Oct. 28, 2011

Vietnam Partnerships Benefit Engineering School

Engineering Partners

Provost James Brennan, third from left, Dean Charles Nguyen, and other administrators after a recent luncheon celebrating the record high number of Vietnamese students enrolled in engineering.

In 2007, School of Engineering Dean Charles Nguyen initiated two programs with universities in Vietnam: a 2+2 agreement in which undergraduates study for two years in their home university and finish their last two years at CUA, and a graduate program in which Catholic University recruits students holding bachelor's degrees to study at the University for their doctoral degrees.

Since then, the school has seen a ninefold increase in the number of Vietnamese students studying at CUA, from three students in 2007 to 27 in 2011, with Vietnamese students comprising 30 percent of full-time doctoral candidates, and 6.5 percent of the total undergraduate population.

The students, meanwhile, have gained knowledge and experience that will transform their futures and that of their home country. Says electrical engineering junior Hieu Nguyen, "Studying in the U.S. is special for me - a new opportunity to get much more knowledge." Nguyen plans to stay on to do graduate work.

The students bring a high level of ability to their work at Catholic University. Coming from top universities in Vietnam, they enter CUA with strong math/science backgrounds, says Assistant Dean and Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering Binh Tran. "These students are in the top 5 percent of their class in Vietnam, so their GPAs are quite high."

Whether they wish to go into industry, academia, or both, the students see the engineering school's programs as steppingstones to success. For example, Long Luu, who graduated in 2011 with a Bachelor of Electric Engineering, found the 2+2 program good preparation and a model for his academic career, where he would "like to do research and work in an environment like CUA."

Engineering Partners
Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Christine Mica and Vietnamese students applaud after Dean Nguyen's speech at the luncheon.

Minh Vo, who graduates in May 2012 with a Bachelor of Electrical Engineering, says he hopes "to combine work in industry with a part-time faculty position." Vo took advantage of labs that are open 24 hours a day "so I could come in and do whatever I needed to do when I had the time to."

In these students the school has also found a rich source of capable research assistants. Says Dean Nguyen, "Our engineering faculty have won sizeable research funding and need qualified assistants to support their research. This semester, six doctoral students and eight undergraduates are involved in faculty research."

Vo is one of those undergraduate assistants. He says one of his goals in coming to study at Catholic University was "to work closely with professors and publish. I got to do both." Vo assists Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering Zhaoyang Wang in his research on high-resolution imaging.

Hoi Nguyen and his wife, Thu, will receive their doctorates in May 2012. They have both worked closely in the labs with professors. Thu Nguyen is a research assistant on biomedical optics applications, building optical imaging systems to evaluate degrees of burns on electrical and thermal burn wounds. As a research assistant on biomedical robotics, Hoi Nguyen is helping find ways to improve robot-assisted neuro-rehabilitation on stroke patients.

"The professors here are very strong in research and highly involved in collaboration with the outside world," Hoi Nguyen says. "This helps students gain practical experience and direction."