Ho Chi Minh Meeting.
President Ho Chi Minh is known as a symbolic icon of Vietnam's national independence, freedom, and peace: a real-life hero who lives on in the hearts of the Vietnamese people. He once intoned "To reap a return in ten years, plant trees. To reap a return in 100, cultivate the people." The core message underlying his words harmonizes with one of the missions of the Asian Chemical Biology Initiative (ACBI): to promote a newly emerging field of chemical biology in Southeast Asia by creating a regional network and training the young generations.
On the occasion of the 2017 annual meeting, ACBI executed its missions in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, from January 21-22, 2017, at the Rex Hotel Saigon.
Asian Chemical Biology Initiative 2017 Ho Chi Minh Meeting
The first half of the Ho Chi Minh Meeting was closed-door scientific sessions, where 39 ACBI members from Japan, Korea, China, Singapore, UAE, India, etc. presented their ongoing research for 13 minutes each, including questions. Discussions and brainstorming continued and extended during coffee and lunch breaks, with the intention of grasping opportunities for joint projects.
From FY2016, ACBI invited 5 countries (Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia) on board as "Sub-member" countries, and one or two faculty-level scientists from each country to be a representative. Out of the 5 sub-member countries, 2 scientists participated in the Ho Chi Minh meeting and furthered partnerships with the ACBI members.
A part of the Scientific Sessions was devoted to researchers from top universities of Ho Chi Minh: Drs. Nguyen Tuyet Phuong, Nguyen Thi Thanh Mai, Nguyen Tri Nhan, and Ngo Dai Nghiep, from University of Science, VNU-HMC. They briefly presented their respective schools and ongoing research for 7 minutes each, and joined exchanging ideas for international collaborations and personnel exchange plans with the ACBI members.
Tutorial & Student Interview Sessions
To be faithful to Mr. Ho Chi Minh's famous saying quoted earlier, ACBI offered a new educational experience for Vietnamese students majoring in chemistry and biology. Four months before the Ho Chi Minh meeting, Vietnamese students were invited to visit the ACBI website (http://www.asianchembio.jp) to browse the member database and were encouraged to register for an interview opportunity of the Ho Chi Minh Meeting. From among the 62 applications received from the entire nation, 40 students were invited to attend the event held on January 22.
In the afternoon of January 22, the 40 students gathered at Rex Hotel Saigon and listened to 3 tutorial lectures by leading ACBI members: Dr. Motonari Uesugi of Kyoto University on “Introduction to Chemical Biology,” Dr. Xiaoguang Lei of Peking University talking about "Chemical Genetics," and Dr. Young-Tae Chang of National University of Singapore showcased his “Bioimaging” techniques. The trio successfully enticed the students to the basics and applications of chemical biology research. The tutorial session concluded with short presentations by Ms. Hue Thi Vu and Mr. Tran Nam Ha in their local language. As both of them are originally from Vietnam and currently graduate students at Kyoto University, Japan, Ms. Vu showcased her life in Kyoto and detailed the Japanese Government (Monbukagakusho) Scholarship Program, whereas Mr. Tran shared his story from the interview session of ACBI 2012 Hanoi Meeting, where he met his current supervisor.
Following the tutorial lectures were interview sessions set up in a speed interviewing format. The ACBI professors had an opportunity to meet with about 8 students each and talk with them about research and scholarships for overseas graduate programs in chemical biology in individual countries or at speciﬁc institutions. All the 8 sessions were overflowed with curious minds and enthusiastic questions. The ACBI members were impressed with the Vietnamese students’ English competency and motivation to study abroad for an advanced degree.
Reaching Out a Hand to Orphans in Vietnam
In the morning of January 20th, some of the ACBI delegates had a chance to visit an orphanage named "Worldwide Orphans Foundation Vietnam" or as known as "Center for Excellence" as an outreach effort to contribute to STEM education. Sadly, even after 40 years since US forces sprayed Agent Orange in southern Vietnam, there still are some babies born with birth defects or disabilities, and many of them end up being abandoned at orphanages by their families. The Center for Excellence is home to such orphaned children, and at the same time, it acts as an educational facility to train volunteers working at orphanages worldwide.
A corner of the Center is reserved as Toy Library, a collection of high-quality toys donated by third-party volunteers. The toys here are mainly educational toys with unique shapes, sound, and colors, with which children with disabilities can intuitively play to nurture their mathematical thinking and creativity. The ACBI delegates donated a toy set of 90 magnetic pieces that stick together to make an unlimited number of shapes. They demonstrated how to form stars, crowns and balls by gathering different pieces and shapes, as if they have magic hands. The kids followed, out of curiosity, exploring how to transfer 2D plan shapes into 3D genomic structures. Imagination and creativity are two key elements uniquely required to become a successful scientist. We hope the magnetic toys could stimulate the orphaned kids’ creative mind and carve a career in science.
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Like the previous ACBI events, the Ho Chi Minh meeting was of a great success. The meeting attendees explored opportunities for international collaborations, maximizing shared use of research and educational resources, broadening network base in southern Vietnam, and streamlining chemical biology research and education in the Asian region. The impact of the interview event has been immeasurable, as the Vietnamese students were exposed to a newly emerging field of chemical biology for the first time in life, and are getting closer to seizing the opportunity to study chemical biology in a foreign country. Since 2011, ACBI has proactively recruited Southeast Asian students in good academic standing to ACBI-member countries, so that the students could receive formal education and training in chemical biology, and eventually return home as leading chemical biology experts. Like Mr. Ho Chi Minh’s saying, the ACBI does foresee 10 years ahead, by planting seeds of chemical biology trees in Vietnam, with a premise that each of the trees will grow into a professional chemical biology expert, bringing about science innovation to the nation.