Nguyen Thanh Huyen was awarded the British Council Scholarships for Women in STEM 2023–24. She is currently studying for an MSc Applied Statistics in Health Sciences at University of Strathclyde.

Why did you choose to pursue your studies in a STEM subject in the UK?

I am a pharmacist with a strong passion in clinical research. Since my second year at university, I've had the chance to engage in three projects under the supervision of Dr Ha Thi Vo, Deputy Head of Pharmacy Department at Nguyen Tri Phuong Hospital, Ho Chi Minh City. Dr Ha serves as both a mentor and an inspiration to me, due to her unwavering commitment to advancing clinical pharmacy and scientific research in Viet Nam. My projects have focused on the pivotal role of clinical pharmacists in enhancing public health, particularly in areas such as medication safety, chronic diseases, and antimicrobial resistance.

The projects I've participated in do have one thing in common: big data analyses. Since then, I've realised that statistical skills are very important - skills that required further development for me to work on projects related to public health and medical research. To the best of my knowledge, the UK holds a significant place in the history and development of modern statistics. Many fathers of modern statistics were British - such as Francis Galton, Ronald A. Fisher, and Karl Pearson - and the Royal Statistical Society is one of the oldest and most prestigious statistical societies in the world. Overall, the UK’s rich history and traditions in statistics have played a crucial role in shaping the discipline and its applications worldwide. Therefore, I choose to pursue my studies in Applied Statistics in Health Sciences under the international standard of the UK.

I also discovered that the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, offers an MSc in Applied Statistics in Health Sciences, which was a great opportunity for me to reach my career goals. However, the tuition fee was a big deal for me at that time. Fortunately, a timely opportunity arose. After taking the IELTS test at the British Council, I received an email introducing the Scholarships for Women in STEM, which included the programme that I was looking forward to applying for. I am immensely grateful for this great opportunity!

Please share with us about your study programme in the UK, what do you like most about this programme, or scholarship scheme, or your UK institution? 

Thanks to the workshop held on 13 March 2023, organised by the British Council in Viet Nam, I had the opportunity to become acquainted with and listen to an engaging presentation by Ms. Jennifer Gazzard (International Development Manager, Faculty of Engineering, University of Strathclyde). Jenny introduced the university and provided insights into life in Glasgow. The University of Strathclyde stands out as a leading international institution known for its technological advancements and commitment to social progress. It offers a dynamic and innovative learning environment equipped with state-of-the-art facilities, which greatly appealed to me at that time.

And now, after completing my first semester at Strathclyde, I can vouch more clearly and honestlyfor the excellence of my university. The learning environment at Strathclyde is truly wonderful, and I am receiving exactly the education that I'd expected. At Strathclyde, I have the privilege of delving deeply into modern statistical methodologies for analyzing and visualizing real-world datasets, and I am gaining valuable experience in applying these techniques within medical contexts. Additionally, I am acquiring proficiency in using statistical software packages utilised across the government, industry, and commerce sectors, enabling me to communicate my research findings to diverse audiences effectively, including healthcare professionals. I thoroughly enjoy my academic journey here!

Beyond academics, Strathclyde offers a plethora of extracurricular activities such as Welcome Week, Christmas events, fitness classes, swimming sessions, social runs, well-being modules, and a vaccination programme. These activities have provided me with opportunities to forge new friendships with individuals from various countries and to immerse myself in diverse cultures from around the world. Furthermore, thanks to my British Council Scholarship for Women in STEM, I am part of a close-knit group of fellow scholarship recipients - one that we named the 'Beautiful Girls at Strathclyde', comprising five girls from five South East Asian countries (the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Viet Nam) who have been awarded scholarships by the British Council and the University of Strathclyde. We not only go to university together, but also engage in various activities as a group. Our mentor, Jennifer Gazzard (we always call her Ms Jenny), has been an unwavering source of support from the initial stages in our home countries to our arrival in the UK. I am deeply grateful, and feel truly blessed for everything I have experienced thus far at the University of Strathclyde and in the UK, thanks to the scholarship.

What are your plans after finishing your studies in the UK?

I aspire to pursue a career in clinical research. Should I be granted the opportunity to further my studies, I aim to enroll in a PhD programme that will enable me to explore research topics pertaining to pharmacy practice, patient care, drug therapy, and clinical outcomes in greater depth. Alternatively, in the absence of such an opportunity, I intend to return to Viet Nam and leverage the knowledge and skills acquired in the UK to continue my career as a clinical pharmacist. In this capacity, I will provide direct patient care, offer medication counselling to patients, and collaborate with healthcare teams to optimise medication therapy outcomes. As a pharmacist, I am keen to participate in clinical research endeavors in Viet Nam, where I can address healthcare challenges, enhance treatment protocols, and improve patient safety and outcomes within Vietnamese healthcare settings. Irrespective of the chosen path, my overarching career goal remains consistent: to enhance my academic research pursuits with hands-on patient care experiences. By integrating research findings into clinical practice, I aim to promote evidence-based decision-making and elevate the quality of patient care in Viet Nam.

What advice would you give to Vietnamese students who wish to apply for the British Council Scholarships for Women in STEM 2024–25? 

For Vietnamese students who are interested in applying for the British Council Scholarships for Women in STEM 2024, it is my pleasure to give them some advice.

Firstly, please 'be direct about what you want to be and your plan'. It’s important to be clear about your aspirations and plans for the future. Take the time to articulate your career goals and how the scholarship aligns with them. In your application and interviews, convey your genuine enthusiasm and dedication to your chosen field of study.

Secondly, please 'focus on what is within your control'. Avoid comparing yourself to others and instead channel your energy into actions that contribute to your personal and professional growth. Please remember, we each have our own unique journey, and it’s essential to prioritise what matters most to you and the broader community. Thirdly, give yourself ample time to complete the application process. Starting early allows you to carefully craft your responses, review them multiple times for clarity and accuracy, and seek feedback from trusted individuals. Writing without the pressure of deadlines can lead to more polished and authentic submissions.

Lastly, please 'be honest, and be you!' Your application should reflect your individual experiences, achievements, and personal growth journey. Avoid unnecessary words and focus on presenting the most authentic version of yourself. While the scholarship may be competitive, don't let fear deter you from applying. We can do it, so you can do it, too. Wishing you all the best and good luck!