Name：Mr. Le Van Lich (Vietnam)
Name of the course：AUN/SEED-Net Long-term Participant (Ph.D.)
(ASEAN University Network / Southeast Asia Engineering Education Development Network)
Graduated Univ.：Material Science, Dept. of Mechanical Engineering and Science, Kyoto Univ.
Research Theme：Multi-physics Properties in Topologically Nanostructured Ferroelectrics
Duration of the course：Sept. 23, 2013〜 Sept. 30, 2016
Sending Institution：Hanoi University of Science and Technology
Mr. Le Van Lich started his Ph. D. course in Sept., 2013. He was mentored by Prof. Kitamura, Kyoto Univ. and researched on ferroelectrics and ferromagnetics, especially improvement of their properties and versatility at nanoscale. He achieved remarkable research outputs and graduated on Sept. 23, exactly three years after his arrival. This is a story behind how he managed to get doctor degree with limited time of three years and an encouragement message to his junior.
I was inspired by Fukuzawa Yukichi, who was one of the most influential people ever that helped Japan modernize into the country it is today. I was also interested in his famous book, entitled "An encouragement of learning", of which the main theme may be summarized in one word - Independence. His spirit strongly motivated me to choose Japan as a destination for my higher education in a hope that one day I could be an independent researcher. I then took charge of my learning and my life.
I was lucky enough to get the prestigious scholarship for doctoral course from the ASEAN University Network/Southeast Asia Engineering Education Development Network (AUN/SEED-Net), supported by Japanese Government through Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). Until now, I still remember vividly the sleepless night thinking about my voyage in Japan as the scholarship result was just announced. This scholarship was not only a great honor, but also offered me a particular chance to realize my dream.
Three years pursuing Ph.D. at Kyoto University helped broaden my perception on professional research career. I was fortunate to be mentored by Professor Takayuki Kitamura, who strongly encouraged me autonomy and creativity. I used the opportunity to cultivate independence as early as possible. One of my strategies was to assign a 'thinking period' devoted to formulating research ideas. Through an iterative process, I refined the research direction until I have settled on a good fit. In prof. Kitamura’s laboratory, I was exposed to several cutting-edge and pioneering researches, in which I became passionate about multi-physics properties of nanostructured ferroelectrics. I then stretched my comfort zone in fracture mechanics toward this area. I frequently discussed with staff scientists and research fellows about research ideas, developed tools to carry out analyses, and received feedback from lab meetings. In particular, I learned a lot of skills from Assistant Professor Takahiro Shimada through daily discussions. Through these experiences, I strengthened my communication skills to make effective discussions with researchers from a variety of backgrounds, exchange ideas, and create and maintain collaborations. I was also aware that stretching my comfort zone helps to gain new experiences and knowledge, and breed new research ideas.
Before getting Ph. D., I was the author and co-author of more than ten papers, which were published or submitted to international journals. My works have been attracted attention from my colleagues and sometimes caught the eye of editors. I was invited to review a manuscript that matched my research area. This invitation offered me a unique opportunity to gain insight into the process of publishing and understand more about role of reviewers. Keeping in my mind that a sloppy report might taint my reputation with editor and lose the respect of my colleagues, I spent several weeks to carefully review the manuscript in a consultation with my professor and write a thoughtful report. Although time consuming, delving deeply into someone else's paper can benefit my own work. Being a reviewer helped me to not only broaden my knowledge, but hone my critical thinking as well. In addition, I learned how to be critical without being impolite or discouraging to others.
I had a privilege of participating in teaching and mentoring activities. From the second-year of my Ph.D. course, I began mentoring junior students, who wanted to follow my research direction. This involves sharing the skills that I picked up at their stage, and encouraging independent development of their own skills. The most important lessons that I have taught students are how to ask the right questions and where to look for the answers. I never stopped at simply marking points off when students made mistakes, but I always made sure to point them in the direction of the right answer. I also encouraged students to actively participate in discussions. Furthermore, I constantly observed their progresses and tailored my lessons to the specific needs of each of students. In being a student mentor, I learned to accommodate a wide range of learning styles and personalities, a skill that may prove crucial in my future career. On the other hand, one of my greatest feelings is to see the glow that appears on their faces as comprehension dawns on them. Therefore, passing on knowledge is, to me, both a responsibility and a joy.
I have highly appreciated the quality of interpersonal relationship and leadership through my mentoring experiences. Therefore, I took on more active and substantial roles in other outreach activities to hone my communication and leadership skills. In 2015, I was elected to be a vice president of Vietnamese Youths and Students Association in Kyoto (VYSA Kyoto), which includes more than 200 members. In this position, I organized many events that help to connect and support Vietnamese people living in Kyoto. In particular, I participated to organize the 8th Vietnamese-Japanese Students’ Scientific Exchanged Meeting (VJSE 2015) at Kyoto University, which included 50 reports presented in 7 parallel sessions and attracted more than 120 attendances including students, professors, scholars, researchers, and activists from many Universities in both Vietnam and Japan. Furthermore, I have volunteered in a charity nonprofit group, namely BETOAJI, which is to raise financial fund through cooking classes to support poor students living in remote mountains of Vietnam, and to introduce Vietnamese culture to Japanese and foreigners as well. On the other hand, I was invited to share my experiences in doing researches and leadership with exchanged students at Kyoto University. Juggling many roles kept me busy, but it also equipped me many important skills for my long-term research career including how to organize meetings and keep them on track, integrate opinions from people in very different fields, and resolve differences in opinion.
I got a Doctoral degree on 23rd September 2016, exactly three years from the first day I came to Japan for studying. Three years was an amazing journey that would not have been possible without the supports and encouragements of many outstanding people and organizations. I would like to express my deepest gratitude to you all for the supports and encouragements. Now, I graduated to begin a new journey, which is filled with new challenges, new knowledge, and attempts to inspire my prospective students to tackle complex problems. I hope my works will play an active role in society.
As a farewell massage, I would like to share my opinion to people who are thinking about getting Ph.D. Three years for the doctoral course is not too long, but it is one of the most important periods of time in your life. Let’s take time to think about your career prospects after Ph.D. from the very beginning. Be independent in your thought, and have the courage to follow you heart and intuition. Finally, I would like to quote from the Stanford speech of Steve Jobs : "your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life."
Le Van Lich
JICA’s participant 2013-2016