Vo Ta Duc: Vietnamese cyclo driver – turned nuclear scientist in US

Commentary: America is still a land of opportunity where hard-work can help  to achieve one’s dreams.

The first Vietnamese doctor working in the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), Dr. Vo Ta Duc always remembers his cyclo riding experience in Vietnam, as part of his miracle.

Vo Ta Duc during his childhood in Vietnam

Dr. Duc is involved in researching and inventing monitoring and safety machines and equipment to detect and prevent the illegal transport of atomic bombs into the US.

His parents used to live in Vietnam’s south-central Phu Yen province. At the age of 14, Duc became the main breadwinner for them as he was the eldest of 12 children. Every day after school, he lunched quickly and then took a cyclo to the street corners in Tuy Hoa to help his parents who were scraping out a living.

In 1981, Duc was adopted by a family in the US state of Iowa and moved to his current residence country. With his academic record beginning to shine after more than one year studying at an American high school, he did not have to pay any tuition fees.

As a 12th-grade student, Duc won a state-level scientific contest that provided him with a full scholarship for a four-year course in the Physics Department at the University of Northern Iowa.

After graduation, he moved straight into a doctoral program in atomic physics. He continued to receive scholarships for postgraduate trainees throughout his course of study.

Talking about his success, Dr. Duc wants to send a message to young Vietnamese people, especially the poor that if they have a strong will they will be able to overcome every difficulty.

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