Prof. Dr. Nguyen Kim Phi Phung: 40 years of dedication and creativity

Meeting her in the Sunday morning, middle of Saigon, after auditing her class – directly hear and watch her teaching and being shared about her teaching and research, I understand why she – Prof. Nguyen Kim Phung, lecturer of Organic Chemistry, Faculty of Chemistry, VNUHCM=University of Science, is awarded the prize by Kovalevskaia prize.

In 2016, Prof Phung was the only individual honored.

Born to be a teacher

Graduated in 1977, Prof Dr Nguyen Kim Phi Phung was kept as a lecturer so she said “career choice rather than her job ”. However, she proved to be a man born to the lecturer. The evidence is that over the past 40 years – throughout the whole life of dedication work – she still go to school in the morning and go home in the afternoon, sticking with her students,  podiums and labs.

In Chemistry, Prof Phung chose Organic Chemistry. Therefore, she had spent years on researching the chemical composition of Vietnam’s plant or lichen species, especially those that have not been researched by scientists or only  overall research. She found many natural compounds have good inhibitors against cancer cells growth on human body such as cervical cancer, breasts cancer, lung cancer, or some enzymes relates to diabetes, melasma, Alzheimer…

The results of her research have enriched the treasure of Vietnam medical plants as well as provided database for resource-oriented scientists,  to serve for Vietnam and the world pharmaceutical industry.

At age of 62, she has got some remarkable achievements: ran and participated in 11 topics at all levels, published 144 articles on all chemistry journals, published 7 undergraduated and graduated textbooks. In the field of training, she guided 8 PHD students to successfully defend doctoral thesis, 69 graduate students and 150 students done doctoral thesis.

“Keep practicing”

Prof Phung’s students always remember her statement “Keep practicing” – the default statement of this Southern woman. Dr. Ton That Quang, Deputy Director of the Department of Organic Chemistry says: “We encourage students to not afraid of difficulties in scientific research, Mrs Phung always said ‘It is Chemistry, we have to study, pratise to see results, kepp practicing”.

Mr Dinh Minh Van – a graduated student in Organic Chemistry of VNUHCM-University of Science says: “I was being taught by her since second year of university; eventhough the class had less or more students, she was teaching as well as ‘running’ around the class, take care of each of everyone. There was 50 students in a lab. she was not only remember everyone but also know the research progress and she pushed, reminded everytime”.

The lab is not always full of equipments and chemicals so sometimes we leave jobs behind. Then she asks us to find another one to replace the missing one, or borrow somewhere, try to find any ways to solve it. She said “this equipment can be designed like this” then she made one as a model. Not only knowledges, we also learn from her the enthusiasm, the tirelessly effortless in researching” – Mr Dinh Minh Van says.

Everyday a short test

One characteristic of “teacher Phung” among other teachers’ is she always gave students a short test in every classes. On average, a subject has 45 courses, students have to do 11 tests with 11 point columns to calculate the attendance. “These tests were corrected carefully every detail, get minus on wrong spots for us to remember. The class is very crowded but we still have exercises everyday. Sometimes I think she is…a super woman” – Mr Dinh Minh Van smiles and says.

Seeing she often bring lots of work to home, her husband get afraid and teases her “crazy Phung”, but she has maintained this for many years. Beacause “every short tests in class are ways to help students understand problem quickly. Through the way they do, i know where they understand, where is good and bad. It also help me to identify the good students for early nourishing and intensive training.” – she explains.

By doing this, she knows her students very well. When introducing her students to a scholarship program, she always give detail review which makes partners believe and give scholarship to students easier.

Not only close to students, graduated students but also the deans and deputy deans who were her students are also under her “following”, whenever  meeting, she will remind about researching. writing articles for seminar, journalist. She says “I have to remind for the people who doing management job to not forget the scientific researching.”

She says: “I am 62 years old now and about to retire so I only join not lead the project anymore. I join to stand by my students, to support them in reasearching”. Then she sees herself as an old bamboo tree in a bush with many branch rises up and full of young bamboo under it. When comparing like that, her eyes are filled with a blissful happiness, a strong belief in future of young generation.

In the evening of March 7, The Kovalevskaia Prize Foundation has awarded and honored an outstanding team and individual in 2016

Individual prize belongs to Prof. Dr. Nguyen Kim Phung, lecturer of Organic Chemistry Department, Faculty of Chemistry, VNUHCM-University of Science. The team prize is given to 5 female scientists who are fundamental researchers in nanotechnology and sciences at the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology.

The Kovalevskaia Award was established to honor and encourage Vietnamese female scientists who have outstanding contribution to the growth of science and technology of the country. Over the past 30 years, it has awarded to 61 outstanding individuals and groups of female scientists in the field of applied sciences and natural sciences.

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