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15/03/2018 - 08:29

The Kovalevskaya Award Winning Woman

Associate Professor, Dr. Dinh Thi Bich Lan, deputy director of the Institute of Biotechnology (Hue University), is one of the only two women nationwide to have received the Kovalevskaya Award in 2017.

Assoc. Prof., Dr. Dinh Thi Bich Lan (far left) guiding her students to conduct experiments

Assoc. Prof., Dr. Dinh Thi Bich Lan shared: “In order to receive this recognition, there has been a long process of creative work and devotion towards bringing science and technology, especially high technology, into production and into the protection of farmers and the community’s well-being, which I have been dedicated to since I was a new student in Russia.”

Taking responsibility upon herself

In 1980, she was one of the students who got high marks in the university entrance examination, so she was offered a scholarship to study in Russia. At that time, the life of her family in particular and of the Vietnamese people in general was very difficult. "When I first arrived in the country of the white poplar trees, I witnessed a developed country, and I was so sorry for my country. When I ate a hearty meal in Russia, I felt sorry for my parents and my siblings at home with many hardships. From that moment on, I made a lot of effort and made it my responsibility to do something that would help develop the country so that people could have a better life,” revealed Assoc. Prof., Dr. Dinh Thi Bich Lan, eyes tearing up.

It has been her motivation, foundation and belief which have encouraged her to devote all her heart and time to scientific research. After graduating with high distinction from the Moscow Academy of Veterinary Medicine and being recruited to teach at the University of Agriculture and Forestry (Hue University), she still devoted herself to scientific research. In 1994, she went to Japan to continue her research.

During 28 years of working, she has chaired and participated in 22 scientific studies, including many state-level and ministerial-level projects. From these studies, she has developed high-tech products with high applicability.

An example is the recombinant antigens which are used to make diagnostic kits, based on the principle of immune response, the principle of vaccine manufacture and the principle of bio-products used for the prevention of infectious diseases. The dipstick allows for rapid and accurate diagnosis, and for the detection of infectious diseases at a low cost, without the need for advanced technicians. It can be used to diagnose immediately under any conditions, thereby minimizing cost, especially contributing to ensuring food safety, hygiene and protecting the health of the community.

Currently, her research results have been transferred to local authorities and enterprises producing biological products through projects that focus on trial production and technology transfer. The enterprises are applying for circulation permits to produce and supply products to the market. With this female scientist, this brings her joy.

Persistence

To achieve these results, Assoc. Prof., Dr. Dinh Thi Bich Lan had to face many difficulties while persistently pursuing her goals. In 2000, when she came back from Japan, she was like a farmer without rice fields, because she did not have funds, laboratories, or experimental farms to carry out scientific research. 

At that time, she had to write research proposals and explained her projects to find grants, as well as sought funding from friends. Luckily, in 2003, she and her husband applied for a research grant worth nearly 1 billion VND from Japan to build the first foundation for scientific research, the precursor of the Institute of Biotechnology.

However, due to the limited funding for scientific research, during the first five years, she had to spend her own money to carry out internal research. From 2006 until now, her research projects have been partly funded.

Assoc. Prof., Dr. Dinh Thi Bich Lan said she is lucky because her whole family has a common passion for scientific research. Her husband also works in the same field, so the husband and wife are co-authors of many studies. Her only son is a lecturer at Hue University of Economics and is currently a PhD student in Japan. "Because of the same enthusiasm and passion for scientific research, whenever I had to use my own money to do research, I always received support from my husband," she laughed.

She still never goes to bed before midnight, and still has a 16-hour working day. She often leaves the air-conditioned room to go to the farm to do experiments for her research.

“Many people say my husband and I are crazy. They couldn’t understand why we wanted to pursue difficult things when we could have enjoyed an idle life. My mother felt sad because even though I have studied abroad in many countries, I still spend my days from the pigsty to the cow shed ... But to me, that is passion and I want to wrestle with reality to create products that are demanded by real life,” she confided.

For her, it is also a way for her to combine theory and practice to teach and continue scientific research. Sharing about her upcoming plans, Assoc. Prof., Dr. Dinh Thi Bich Lan said that she will carry out research on the prevention of some dangerous diseases which are spread from animals to humans.

Story and photo: Hai Thuan

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