life with these children.

Retiring in 2010, Duong decided to participate in the childcare home of Phu Thuong to continue her dream of sharing with poor students.

The open house was established in 2007 from the contribution of the family of late Dr. Nguyen Dinh Thong and his relatives living in Australia with the aim of nurturing poor and studious students in the province.

“It is extremely hard and challenging, but I never regret choosing this job,” Duong confided.

“I don’t need anyone to praise me, just smile at the challenges and obstacles to move forward.”

Being both a teacher and mother

“Working here as ‘three in one,’ I am a teacher, a mother, and a psychologist,” Duong smiled when being asked what her main job in the center is. 

With 30 years of experience in teaching, she has always used the most effective teaching methods. 

In addition to mentoring the children by herself, she asked teachers from other schools to help the students.

Duong used her pension and the money she was given by her siblings to pay for other teachers.

It is Duong’s commitment and devotion that have taken many underprivileged students to various campuses such as the Hue University of Medicine and Pharmacy and the University of Danang – University of Science and Technology.

Huynh Phi Cong Hung, an eighth grader at Phu Thuong Middle School, said Duong not only taught him school subjects but also showed him how to be well-behaved.

There are always more than thirty students here and Duong takes good care of them all.

In Hung’s opinion, Duong was like his second mother.

To teacher Duong, most of her students are in the “most difficult” age.

Each of them is a question mark to her, which prompts her to pay more attention to their behavior, nutrition, and sleep.

“Every child here has a unique situation that I would deal with them depending on which circumstances they are in,” Duong said.

“I always fear that my improper behavior will ruin a person’s life.”

The care she gives has resulted in good children.

According to Duong, the open house has now become a center for gatherings and reunions on special occasions. 

“Many children who have grown up here stood by me in a quiet way to help the following generations, which makes me truly happy,” Duong confided.

‘If it wasn’t for her, I would have died’

Nguyen Phan Nhu Vu will never forget the days when he was helped by Duong and the Phu Thuong center, even nine years after he left the center to attend college.

He suddenly suffered from an asthma attack at night while others were sleeping.

Duong came to Vu’s room to check on them and found the student was in severe conditions and helped to rescue him.

“At that time, I felt unable to breathe,” Vu recalled.

“If it wasn’t for her, I would have died.”


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Vietnamese schools allow students to stay home during cold weather



Tens of thousands of students in many northern and north-central Vietnamese provinces were allowed to stay home on Monday as temperatures dropped below 10 degrees Celsius due to the effects of a strong cold spell.

In the north-central province of Nghe An, the provincial Department of Education and Training issued a document requesting students of kindergarten and elementary schools to let students stay home if the temperature falls below 10 degrees Celsius, and seven degrees Celsius for middle and high schools.

In addition, schools have to inform the students and their parents of the school break as soon as possible.

Accordingly, all kindergarten students in the province’s Ky Son District were asked to stay home to protect their health as temperatures ranged between 4-7 degrees Celsius, with frost forming in many places on Monday afternoon, according to Phan Van Thiet, head of the district’s bureau of education and training.

Besides, 41 elementary and middle schools along Vietnam-Lao borders and in mountainous areas, where many students of Mong ethnic people are living, were also closed.

As a majority of those schools provide semi-boarding services with the students living far away and having opted to stay at their campuses over the past few days, local authorities directed them to strengthen measures to combat the cold for students, including using firewood, Thiet said.

In northern Son La Province, 401 out of 527 kindergarten, elementary, and middle schools and 16 out of 44 high schools urged students to stay home on Monday, according to the provincial education and training department.

Schools at all levels in the three districts of Yen Chau, Thuan Chau, and Van Ho were shuttered.

In northern Dien Bien Province, nearly 55,000 students of 130 schools were given leave to avoid the cold on Monday morning.

Likewise, 98,175 students from 256 schools in Nghia Lo Town, Yen Binh, Van Chan, Luc Yen, Tram Tau, and Mu Cang Chai Districts in northern Yen Bai Province, stayed home.

Meanwhile, their peers in Yen Bai City and Tran Yen District still went to school.

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Student casualties from making handmade firecrackers sound alarm in Vietnam



Traumatic consequences from cases where teenage students created and played with handmade firecrackers from online videos, especially when Tet (Vietnamese Lunar New Year) nears, have been worrying people in north-central Vietnamese localities.

Authorities in north-central Nghe An and Ha Tinh Provinces have continuously handled cases related to creating or playing with handmade firecrackers among local students in recent days.

In Ha Tinh, the authorities have discovered five cases, involving ten students, of homemade firecrackers, seizing 9.2kg of flash powder and 20 firecrackers from November 15 to date, according to the provincial police.

For the latest case, police in Ha Tinh’s Duc Tho District found T.Q.L., 16, hailing from Tan Dan Commune storing 300 grams of flash powder — the main ingredient of a firecracker — in Tung Anh Commune on December 20. 

The authorities also seized 100 more grams of flash powder and handmade firecrackers at L.’s residence.

L. admitted that he had purchased the aforementioned amount of explosive compound from V.D.P., 16, living in the same commune.

A raid on P.’s house uncovered 400 grams of flash powder, 300 grams of sulfur, and dozens of firecrackers already wrapped in paper, which he had bought online.

P. said he sold parts of the handmade firecrackers for money and kept the remaining for Tet celebration, according to Nguyen Thanh Chung, team leader of the Duc Tho District police bureau.

According to Chung, the firecrackers created by P. are dangerous as they explode with loud bangs and high damage.

On the same day, police in Thach Chau Commune, located in Ha Tinh’s Loc Ha District, found four middle-school students illegally using firecrackers.

They also confiscated 1.5kg of sulfur, 1.14kg of potassium chloride salt, flash powder, and 24 homemade firecrackers at these students’ houses.

The students said they had purchased these ingredients and aped the way of making the firecrackers online.

They seem to have learned no lesson from serious accidents in Ha Tinh and Nghe An Provinces, where several teenage students created and played with homemade firecrackers.

On the afternoon of January 29, 2019, six people were injured and D.V.L., a ninth-grade student, died in Duc Tho District’s Bui La Nhan Commune after L. tried to make handmade firecrackers from chemicals he had bought online.

On January 19, 2020, L.T.S., 15, was severely burnt in an attempt to create firecrackers.

Most recently, C.T.Tr., 14, and C.T.H., 15, were badly injured while the two brothers were playing with firecrackers at their grandmother’s house in Vinh City, Nghe An Province at about 2:00 pm on January 3.

H. had his left hand completely damaged while Tr.’s lips, cheeks, and eyes were burned after the explosion. 

“In addition to the responsibility of the schools, parents need to join hands to control and supervise their children’s use of the Internet, advising them on the harm of making firecrackers, in order to avoid undue consequences for themselves and family,” said Tran Trong Khiem, principal of Cuong Gian Middle School in Nghi Xuan District, Ha Tinh.

Vietnamese law prohibits all of activities related to the production, trading, transportation, import, export, storage, and use of firecrackers and fireworks and materials thereof, except for some specific cases.

The government recently amended a decree, which will take effect on January 11, allowing all Vietnamese light up fireworks for some special events such as Lunar New Year festivals, birthdays, wedding ceremonies, conferences, grand openings, anniversaries, and cultural activities.

However, the fireworks allowed are the kind that will not explode.

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