Hà Thanh Nguyen, PhD student in medicinal chemistry

Hà Thanh Nguyen, from Vietnam, began her PhD in medicinal chemistry at the Université de Rennes 1 last May. She tells us about her first few months in Rennes and what brought her to the university.

Ha Thanh Nguyen

What is the subject of your PhD?

It’s in medicinal Chemistry. The title is Synthesis of AApeptide derivatives used as peptidomimetic of natural peptides which are protein-protein interactions disruptors, potent anticancer agents at the Institute of Chemical Sciences, Rennes (UMR CNRS 6226).

What made you choose Université de Rennes 1?

When I was in Vietnam at the VNU-Hanoi University of Science, I applied for a scholarship in medicinal chemistry. I’d heard about Université de Rennes 1 when I was working at the Institute of Chemistry in the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology, which collaborates with Professor Pierre van de Weghe of Université de Rennes 1.

And why did you choose medicinal chemistry?

I like it of course! And I feel it’s a promising field. There are a lot of projects to find new components for combating disease.

At bachelor’s and master’s level, I studied organic chemistry and came to Rennes after my master’s.

Did you always want to study abroad?

Yes! About three years ago, I went to Japan to do an internship. I worked there for about a month and I discovered so many things! In particular, the good facilities for research in developed countries, and of course, a new language and culture. I had also did an internship in Belgium.

I enjoy discovering other countries and cultures and meeting people from all over the world!

Do you speak Japanese?

(Laughing.) No, I just know how to say hello and say my name. My internship was in English. I also use English in Rennes. In the laboratory, my professors and supervisors can speak English very well. But I’m also attending French lessons which are available for foreign students here.

What are the advantages for a Vietnamese student who does their PhD abroad?

Firstly, for language reasons. I’ll have the opportunity to improve my English, which is important in the scientific community as we have to write and publish articles in English.

Secondly, I’ll have more opportunities to attend international conferences and maybe meet top scientists, and learn from them. Finally, as a developed country, France has better conditions for research. Equipment and chemicals for example. Here, there are enough and they are easy to buy. That isn’t the case in Vietnam. It’s far from Europe and most chemicals come from Europe so it takes a long time to get the chemicals we need for our research.

Is university life very different in France?

The campus in Rennes is very large and beautiful. There are no fences and gates. In Vietnam, the university is in a closed area. You also have a very big cafeteria! The food is reasonably priced and, of course, it’s different to Vietnam. Our basic foodstuff is rice. But I discovered bread here, your equivalent to our rice maybe? I love it!

Is Rennes affordable?

Yes it is. I live in student halls of residence which isn’t too expensive and in France there is financial help for people with a low income.

What would you like to do after your PhD?

I hope to continue in research and do a postdoctorate abroad.

What are the differences between Vietnam and Rennes?

The weather? At the moment, it’s very hot in Vietnam. And the sky! It’s higher and clearer in Rennes! (Laughing.)