At Vietcetera, our drive has been to cover the up and coming movers and shakers who are meaningful to a rising Vietnam. We believe that it isn’t just business people. It bleeds out to artists, designers, creatives, scientists, and academics. But why do we love academics specifically? Academics connect to an international standard of knowledge and insight into the world and Vietnam. This goes beyond the anecdotal information we provide. This article is just a start. We realize it’s not complete, and we hope you can help us to update and populate it over time. Our goal is to spend every month meeting with academics, with our Vietcetera interview format, and attempt to understand their insights into their work, their thoughts on modern Vietnamese America and Vietnam, and what we can learn from them.
One of the greatest and most enduring Vietnamese traditions is our respect for education and scholarship. Those who aspire to be at the top of their field are widely known among their countrymen and typically used as an example for the youth. Historically, great Vietnamese scholars were philosophers, statesmen and poets, but modern Vietnamese scholars tend to be in a diverse range of fields.
For a start, here are some notable scholars and academics of modern Vietnam you might have already heard about:
Professor Ngo Bao Chau (Mathematics)
Professor Ngo Bao Chau is an expert mathematician, best known for proving the fundamental lemma for automorphic forms, which Time hails as one of the Top Ten Scientific Discoveries of 2009. He is also the first Vietnamese citizen to receive the Fields Medal in 2010, in addition to various other notable awards and honors. Professor Ngo was born in Hanoi and holds dual citizenship as both Vietnamese and French. He is currently a faculty member at the University of Chicago, as well as the scientific director of the Vietnam Institute for Advanced Study. Professor Ngo also enjoys writing about philosophy, society and the arts on his blog, thichhoctoan.net.
Dr My Hang V. Huynh (Chemistry)
Dr Huynh is a chemist currently working at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Her accomplishments have been recognized by the MacArthur Fellows Program (otherwise known as the “Genius Grant”) and the E.O. Lawrence Award. She is best known for her work with “Green Primary Explosives“, which replace mercury and lead with less toxic elements such as copper and iron, significantly reducing health risks faced by miners and military personnel who use them, as well as having great implications for other safety equipment.
Dr. Jane Luu (Astronomy & Astrophysics)
Dr Jane Luu works extensively in the fields of astronomy and astrophysics. She, along with David Jewitt, is credited with discovering the Kuiper Belt while she was working as a graduate student at MIT and the University of California at Berkeley, and then with discovering crystalline water ice on one of its objects, Quaoar. She is currently working as a Senior Scientist at Lincoln Laboratory at MIT. Dr Luu is such a prominent figure in her field that she has an asteroid named after her—the 5430 Luu. Dr. Luu enjoys traveling and outdoor activities, and has previously worked for the non-profit organization Save the Children in Nepal.
David T. Duong, MD
Dr. David Duong specializes in urology, which involves diseases and dysfunctions of the urinary system and the male reproductive organs. He has been in practice since 2009, after receiving his MD and PhD at Vanderbilt University and completing his residency at Stanford University. He has experience treating conditions such as bladder cancer and male infertility, and performing procedures such as laser prostate surgery and prostate biopsy. Dr. Duong currently owns an office in San Francisco, CA, alongside his affilition with various hospitals in the area including California Pacific Medical Center and Saint Francis Memorial Hospital.
Professor Quang Vuong (Economics)
Professor Quang Vuong currently serves as Professor of Economics at New York University, specialized in econometrics. A Ph.D. graduate from Northwestern University, he is best known for the Vuong closeness test, which is a statistical test that has great implications for a variety of scientific fields. Professor Vuong has received several grants from the National Science Foundation, as well as being on the editorial board and publishing extensively in prestigious economic journals.
Dr. Kimberly Kay Hoang (Sociology)
Dr. Kimberly Hoang is currently an Assistant Professor of Sociology and the College at the University of Chicago. Her research centers around gender dynamics, socioeconomic identities and the market. Her book, Dealing with Desire: Asian Ascendancy, Western Decline, and the Hidden Currencies of Global Sex Work, explores the sex trade in Vietnam both in the context of the global economy and from a personal perspective. Dealing in Desire is the winner of seven distinguished book awards from the American Sociological Association, the National Women Studies Association, the Society for the Study of Social Problems, and the Association for Asian Studies. With funding support from the Social Science Research Council and the Fulbright Global Scholar Award, Dr. Hoang is currently conducting research for her second book on foreign investment in Southeast Asia. Recounting from her experience working in four Saigon hostess bars and interacting with women in the industry, Dr. Hoang highlights the complex relationship between sex workers and their clients, which both sides navigate and manipulate to satisfy their own power, emotional and economic needs. Dealing with Desire won several awards in fields of sociology and women’s studies.
Professor Tuong Vu (Political Science)
Tuong Vu is an author, political science professor, and the director of Asian Studies at the University of Oregon. His book, Paths to Development in Asia: South Korea, Vietnam, China, and Indonesia, analyzes capitalists and socialist state structures of six different cases in order to determine why some states fare more successfully than others. In the competition for the 2011 Bernard Schwartz Book Award, it received an Honorable Mention. His newest book, Vietnam’s Communist Revolution: The Power and Limits of Ideology, explores a different perspective of the Vietnam War and the Vietnamese Revolution. Professor Vu’s other interests include comparative and contentious politics and research involving the development, nationalism and revolutions in East and Southeast Asia.
Professor Linda Trinh Vo (Sociology, Asian American Studies, Gender Studies)
Professor Vo currently serves as Professor of Asian American Studies at the University of California, Irvine. Her interests include racial and ethnic relations, as well as immigrants and refugees. She is especially passionate about Vietnamese refugees to America in the 1970s and how these families navigated cultural and racial tensions in a foreign land. In 2012, she launched “Viet Stories: Vietnamese American Oral History Project,” in which she collected and showcased stories from first generation Vietnamese Americans in Southern California. Currently, the project has more than 300 interviews. Explaining the motivation behind her project, Professor Vo said, “There are so many in that first generation who want to tell their stories to their children and grandchildren, about what happened to them, what they did to survive, who they were — and they wanted to leave some sort of legacy” (Los Angeles Times). Professor Vo has also published several books about Vietnamese and Asian American communities.
Viet Thanh Nguyen (Literature)
Viet Thanh Nguyen is an author and professor at the University of Southern California, teaching English and American Studies and Ethnicity. He is best known for his debut war novel: The Sympathizer, written with the purpose “to destroy the American perspective on the Vietnam war”. It received immense praise, being awarded the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Fiction, and much more. Viet Thanh Nguyen has also written for the New York Times, Time, Guardian, and is a critic-at-large for The Los Angeles Times. He often promotes Vietnamese art and culture through the organization Diasporic Vietnamese Artists Network and its blog, DiaCRITICS.
Trinh Minh Ha (Fine Arts)
Trinh Minh Ha is a filmmaker, writer, composer, and professor. A few of her famous works include Reassemblage, a documentary consisting of no narration as it portrays daily life in Senegal, and Surname Viet Given Name Nam, a film that explores the role of Vietnamese women after the war. She has received several accolades and grants for her work in filmography, including the National Independent Filmmaker award from American Film Institute. Ha’s other interests include postcolonial theory; social, art and literary theory; philosophy, as well as researching different cultures. As of right now, she teaches at UC Berkeley’s department of Rhetoric and Gender and Women’s Studies.
Hue Tam Ho Tai (History)
Hue Tam Ho Tai specializes in the research of public memory and public history, having an especially keen interest in Vietnam’s intellectual and revolutionary history. Her father was a revolutionary during the days of the Vietnam War, imprisoned for criticizing the country’s southern government at the time. Her bi-cultural upbringing in France and Vietnam gives her a unique outlook on living life in Saigon. Hue Tam Ho Tai currently teaches Sino-Vietnamese History at Harvard University, with the desire to look at Vietnamese history in a different perspective and to educate her students about “Vietnam’s ethnic and regional diversity, as well as implications of Vietnam’s territorial expansion” (The Harvard Crimson). She is also the author of seven publications.
Mariam Beevi Lam (Literature, Southeast Asia Studies)
Mariam Lam currently works at University of California, Riverside in multiple capacities including Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature and Southeast Asian Studies, Director of Southeast Asian Studies Program, and associate vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion. Lam is also the founding co-editor-in-chief of the Journal of Vietnamese Studies. She specializes in social and cultural studies of Southeast Asia and Asian Americans, and has published extensively on the postwar Vietnam, Vietnamese migrants and identities, as well as Vietnamese cinema, literature, and education. Lam is also very active in her community, having been board members of a number of associations aimed at Asian and Vietnamese American empowerment.