Vietnamese-American professor becomes member of US National Academy of Engineering

By Nhu Quynh   February 23, 2023 | 03:46 pm PT
Vietnamese-American professor becomes member of US National Academy of Engineering
Professor Nguyen Thuc Quyen attends an event in Vietnam in 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Hai Nam
Professor Nguyen Thuc Quyen has become the first woman scientist of Vietnamese origin to be elected to the U.S. National Academy of Engineering.

The NAE announced recently 124 new members have been elected for the class of 2023.

Quyen, 53, is currently director of the Center for Polymers and Organic Solids, University of California, Santa Barbara, in the U.S.

She was nominated by the academy for her leadership in education and diversity, and research in organic photovoltaics for energy-efficient buildings and greenhouses.

Election to the NAE is among the highest professional distinctions accorded to an engineer. The membership is to honor those who have made outstanding contributions to "engineering research, practice, or education, including, where appropriate, significant contributions to the engineering literature" and to "the pioneering of new and developing fields of technology, making major advancements in traditional fields of engineering, or developing/implementing innovative approaches to engineering education."

Election of new members is a year-long process, with the ballot set in December and the final vote for membership taking place in January.

The newly elected members will be formally inducted during the NAE's annual meeting on Oct. 1, 2023.

Quyen said she had never dreamed of one day being elected to the Academy.

"Ever since pursuing the path of doing research, I’ve never thought I would do it for some prize or for a position, I just do what I really love and try my best to contribute to the scientific community."

Of the 106 Americans elected this year, only 25 are women.

Quyen hoped more women would make it to the list in future.

She said being elected to the academy gives members more voice in the scientific community and more influence.

She hoped to take advantage of this to connect governments and researchers, to find ways to help Vietnamese scientists by building research infrastructure with cutting-edge laboratories that could persuade scientists of Vietnamese origin to return home and contribute to the development of Vietnam’s science.

Born into a poor family in the Central Highlands town of Buon Me Thuot, Quyen moved to the U.S. with her family in 1991. At that time she could barely speak any English.

In 2015 she was one of four Vietnamese-born scientists to be named in the list of most influential scientists in the world published by Thomson Reuters and was on this list four times in a row.

She has won many prestigious honors in her career, including the Harold Plous Award in 2007, the Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award Office in 2008, the Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow in 2009, and the Alexander von Humboldt Senior Research Award and the American Competitiveness and Innovation Fellowship in 2010.

She is also among the top 1% Highly Cited Researchers in Materials Science and Cross-Field by Thomson Reuters and Clarivate Analytics.

Founded in 1964, the NAE is a nonprofit institution that provides engineering leadership and seeks to advance the welfare of the nation by providing independent advice on matters involving engineering and technology, and by promoting a vibrant engineering profession and public appreciation of engineering.

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