Vo Pham Thuy Tien has won full scholarships from nine prestigious schools in the US.
These include University of California San Diego (ranked the 28th in the world; University of Toronto (23rd); University of Wisconsin – Madison (32nd); Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center; University of North Carolina, Chapel Hills; Gerstner Sloan Kettering Graduate School; University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center; University of Minnesota and Iowa State University.
Tien chose the University of California at San Diego (UCSD), with a scholarship of $67,000 per annum for five years.
“I want to do in-depth biomedical study on the mechanisms causing incurable diseases in cancer patients. UCSD is the school with the most famous professors in the world in this field,” she explained.
Unlike other family members who work in fields related to arts, Tien first studied biology at the HCMC University of Natural Sciences. She had opportunities to work with professors at the school and loved biological research.
She left Vietnam for the US to study at Iowa State University with financial support from her parents and a partial scholarship from the school.
Though she started a year later than many other students, Tien still kept pace with the study program and got scholarships for consecutive periods with almost perfect GPAs. In the first year at school, she worked as a teaching assistant.
In the second semester, Tien joined the Research Initiative Program, in which she worked with two professors on research on stem cells used in the regeneration of the retina after trauma in a zebrafish model.
In the summer of 2019, Tien became one of 11 students in the US participating in CURE, a program designed for students interested in cancer research at the Stephenson Cancer Center at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.
The research project studied the mechanisms that cause cancer drug resistance and the ways to overcome drug resistance, with support from Dr. Jie Wu. The research results were published in the Annals of Oncology with an Impact Factor of 18,274.
Tien also served as a research assistant at the laboratory of Dr. Michael Cho on finding a long-acting flu vaccine to replace the seasonal flu vaccine. She carried out experiments and analyzed data.
Tien was able to gain experience in molecular cloning and protein purification techniques.
She was invited for an internship at the cancer research center at Gerstner Sloan Kettering University in 2020. But the course was canceled because of Covid-19. She attended the course from a distance for four weeks.
When she became a senior at university, she was invited to work as research assistant at the university level at Dr Hua Bai’s laboratory, and carried out her first independent research project on the role of SCAF1 protein in the mechanisms that cause aging and cardiovascular diseases.
Nguyen Bao Ngoc from Hanoi has won a scholarship to enter a doctoral program in environmental science at the University of California, Berkeley, and is now pursuing internships in the US in her field of research.
Graduating from Harvard University with a master's degree in Public Policy, Tran Ha Duong said that he thought the prestigious school was “completely beyond my reach”.