When appointed as a professor, Prof Ngo Bao Chau, the Fields medalist, thought he would be in more comfortable circumstances.
But he was shocked when receiving the first month salary in France, because it was not enough to buy air tickets to fly to Vietnam.
Prof Ngo Bao Chau
On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of receiving Fields Medal, Chau recently gave a public lecture on the topic "Discussing scientific research”, where he showed his path of doing research.
“People sometimes ask if I have ever thought of giving up scientific research. In general, the answer is ‘no’, but I really sometimes doubted my capability,” Chau said.
After winning the gold medal at the International Mathematics Olympiad (IMO) when he was in 11th grade, Chau no longer felt excited about attending IMO the next year. At the time, he realized that there were many differences between advanced and elementary mathematics.
He met Prof Doan Quynh, who once led the Vietnamese national team of selected students to attend IMO. The teacher gave him a book about advanced mathematics.
But when reading the book, he did not understand anything. Later, he gave up and doubted his ability to learn theoretical mathematics.
The same feeling came once more when he went to France. The study became more and more difficult.
But luckily, he met Prof Gérard Laumon. The special teacher understood Chau’s strength and weakness and applied an easily understandable teaching method, which helped Chau master mathematics knowledge.
Chau found that the most important person in one’s path of pursuing scientific research is the teacher. Choosing teachers is as important as choosing wife or husband. The scientific life of someone much depends on his early decision on choosing teachers.
“I was advised to study with a better known teacher, but I still decided to study with my teacher. He was then very young, but I had confidence in him and I ignored advice to follow him,” he recalled the day when he began on the path of scientific research.
“Later, I realized that my teacher has a deep and profound vision. He always has a very new way of understanding and had a special view on the problems of mathematics,” Chau said.
Postdoc study, according to Chau, is a special period, when scientists have to become independent researchers and have to find issues and research methods themselves. One of the most difficult skills scientists need is self improvement all the time.
“An ambitious scientist needs to improve himself continuously. He never writes more than two articles on the same idea and always has a sense of finding new matters,” he said.
Chau related the story about how he decided to work on fundamental lemma.
“I did not want to be distracted by other problems anymore. So I decided to write to my colleagues, informing that I decided to withdraw from the research works I was doing. I decided to leave the 'safe zone' to go to a place full of risks, but that's really what I wanted to do,” Chau said.
Challenges for scientists
According to Chau, there are always disadvantages for scientists, including the one in income. Also, scientists don’t have much time for meetings with friends and social exchange.
|Scientists now can live on their career, and they don’t have to make money from other extra jobs. Besides state’s funds, some private investment funds have taken shape to support scientific research.|
“I had not had the concept of eating out until the age of 30-40. I also had rare communications with friends. I felt I did not have demand for this. This is the price for following scientific research,” he said.
As for his income, this is a problem for young scientists, he said. When he was in France, he was shocked several times about the income.
When he was young, he thought he would not need much money, but just needed time to do research. He needed enough meals and a place to live.
When he was appointed as professor, he thought he would be in more comfortable circumstances and there would be no need to worry too much about earning money. But he was shocked when receiving the first month salary: the amount of money was not enough to buy an air ticket to Vietnam.
“It was not because I was mistreated. But this is the situation in France. In the US, the income of scientists is also much lower than people taking other jobs. Some new graduates can receive the salary equal to the pay to a mathematics professor,” he explained.
However, he still encourages young people to do scientific research if they have passion.
“The conditions for scientists in Vietnam to do research are getting much better. Their efforts will be rewarded by society,” he said.
Scientists now can live on their career, and they don’t have to make money from other extra jobs. Besides state’s funds, some private investment funds have taken shape to support scientific research.
“Therefore, scientists now can feel more comfortable to conduct scientific research,” he said.
Thanh Hung - Thuy Nga
Mathéo Vergnolle, a 19-year-old French university student with great passion for mathematics, is working as a teacher in Vietnam.
Prof Dang Dinh Ang, an outstanding teacher who made a great contribution to the development of Vietnam’s mathematics, passed away on August 29 at the age of 94.