The year 2021 marked the event of Dr. Le Thi Hoai An’s 30 years of living in France. Together with her husband, Dr. Pham Dinh Tao, she has successfully developed an optimization algorithm that is increasingly used worldwide.
“There is an interesting fact that not many people know: Everything in our real world can be represented by mathematical language,” Le Thi Hoai An said.
“This means that we do our best to find the most effective way to perform an activity with the best performance and the lowest cost. Our research area is focused on this issue,” she added.
Inevitability and chance
Prof. Le Thi Hoai An works at the College of Lorraine in France, where she received the highest award for a professor in an EU country.
There is a quote from a French philosopher that has stuck in her mind: “All existing things in the world are the result of inevitability and chance.”
She has been thinking about this for the past decades that she has lived and worked.
One of her accidental experiences in the past is her decision to learn French from her own mother, Nguyen Thi Loc.
At a time when French was not a popular foreign language, her study of French was truly accidental, which led to a turning point in her life when she later received a scholarship to France. It was the scholarship that completely changed her life.
There is also a special fortuitous “division” among Hoai An’s four siblings. While two of them pursue their father’s career as a literature professor, the other two wanted to study in the same field as their mother and become natural scientists.
Of course, it was not a random decision that Hoai An married Prof. Pham Dinh Tao, who is her teacher, friend, and colleague in their common scientific passion: DC (Difference of Convex functions) programming and DCA (DC algorithms).
|Prof. Le Thi Hoai An and her husband, Prof. Pham Dinh Tao in a supplied photo.|
The pair “gives birth” to a famous algorithm
In fact, DC Programming and DCA were introduced in their preliminary form by Prof. Pham Dinh Tao.
While there were many PhD students who wanted to further develop Tao’s algorithms, there were no outstanding achievements until his wife, Prof. Le Thi Hoai An, began her PhD work with further research in DC Programming and DCA.
She has contributed so much to her husband’s algorithms by making some of the most important breakthroughs in her husband’s scientific field.
It is Hoai An who contributes to developing and changing Programming and DCA in a remarkable way.
Thanks to her valuable solutions to Pham Dinh Tao’s algorithms, Hoai An was able to successfully complete her Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in only two years and three months, and only needed two and a half years to obtain her Doctor of Science.
This is indeed an extraordinary achievement, considering that a PhD in France takes an average of eight to ten years between the two stages.
DC Programming and DCA are the “very successful child” of the couple, who have gained a foothold in various industries over the years, particularly in the fields of data science and artificial intelligence.
The two Vietnamese scientists are immensely proud of having created their own field of mathematical science.
Hoai An said she is incredibly happy that her scientific achievements have been increasingly applied in various production processes and management in many large corporations in France and other countries.
Currently, Hoai An is the leading scientist in charge of many major energy management projects of Réseau de Transport d’Électricité (“Electricity Transmission Network”), usually known as RTE, the electricity transmission network operator of France.
She also takes part in the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) management and operation projects of the NAVAL group, which is closely associated with the French Ministry of Defense.
Faced with new demands resulting from current technological innovations, especially in the field of Big Data processing, the couple is busy improving and perfecting its algorithms in the hope that they will be suitable for more users.
“For me, DC Programming and DCA are not just algorithms, but also a philosophy, a different approach to developing a family of algorithms. Also, a powerful algorithm cannot solve all problems in the same way.
“Therefore, we try to do more research to adapt our algorithms to each problem that needs to be solved,” Hoai An added.
“Being able to do what I am interested in and maintain an ongoing passion for what I am doing,” the veteran scientist said when asked what has made her most proud so far.
Contributions to applied mathematics in Vietnam
Mathematical optimization (or mathematical programming) is a branch of applied mathematics that is a combination of mathematical science and specialized knowledge from various fields such as biology, finance, economics, and computer science.
Noticing that this field of mathematics is not as popular in Vietnam, Hoai An dreamed of setting up a course of study in Vietnamese universities.
After many years of teaching Vietnam’s postgraduate and doctoral students in applied mathematics, she successfully set up a data analysis and optimization laboratory at the International School of Vietnam National College in Hanoi.
She has trained 25 PhD students in applied mathematics for Vietnam, including 16 individuals who hold important positions in prominent universities in the country, and four PhD postdocs who have graduated in France or the U.S.
In Vietnam, students rush to private classes as high school entrance, graduation exams near
As the high school entrance and graduation exams are starting in a few weeks, final-year students at middle and high schools are as busy as a bee at back-to-back extra classes.
Some students leave their extra classes and return home at 9:30 pm every day.
Like her fellow students, N., a ninth grader of Tang Nhon Phu B Middle School in Thu Duc City, Ho Chi Minh City, is in crunch time.
She has a very busy studying schedule. After school, she has to attend after-hours classes at a cultural fostering center and an English center.
Additionally, she takes private lessons in literature and math. Her daily extra classes often end at 9:00 pm.
She confessed that she felt under pressure but she had to try to get into a good high school. She encourages herself by thinking about relaxing after the exam.
T., a student of Vinh Kim High School in Tien Giang Province, is also nervous about the upcoming national high school graduation examination.
T. told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper that he has to take three extra classes per day, from 4:30 pm to 9:00 pm.
Choosing to take natural science tests and expecting to be admitted to technology majors, T. is focusing on math, physics, chemistry, and English to register for groups of tests designated by the universities he is going to apply to.
“I did not take the competency assessment exam and the scores in my school report are qualified for some private universities only so I must get high scores in the national high school graduation exam to enroll in public universities,” T. said.
This exam is a milestone for high school students so taking many private lessons is nothing out of the ordinary, T. said, adding that he intended to sign up for some more online courses taught by famous teachers.
Learning a subject at many centers is inefficient
Learning one subject at two to three centers is time-consuming, according to Vo Kim Bao, a literature teacher at Nguyen Du Middle School in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City.
However, many parents still send their children to several centers to study a subject to set their mind at rest.
Some parents have also suggested that Bao allow their children to attend his classes so that they can learn the same lessons several times.
|Students attend the high school entrance exam in Ho Chi Minh City in 2019.|
Bao said that students should spend one month before the exam doing sample tests to know their weaknesses and overcome them.
As for literature, writing skills are more important than knowledge in textbooks, Bao noted.
Students should train themselves in answering questions, distributing time, and arranging ideas for their writing. Skills can help get 60 percent of the highest score, he elaborated.
“Therefore, it is unnecessary to sign up for extra classes at many centers,” the teacher said.
“Students should learn by themselves and ask their teachers for help.
“Teachers will definitely be willing to help their students.”
Phung Quang Huy, an English teacher at the High School of Education Sciences under the Vietnam National University-Hanoi, said that it was unnecessary and ineffective to learn a subject at many centers.
English tests tend to feature vocabulary- and grammar-related questions, Huy said.
Normally, grammar is built from basic principles, while vocabulary questions require students’ self-taught skills, he added.
Therefore, instead of rushing to cram centers, students should spend more time acquiring basic knowledge and getting familiar with the types of test questions, he advised.
“They should also pay attention to questions which were often included in previous tests and other special questions,” Huy recommended.
“It is more important to keep their mind relaxed to achieve the best possible results for the exam.
“Students suffering from fatigue or lack of sleep will find it hard to obtain their desired results.”
The high school entrance exam is held annually around June for ninth-grade students as well as independent candidates to get into high school, as the name suggests.
The national high school graduation exam is organized in July every year for 12th graders and independent candidates. The exam results are used for both high school graduation and enrollment in universities and junior colleges.
This year, more than one million candidates have signed up for the high school graduation exam, including some 58,800 independent candidates.
Among the total candidates, nearly 103,400 registered for the exam for high school graduation, over 38,100 for university and junior college admission, and around 859,500 for both purposes, according to the Ministry of Education and Training.
Doctoral dissertation on Vietnam civil servants’ badminton development provokes backlash
A postgraduate successfully defended his doctoral dissertation in education on badminton development for civil servants in Son La Province, northern Vietnam, which has drawn public criticism for its narrow topic and poor value.
As of May 5, the online Library of Theses and Dissertations of the Ministry of Education and Training still stored a dissertation titled ‘Research on Solutions to Badminton Development for Civil Servants in Son La City,’ which was written and successfully presented at the Institute for Sports Science by a postgraduate named Dang Hoang Anh in 2022.
Son La City is the capital of the namesake province in northern Vietnam.
The website of the institute had earlier published the paper, highlighting that postgraduate Anh successfully defended his institute-level dissertation on January 19, 2022.
However, the dissertation is now inaccessible.
‘Research on badminton development solutions’
The topic of Anh’s dissertation, centered on pedagogy, was announced at the Institute for Sports Science of the General Department of Sports and Physical Training under the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism on December 23 last year.
The website also lists multiple contributions and achievements of the dissertation.
“Comprehensive and scientific information about the participation of civil servants and public employees in Son La City in badminton shows that numerous existing problems are slowing down the popularity of this sport,” the website said.
“There is inadequate awareness among civil servants and public employees about the importance of playing badminton, a shortage of collaborators, ineffective private funding of badminton, and its limited physical fitness.
Through an analysis, the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats in the development of the badminton movement for Son La City’s civil servants and public employees were pinpointed in the dissertation.
|A screenshot of postgraduate Dang Hoang Anh’s doctoral dissertation on badminton development for civil servants in Son La Province, Vietnam|
For the research, the topic features six solutions to the development of badminton for the city’s public employees, including popularizing the importance of this sport, developing the badminton movement toward private funding for it, forming a strong team of badminton players who are civil servants and public employees, completing a competition system in badminton for public employees, diversifying badminton training methods, encouraging civil servants to play badminton, and frequently assessing the badminton movement.
Based on the criteria for the development of badminton, the efficiency of the badminton movement would be improved after one year of applying five of the six solutions to sociological experiments.
Over the past few days, the dissertation has sparked public outrage on online academic forums. Many people assume that the topic is unworthy of a doctoral dissertation.
Dr. Nguyen Duc Danh, head of the science and education faculty at the Ho Chi Minh City University of Education, affirmed that a doctoral dissertation can research and look for solutions, but the paper by postgraduate Anh covers too narrow a topic.
In reality, after a hard working day, civil servants and public employees can play many different sports such as swimming, football, and jogging rather than only badminton.
“Obviously, the scope of the research on the topic is extremely limited, as the purpose of playing sports is to get fit and healthy. Such a dissertation is unbefitting,” Danh stressed.
“Furthermore, the research subjects of the dissertation are civil servants and public employees, but not students, so the topic is not related to education,” he added.
To date, nearly 10 postgraduates have successfully defended doctoral dissertations in relation to the badminton topic at educational institutions nationwide.
Among these papers, some have titles quite similar to Anh’s.
Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper contacted Anh and the Institute for Sports Science for further comment but received no response.
Hanoi students fight against food waste for nearly 10 years
Generations of students in Hanoi have provided free meals to disadvantaged people for nearly ten years.
These meals come from leftovers from restaurants, hotels, and households.
“Every day, leftover food in families’ refrigerators or restaurants is often thrown away,” said Pham Thu Uyen, an eleventh-grade student from Amsterdam High School in Hanoi, operator of Hanoi Food Rescue Season 10.
“Realizing this issue, we started our project.”
‘Food Rescue’ mission keeps going on
Beginning as a result of a contest hosted by a university, the Hanoi Food Rescue project is already in its tenth year.
The group consists of more than 40 students from high schools in Hanoi.
From Friday to Monday every week, they collect leftovers from restaurants, hotels, and canteens, which they contact and ask for permission to provide leftover food for the needy.
Uyen said the remnants are still fresh so it is such a waste to throw them away.
Therefore, these young people proactively contact hotels, restaurants, and canteens around the capital city to collect leftover food to prepare meals for poor patients and those in need.
In addition, such food is contained in eco-friendly boxes.
Once a part of the project, each member has realized that they have to do something to save food and increase community awareness of the issue, Uyen added.
Recalling a trip to a vocational training center for disabled children to give them food, students from the project talked to and encouraged the kids.
After trips like that, Uyen and her friends found out there are so many people in need of food while they have full meals every day but waste food sometimes.
After the fourth COVID-19 outbreak that hit the country last April, the project has restarted.
More than meals
Aside from giving food to the disadvantaged, the Hanoi Food Rescue aims to raise community awareness of food waste by hosting two annual programs Tet (Lunar New Year) Donation and The Hunger Games.
For the Tet Donation, the group calls on people to donate food, clothes, and books to the poor kids.
During the pandemic, everyone could register to donate through an online form and the organizers went to registered addresses to get the donated items.
Moreover, the group also hosted a garage sale to fundraise for the charity event at Sword Lake Pedestrian Street. Each item sold was a gift for disadvantaged children.
Through the program, more than 3.5 metric tons of food, candies, clothes, books, and notebooks were given to the poor students at Tan Son 1 Elementary School in Luc Ngan District, Bac Giang Province, 50km east of Hanoi, according to Uyen.
The group also ‘rescued’ agricultural products stuck at border gates.
Besides, they have called for donations to those who lost their jobs, or who lack food or medicine, because of severe COVID-19 outbreaks.
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