Vietnamese man's space scholarship shoots for the stars

By Duong Tam   June 1, 2024 | 07:31 pm PT
Do Quoc Trong, 22, has just won the France Excellence Eiffel Scholarship, which will allow him to complete a master's program at three top universities in France free of charge.

Trong is currently a master's student in Space Science at the University of Science and Technology Hanoi (USTH).

Via the scholarship awarded by the French embassy in Hanoi, Trong will spend a year studying Nuclear Physics, Particle Physics and Astrophysics at Sorbonne University, Paris-Saclay, and Paris Cité. All three are prestigious research universities in France.

The scholarship provides 860 euros for living expenses each month along with transportation costs, visa fees, insurance, and enrollment fees.

"What’s important is that I can continue to pursue my passion for physics and space," Trong said. "This will allow me to keep going in the direction I desire: to become a scientist in this field."

He added that he was now more ready than ever to undertake such a program, as he lamented having missed out on other such opportunities in the past.

Do Quoc Trong in May, 2024. Photo by VnExpress/Duong Tam

Do Quoc Trong in May, 2024. Photo by VnExpress/Duong Tam

"Previously, I missed the chance to study in England, so the scholarship from the French Embassy is even more meaningful."

The Eiffel Excellence Scholarship Program was established by the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs to enable French higher education institutions to attract top foreign students for enrollment in their master’s and PhD programs.

Humble beginnings

Trong’s dedication to science began as a Physics student at Huynh Man Dat High School for the Gifted in Rach Gia City, Kien Giang Province. As a mostly remote and rural area, the region does not produce many globe-trotting scientists.

In high school, Trong always enjoyed trying to solve challenging Physics and Math problems. He especially loved undertaking questions he could not always find the right answer to.

This particular interest helped Trong understand natural phenomena such as wind, rain, and black holes more deeply.

While preparing for the provincial-level excellent student selection exam for Physics, Trong took the opportunity to indulge himself in learning about the laws of the stars, planets, and the universe, all of which only made him even more interested in space science. He then started to teach himself more about astrophysics by learning online.

By winning first prize in the provincial exams, Trong met the requirements for direct admission or priority admission to many universities. Trong chose USTH in the capital because it was the only university offering a Space Science and Satellite Technology program.


Trong's decision to move all the way to Hanoi was supported by his family, even though they were still surprised that he chose a "rare" field of study in Vietnam.

The young male had already visited Hanoi for gifted student training in the past, so he had friends and mentors there. Plus, he said he "enjoyed the lifestyle in Hanoi."

The bachelor's program at USTH lasted only three years but included 180 credits, about 40-50 more than other bachelor's programs at most other universities. But Trong passed all his classes with ease thanks to his solid foundation in Math and Physics.

He won second prize in the 2021 National Student Physics Olympiad problem-solving section and first prize in 2022.

Trong shared that he doesn't have a "specific study method" other than "fully concentrating whenever" he studies.

"When paying full attention, I can understand and apply knowledge naturally," Trong said.


Trong also enjoys reading and online lectures from top universities worldwide such as MIT and Caltech in the U.S., or Oxford in England, because they are often "condensed and highly pedagogical," he said.

In addition to studying at school and at home, Trong often participates in astrophysics field workshops.

It was in these workshops that Trong got to know many experts in the field. Thanks to those connections, he gained the opportunity to intern for two months at the Korean Astronomy and Space Science Institute (KASI) in his final year of university.

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Ngo Duc Thanh, Co-Director of Space and Applications Department, described Trong as diligent, serious, and "clear in his studies."

Thanh said the Space Science and Satellite Technology program focuses on three directions: Astrophysics, Remote Sensing, and Satellite Technology. He added that this is a relatively difficult and challenging field of study.

"Trong has great determination and a passion to pursue this field," he said.

Do Quoc Trong during his graduation ceremony as a Bachelor from the University of Science and Technology Hanoi in 2023. Photo courtesy of Trong

Do Quoc Trong during his graduation ceremony as a Bachelor from the University of Science and Technology Hanoi in 2023. Photo courtesy of Trong

Path to Europe

Nurturing his dream of studying abroad from an early age, Trong applied for a master's program in England and gained admittance, but could not make time to complete the necessary procedures in time for the enrollment date.

"I was very sad back then, but now I see that when one door closes, another will open. I later won a master's program scholarship at USTH and now won a scholarship to study in France," he said.

"The tuition fees in France are much lower than in England but the education quality is not inferior."

Trong said he applied for the France Excellence scholarship in December 2023.

After the initial screening round, he was granted an interview at the French Institute in Hanoi.

The board at the time asked questions about his internship in South Korea, his reasons for choosing France to continue his master's studies, and his reasons for applying for the upcoming study program.

"These questions were not difficult to answer when I relied on my own clear experiences and motivations," Trong said.

The last question in the interview was: "Suppose in front of you are people who don't have much knowledge about physics, can you explain what dark matter is?" Trong was impressed because he believed that through this question, the board would assess the depth of the candidate's expertise and enthusiasm.

The dream continues

After arriving in France, Trong said, he plans to seek opportunities to pursue a doctoral degree. In the future, he hopes to work at research institutes or universities, researching Theoretical Physics and Astrophysics.

At the moment, Trong is still completing his master’s program at USTH and will then take on a two-month internship before going to France.

The young man maintains his hobbies of singing, playing chess, and writing poetry. Trong has written over 50 poems, inspired by natural physical phenomena such as wind movement, and the moon.

"Everything I like is related to what I pursue," Trong said.

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