My experiences and activities prior to 2015

Research into Vietnamese culture (2009)

When I was in high school, I had my first experience in scientific research. Although my interests are natural sciences, the work was in social science. When I was young, I noticed that when Vietnamese people are in a relationship, the female one always addressed herself (and was addressed) as the little sister, and the male one always addressed himself (and was addressed) as the older brother, while in fact there are many couples in which the female is of same or greater age than the male. I found this convention interesting because the couples had to change the way they address each other, and more importantly, this was in contrast to the culture of respecting women in Vietnam. My findings so far have been that these changes are based on the socio-biological knowledge about sexes and genders. I noticed that this hypothesis also worked in homosexual couples, and based on some positive feedback from two linguists who have been kind enough to review my work, I will continue my research and plan to pursue publication before going to grad school.

National Student Physics Olympiad (2011)

In the first year in university, I had an opportunity to attend the National Student Physics Olympiad. It is is an annual competition for undergraduate physics students in Vietnam, organized by the Ministry of Education and Training and the Vietnam Physics Society. This is a very prestigious contest and the school entry requirements are challenging. Only six students were selected and I had to compete with higher year students. During the trip I made friends with a lot of talented students. I worked in the experimental section and our team got the third-place medal.

I also had other activities in university. I was the vice president of the elementary class for the first two years, and the representative of the Youth Union in my specialty class for two years after that. In 2013, I joined in the Green Summer campaign, the largest volunteer campaign for university students in my country. My mission was to introduce the exciting world of science to high school students. Our talks were met with much interest and excitement. I also translated a biophysics book from English to Vietnamese in that year.

The Vietnam Book Drive Project (2014 – present)

The Vietnam Book Drive Project (VnBookDrive) is a volunteer project to help bring valuable textbooks donated from various sources in the US (e.g. libraries, professors, students, etc) to libraries in Vietnam.

Vietnam had been ravaged by war for many years, and we are now lacking excellent English books in undergraduate and graduate level (Russia donated books during the war years, but they are now out-dated and have a limited audience due to the Russian text). Every year the project distributes about 1500 books to universities across Vietnam, with the exception of some well funded government universities. This provides much needed literature for universities with limited resources. This year, the project has expanded to other activities such as translating books for children, or collaborating with another volunteer group supporting autistic children, who often lack the necessary health care and education.

I have been the project’s voluntary webmaster for about a year, helping to maintain and promote the site. Thanks to this project, I have gained a lot of experience. Everybody is helpful and generous toward Vietnam. In the future I am thinking about to switch to its sister project, the Vietnam Journal of Science.

Contribution for GRE learners (2015)

I started learning GRE vocabulary with the Anki program at the end of 2014, and having the test by the end of March 2015. Although I had learnt a lot of words, I also forgot much of them, and as the result the score didn’t meet my expectations. However, since the spaced repetition method was proven to be the most efficient method to learn a language, I thought that the problem is not lying on the method, but on the poor design of the deck I learnt. Unfortunately, all the decks are badly designed.

Design is very important, but most of the time is underestimated. A bad design hinders the process of perception, while a good one enhances it. It is believed that the Columbia shuttle exploded in 2003 not because of failing in the test, but because of the failing in communication. In fact the engineers had pointed out the reasons may lead to damage the shuttle, but a bad design PowerPoint slide prevented the audiences to fully aware of the danger.

Back to the point, I believe that the bad design of the deck hindered my effectiveness in memorizing words. Seeing the need to have a well designed deck, not only for me, but also for the community (one member in VnBookDrive almost failed to get a school placement because of her GRE score, although she had tried her best), I decided to dedicate one month just to create one, so that the method could achieve its highest potential.

Once complete I posted it on my website, and the result is incredible. Every month there are approximately a hundred visitors visit my site to download it, and within a couple months this popularity has pushed my site to the front page of Google. Another good news for me is that I haven’t forgotten a single word since.

Although my TOEFL or GRE score might not be high yet, the scores themselves don’t reflect everything. After all, English should be a medium to communicate, not the opposite. I plan to upgrade the deck to make the it more consistent in the future.

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