More than 2 years ago, writing about the success of the couple of PhDs, Dr. Nguyen Van Ngoc and Dr. Hoang Thi Binh, I heard about one very special student of them, Le Minh Tam. But it was not until the occasion when Dalat University honor the valedictorian master’s graduate that I met Tam stepping on the podium.
By appointment, we talked at a small coffee shop called Connect on Nguyen Tu Luc Street, next to Tam’s house. In the mixed sound of music and car horns, Le Minh Tam still speaks clearly in the voice of a patient person who has been through traumatic family events.
Le Minh Tam was born in 1995, graduated from high school in Dalat, passed the entrance exam of Dalat University in 2013, and studied the major of Biotechnology in Class of 37. In 2015, a sudden tragedy struck Tam’s family. His parents were killed in a traffic accident when they were barely over 50, leaving their 20-year-old son Minh Tam studying in his second year of university and their second son Le Minh Dat in 11th grade. While the parents were not yet buried, Le Minh Tam suppressed the pain to go to school to complete the end-of-course exams. “My parents exhausted all their energy working to send us to school… And when they passed away, it can’t be helped that we have to study harder to not disappoint those who have passed away…. That’s all I could think of at that time…”, Tam shared in a heartwarming tone. During that tumultuous time, Tam and Dat received the love and affection from many people, especially the monks and the Buddhist family of Linh Khuu Pagoda, the home that Tam participated as a member in doing good deeds and volunteering trips…
That is also the time when Mr. Ngoc and Mrs. Binh were in Japan doing research. They trusted Le Minh Tam to be in charge of the laboratory of the Faculty. The teachers and professors provided remote guidance, while Tam actively operated and researched with enthusiasm, not only maintaining the students’ activities but also completing faculty and university level research projects in fields such as plant protection drugs from agave; food coloring from herbs; propagation of begonias, etc. Especially, the project of soap preparations from mountain marjoram was awarded the ministerial level prize.
In 2017, Le Minh Tam graduated from university with Merit with an excelling thesis in the topic: “Surveying the antibacterial ability of soluble membrane essential oils on some strains of microorganisms”. 17 days after graduation, Tam was referred by the dean of the faculty, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Tran Van Tien to apply for a job at the Dalat Pasteur Institute. After the interview and probation period with 2 other new graduates, only Tam was officially recruited. The job was to produce typhoid vaccine.
Appreciating Tam’s spirit of overcoming challenges and his responsibility and work efficiency, Mr. Ngoc and Mrs. Binh encouraged Le Minh Tam to continue studying for a master’s degree and decided to finance the entire tuition fee and guiding him in doing thesis. After 8 months of preparation, Tam was accepted into the Master’s Degree Program of class 27 at Dalat University. At Dalat Pasteur Institute, after three years of work, facing many challenges, from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on society to balancing time to take care of his brother, Tam decided to quit and pursue work outside. The purpose was to achieve both income and flexibility in terms of time, so that he can both complete his Master’s degree and take care of his brother. Biological Engineer Le Minh Tam did many jobs: repairing computers, teaching night classes to students in grades 11 and 12; anyone who calls for cleaning or anyone who needs cargo transport, Tam was there to respond… In November 2020, Le Minh Tam excellently defended his master’s thesis with the topic “Combining and distinguishing traditional molecular markers and new generation molecular markers in the study of taxonomy of ginseng species in Vietnam”, ranked valedictorian with 8.70 points.
With a master’s degree, Tam embarked on a journey to find a job again. At the end of March 2022, the Dalat Pasteur Institute called back. Already familiar with the job and have been given the opportunity to practice abroad before, Tam decided to go back to work for the institute, even though the income could not meet his needs. Minh Tam said that the work in the field of public health is something a Buddhists who have been doing charity for many years should do. At the workplace, Tam can have access to advanced science and learned a lot from experts. The environment helps him to keep the passion for research passed down from Mr. Ngoc and Mrs. Binh to whom Tam is forever grateful. Tam said: “This year, I receive positive signals, I graduated with a master’s degree, the job is no longer uncertain and next week my younger brother will graduate from university with merit.”
I recommend Tam to share his success story to younger generations. Le Minh Tam said that the three most important factors are: goals, choosing a mentor, and your own motivation. Upon achieving any kind of success, it is important to avoid arrogance and to maintain enthusiasm in order to continue contributing to the community, as well as fulfilling personal and family needs.