Interviewer: Mai Xuan Tra
Guest: Scientist Ms. Le Thai Ha
- Given the topic of this interview is Women @STEM, could you please introduce yourself and your background related to STEM?
Absolutely! I’m excited to talk about my background related to STEM. I earned my Bachelor of Arts (Hons) and Ph.D. in Economics from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. During my undergraduate studies, I developed a strong foundation in mathematics, statistics, and data analysis that I was able to apply to my coursework and research.
After completing my Ph.D., I spent almost a decade as an academic, where I both lectured and conducted research in economics. My research focused on a range of topics, including energy economics, environmental economics, and applied economics. I utilized advanced modeling and data analysis techniques to identify relationships between different variables, drawing implications for policymakers and industry professionals.
While my work as an academic was fulfilling, I was excited to take on a new challenge as the Managing Director of the VinFuture Prize. In this role, my team and I have been able to work with outstanding scientists and innovators from around the world to identify scientific breakthroughs with the potential to impact millions of human lives. Our focus on STEM-based solutions has allowed us to recognize and celebrate remarkable achievements in science and technology.
Overall, I believe that STEM fields are crucial for addressing some of the world’s most pressing challenges, and I am passionate about encouraging more women to pursue careers in these areas.
2. When did you first start your STEM “journey”? You involved in STEM courses, programs, and projects right at high school, university, or higher education or you only started to work on STEM when you had experience in the industry or working settings?
I have been passionate about STEM since I was young started with my specialized mathematics class throughout my primary education, which gave me a strong foundation in math and analytical thinking.
I have always been passionate about using data and quantitative methods to understand complex problems, which is what drew me to economics as an undergraduate major. Through my coursework, I gained a solid foundation in statistical analysis, mathematical modeling, and econometrics.
This STEM-focused education was instrumental in my decision to pursue a Ph.D. in economics, where I further honed my quantitative skills and applied them to real-world issues. My research focused on econometrics and applied economics, where I analyzed large data sets to identify relationships between variables and make policy recommendations.
As an academic, I continue to use my STEM background to teach and mentor students while conducting research in my field. I believe that STEM fields are essential for solving complex problems and creating innovative solutions.
3. During your journey of pursuing STEM, have you ever faced any obstacles (regardless of gender) and any specific difficulties for a woman? And yes, how did you overcome this hardship to commit to STEM or is there any support from the Finance community?
In contrast, do you recognize any advantages of women working in STEM? As a positive aspect encouraging more girls to follow their passion for STEM.
In my opinion, women in scientific research may face additional challenges such as balancing their family responsibilities with their work. However, I believe that with proper time management and organization, it is possible to achieve a healthy work-life balance. In fact, spending time with family can be a source of relaxation and inspiration for our work.
To women who are already in the field, I would advise them to believe in their abilities and not be afraid to take on challenges. It's essential to be persistent and maintain a positive mindset in the face of obstacles.
If you are considering a career in STEM, I say go for it! We need more women in the field to bring their unique perspectives and skill sets. Women can offer fresh insights and approaches to scientific research, bringing new ideas to the table. Plus, studies have proven that diverse teams, including teams with more women, tend to produce more innovative and creative solutions. So don’t hold back, let’s dive in and make a difference in the world of STEM!
It’s essential to find a supportive community and to seek out mentorship opportunities. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t succeed in STEM because of your gender. With hard work and determination, anything is possible.
4. Consider all the difficulties and the joy of doing STEM, what are you most proud of? If you had another choice, would you still select a STEM career?
What I am most proud of in my STEM career is the opportunity to inspire and mentor students and young researchers in the field of economics. As an educator, I have been able to share my passion for economics and the potential of STEM research with the next generation of scientists and innovators.
As an economist, I am proud to have contributed to a better understanding of important and complex economic phenomena, such as the relationship between energy consumption and economic growth, and to have provided evidence-based recommendations to policymakers and business leaders.
While there are certainly challenges and difficulties in pursuing a STEM career, I find the work to be incredibly rewarding and fulfilling. I enjoy the intellectual challenge of tackling complex problems, and the satisfaction that comes from making a meaningful contribution to society. If I had the opportunity to choose a different career path, I would still choose to work in STEM, as I believe that the work is important and has the potential to make a real difference in the world.
5. Currently, are you doing any STEM projects or participating in organizations promoting STEM worldwide and specifically in Vietnam? Are those projects or organizations supporting women in doing so?
At the VinFuture Prize, we are committed to promoting diversity and inclusion in STEM fields, including those in Vietnam. We believe that everyone deserves an equal opportunity to pursue their passions and make meaningful contributions to society, regardless of their gender, race, or background. That's why we have a specific category that honors scientific innovations from women. We recognize that women have historically been underrepresented in STEM fields, and we want to do our part to help level the playing field. Our hope is that by highlighting the work of women in STEM, we can inspire the next generation of female scientists and innovators to pursue their dreams and make a difference in the world. By promoting and recognizing the work of women in STEM fields, we aim to break down the barriers that have traditionally kept them from reaching their full potential. We hope to empower women in Vietnam and around the world to pursue their passions and achieve their goals in STEM.
6. In the future, will you further pursue your journey in STEM? Please give some brief about your upcoming STEM projects.
I am absolutely committed to continuing my journey in STEM and pursuing new projects in the field. Specifically, I have several exciting projects coming up in the areas of sustainable finance and green finance including my two upcoming books and several research papers.
I believe that sustainable development is one of the most pressing challenges facing our world today and that STEM research has a critical role to play in addressing these challenges. By continuing to pursue my work in this field, I hope to contribute to a better understanding of the economic and environmental implications of sustainability and to identify new solutions and opportunities for achieving a more sustainable future for all.
7. Do you have any (final) words for specifically girls and women who already are in the field and also for ones who would like to join in the future?
Ultimately, whether you are already in the field or considering joining in the future, the key to success in STEM is dedication, perseverance, and a willingness to learn and grow. Ultimately, with patience and dedication, your efforts will pay off, and you will achieve your desired outcomes.
Happy Women’s Day and best wishes to you. I hope that you always have both physical and mental capacity for all of your work contributing to society.
Thank you for your time.
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