The award, named after the Russian mathematician Sofja Kovalevskaya, recognises the contribution of women towards Vietnam’s development. Dr. Ha currently acts as Director of the National Key Laboratory for Petrochemical and Refinery Technologies (NKLPRT) and Deputy Director of the Vietnam Institute of Industrial Chemistry (VNIIC).
Dr. Ha began working at the VNIIC in 1992 after graduating from the Faculty of Chemistry at Hanoi University of Technology. In 1996, she was awarded a scholarship by the French National Centre of Scientific Research to study in French city of Lyon, where she completed both her Masters and Doctoral thesis in just three years.
In her 20 years working at the VNIIC, Dr. Ha’s work has focused on the technological procedures used to manufacture biological fuel, sorbitol and nanostructured catalytic materials, which are used to produce environmentally friendly products for sustainable development. In 2006, when the VNIIC launched a project to establish the National Key Laboratory for Petrochemical and Refinery Technologies, Dr. Ha’s skills and experience meant that she was entrusted to lead the team at the laboratory.
Dr. Ha explains the importance of developing environmentally friendly and sustainable technology. According to her, at present Vietnamese industries favour using fossil-derived solvent, hundreds of thousands tonnes of which is imported every year. However, plant-originated solvents are believed to be better for the environment and our health. Plant-originated solvents are more easily dissolvable, less evaporable, non-flammable, do not pose serious risks to our health and are biodegradeable. Realising this, Dr Ha and her research team at the VNIIC and the NKLPRT conducted a project on the manufacturing process technology of biological solvent from reproductive materials. The project started to show successful results after two years and was subsequently granted a worldwide patent.
The project was not only innovative but also served as a reminder of what can be achieved under international co-operation in scientific research. The findings of the research have already found practical application when they were used during the construction of a biodiesel production plant and in a factory which manufacturing sorbitol from cassava starch.
Her study on manufacturing process technology of biodiesel was selected by the Ministry of Science and Technology for inclusion in the Exhibition on Socio-economic Achievements of Vietnam and Thang Long – Hanoi, to welcome the capital’s millennium anniversary.
Dr. Ha’s passion for scientific research and willingness to overcome difficulties mean that, under her direction, the Laboratory is considered one of the most advanced and effective in Vietnam today.
Dr. Ha spoke about the challenges facing women working in scientific research, in particular the difficulty of dividing their time between work and family. Dr. Ha emphasised the importance of making every effort to achieve success in work. “For a long time, I have not had enough time to prepare a hearty meal for my family, but I am fortunate enough to have a sympathetic husband who always supports me in my job,” she said.
The Kovalevskaya Award recognises Dr. Ha’s considerable contributions to the development of environmentally friendly and sustainable technologies in Vietnam. It is hoped that the award will encourages her and her colleagues to continue to develop their Laboratory; one which keeps pace with its contemporaries in the region and across the world .