Before becoming an Assistant Professor in Department of Intelligent Mechatronics Engineering at Sejong University in South Korea, Vu won a full scholarship and graduated with a Master’s degree and a PhD from Korea Maritime and Ocean University (KMOU). He also won many scholarships for foreign students at Korea Institute of Ocean Science and Technology -KIOST.

However, no-one thought that his major would later be different from the subject he was trained for while studying at Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology (HCMUT) in the Department of Marine Engineering, Faculty of Transportation Engineering.

Winning a scholarship

Từ chàng kỹ sư suýt thất nghiệp đến hơn 50 công bố quốc tế

Mai The Vu (born in 1990) is an alumnus of HCMUT. 

Vu graduated from HCMUT in 2013. At that time, shipbuilding enterprises were facing many difficulties. He tried in vain to be employed to work as a shipbuilding engineer.

While he was confused about his future career, his former head teacher in the university suggested an opportunity to study at KMOU. Without hesitation, he decided to take that chance to study in the Department of Mechatronics Engineering.

“I had never thought of becoming an overseas student as I always assumed that it was costly to do so. But I still wanted to try,” Vu said.

His profile was approved but he encountered many difficulties when he arrived in South Korea.

“My biggest problem was that I had to participate in a completely different field of study. Moreover, I had to learn Korean to communicate with other students and professors,” Vu said.

When he was a postgraduate, he had to spend most of his time in the laboratory. As a result, it was not an unusual thing that he had to stay at the lab until after midnight.

“Korean professors only cared about results. I had to report my research once a week, so I worked every day. They sometimes got many projects for me and other postgraduates to do. Therefore, participants could understand the procedure for research. Although each member had to multitask, these were chances for us to have more experiences,” Vu added.

VN scientist with over 50 published articles on underwater robots

Từ chàng kỹ sư suýt thất nghiệp đến hơn 50 công bố quốc tế

In the first couple of years in South Korea, Vu mainly focused on developing underwater construction robots. This was the subject presented in his first scientific article.

“Using an underwater construction robot, workers control it to bury a cable or ladder on the seabed. In this article, I calculated forces to operate the robot to follow pre-programmed instructions,” he said.

It took him a year to finish his first article. The hardest thing was that he had to find an idea and then look for supporting information. There are not many references related to Mechatronics Engineering.

Writing skills also caused him to struggle with the article. In the first stage, as he did not have much experience in authoring an article, he could not draft a scientific article in the appropriate language. He had to communicate with his professor every day to ask for the professor’s opinions. After a month improving his article, he finished and it was published on a well-known magazine.

During his time in South Korea, Vu has published more than 50 articles in international scientific magazine. Among these, 11 articles were classified as Q1 (he was the main author of seven articles), and 10 articles were classified as Q2 (he was the main author of five articles). Four of his articles were named as some of the best presentations in scientific conferences in South Korea in 2017, 2018, and 2019.

Từ chàng kỹ sư suýt thất nghiệp đến hơn 50 công bố quốc tế

Vu with his wife in Korea.


In his opinion, building a network among colleagues is an important thing to a scientist. “Scientists cannot work on their own. By joining this network, scientists can communicate and learn from one another about their field,” Vu said.

He has built his own network including researchers from Iran, Japan, South Korea, the USA, Taiwan… After eight years of living in South Korea, Vu continues to pursue his career of developing underwater robots that help find minerals or lost objects, and are used in military.

Despite unexpected turning point, Vu said that he cannot come back to Vietnam.

“I think that this is a deep subject, and I do not have enough knowledge to carry out research independently. Moreover, the underwater robot field in Vietnam has not received much attention. In the future, I hope that I can return to Vietnam and apply my research to solve problems relating to underwater techniques,” Vu said.

Doan Hung - Quynh Trang - Mai Anh

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