Truong Nguyen Thanh was born in 1961 in Qui Nhon, Binh Dinh Province . At 11, Thanh had to sell cigarettes at Go Vap Market to support his family, partly because his father was hemiplegic. When Thanh was 16 years old, during which Ho Chi Minh City was facing innumerable post-war difficulties, together with his family he had to move to Lai Thieu District, Binh Duong Province to work as a farm handyman doing anything from plowing the field, harvesting to planting rice fields to earn a living and pay for his six siblings’ education.
Thanh's life changed remarkably when he was encouraged by his math teacher, who realized Thanh’s talent, to attend the provincial excellent students' competition.
In 1979, Thanh enrolled in the North Dakota State University (USA), and at the same time he had to work to survive. In his second year at college, Thanh was accepted by Professor Mark Gordon to work as a research assistant in his lab.
With Prof. Gordon’ guidance, upon his graduation, Thanh had four papers published in international journals and was accepted in many well-known post-graduate PhD programs. Thanh obtained his PhD degree in 1990 at the University of Minnesota when he was 29 years old.
At 41, Thanh became a prestigious professor in the United States . He has been awarded many prizes. In 1993 he was selected as one of America ’s most promising young scientists by the US National Science Foundation.
"I am greatly indebted to my teachers who gave me opportunities to study and do research," Thanh confided.
Even while working in a nice environment in the United States , Thanh still thought of returning home to help young Vietnamese students to realize their dreams of an education as he once had.
In early 2006, Thanh has helped to organize a conference on the prospect for establishing and developing computational science and technology in Ho Chi Minh City attended by a number of Vietnamese overseas computational scientists. This led to the recommendation on the establishment of the Institute for Computational Science and Technology with contributions from overseas Vietnamese scientists.
The then Standing Vice Chairman of Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee, Nguyen Thien Nhan, who is now Deputy Prime Minister, set forth the target of making computational science and technology a spearhead effort in Ho Chi Minh City. Ho Chi Minh City 's Department of Science and Technology was entrusted to provide and implement the plan for establishing the Institute.
Prof. Dr. Truong Nguyen Thanh was invited to help establishing the Ho Chi Minh City Institute for Computational Science and Technology (ICST-HCMC) and to hold the position as its founding Director.
Thanh said that computational science and technology is quite new in Vietnam and thus building the human resources and research capabilities is the Institute's first goal. Computational science is the use of high-performance computers to simulate or predict the outcome of complex scientific processes or to decipher information for new knowledge. Developing computational science and technology will help promote scientific research in other domains and information technology.
The Institute currently focuses on a small number of areas that are capable of promoting knowledge economy and technological transfer; establishing infrastructure to support and expand the use of computational science and technology in other scientific and technical fields.
Specifically, it is concentrating on the use of multi-physics calculations for designing and building ships from composite materials; research on renewal energy and clean energy; supporting solutions on urban environment; infrastructure for monitoring the environmental conditions along the river and coastal areas, and application of computational science in drug discovery process.
Training human resources at the international levels in these areas is essential for the future success of the Institute. After more than two years of operation, with active support from HCMC authorities and many overseas professors, the Institute has made significant progress.
Prof. Dr. Thanh estimated that by 2013 the Institute will be in the position to co-operate with Vietnamese and foreign universities and institutes to develop training programs for masters and doctors of sciences in specific areas, open refresher courses for domestic university lecturers and provide favourable conditions for foreign post-graduates to work at the Institute.
At present, HCMC Institute for Computational Science and Technology has 35 post-graduates engaged in various fields, who have demonstrated excellence in research and qualified for further study and work in the high-tech countries.
What Prof. Dr. Truong Nguyen Thanh has done so far is vivid proof of the fact that there is always an open door and opportunity in Vietnam for overseas Vietnamese professionals who wish to contribute their energy and talent for the advancements of science and technology as well as social and economic development in the country.