VN girl's bumpy road to the world's leading research institute

As a student who once failed entrance exams to universities, Doan Thi Hai Duong has just won a scholarship with a monthly stipend of 2.800€ in a doctoral program at Max Planck for Plant Breeding Institute – Germany.

It is one of the institutes of the Max Planck Society, one of the leading non-profit organizations in science and technology in the world, with 33 Nobel prize winners.

Cô gái Hải Phòng 2 lần trượt đại học đến viện nghiên cứu hàng đầu thế giới

Doan Thi Hai Duong - a shining example of energy and love for science.

Doan Thi Hai Duong is the youngest of three siblings in her family. Ever since her childhood, she has dreamt about becoming a doctor. Her favorite subject was Biology.

“Despite not getting into a Specialist School, I always did my best to get good results in high school. My goal since 10th grade was to study abroad when I saw my cousin got a scholarship to study in Japan,” Duong recalls.

In order to achieve her dream, Duong worked hard to improve in English and Biology. In 2013, Duong attended the entrance exam to Hai Phong University of Medicine and Pharmacy. She did not pass. In 2014, she gave it another try, but to no avail. She finally applied to her second option, University of Hai Phong, majoring in Biotechnology. After some time doing various lab work on campus, she developed an interest in botanical biology.

“After graduating in 2017, I realized my resume was not impressive enough for me to apply for a foreign scholarship. So, I applied for a research position in the Department of Molecular Biology at the Institute of Agricultural Genetics. I received guidance from leading professors, got access to modern equipment and even had the opportunity to go to the Philippines to practice for three months,” she says.

Experiencing a professional research environment abroad prompted Duong to apply for a master's degree in Korea. In June 2017, Duong passed the interview conducted by Professor Kim Jae Yeon and received a master's scholarship from Gyeongsang National University.

Cô gái Hải Phòng 2 lần trượt đại học đến viện nghiên cứu hàng đầu thế giới

It was not easy for Duong when she first came to Korea. “Although I was mentally prepared, it still took me more than a month to get used to the workflow. I had to stay up late many nights. I struggled with what many people could accomplish with ease. But that only made me more determined.” Thanks to her effort, Duong achieved excellent results and defended her project on time.

However, a week before receiving her master’s degree in August 2020, Duong heard news that her father had passed due to serious illness. Because of the complicated situations surrounding the Covid-19 epidemic, she couldn’t fly back to Vietnam.

 

“My father always encouraged me to rise up from failure to pursue my dream. Not being able to meet him for the last time devastated me. That along with the pressure from studying made me postpone my plans to continue studying for my doctoral degree as I suffered from depression,” Duong said.

After some time, Duong started to recover. In 2021, she finished her resume to apply for doctorate scholarships. Among the 10 universities Duong applied to, she received three replies. In April 2021, she got her first interview with the VIB-UGent research center for plant systems biology (Belgium) but was ultimately rejected.

Three months later, she got another interview with the University of Jena. “After introducing myself and my preferred research direction, the professor there gave a short presentation about the topic. After listening, I realized the program was not the perfect fit for me,” she said.

Cô gái Hải Phòng 2 lần trượt đại học đến viện nghiên cứu hàng đầu thế giới
 Doan Thi Hai Duong once failed an entrance exam to university but is now working on her doctorate.

The third interview was with Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding (Germany). With her experience from the last two interviews, Duong was more confident and passed the first three rounds of interviews. At the fourth interview, the interviewing professor said she was qualified for the scholarships but expressed concern about her determination to follow through with her study, because it was going to be hard and stressful. Duong replied: “After three years in Korea I have learned to adapt to the pressure of working at a lab. You have to believe in yourself, know what your values are, and be determined to follow your research.”

On September 6th, 2021, Duong won the scholarship with a salary of 2800 Euros/month before taxes. She will continue her study in Molecular Biology, following her research in mater’s level of modifying botanical genome and plant-breeding technology to create new species that can withstand climate change.

Ngoc Linh

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