Alumnus "heavily indebted" to Math
Mr. Le Phuc Lu, a student who showed his talent and passion for mathematics at an early age, also achieved remarkable results in this subject. In May 2015, Phuc Lu spent 3 weeks teaching at KAUST University, a prestigious university in Saudi Arabia where the missions are training high quality human resources for them and the countries in the bloc, in the training and supporting program for students who are good at KAUST math to participate in the International Math Olympiad.
This FPT University alumnus is quite active. He is currently both in charge of software development at FPT Software as well as teaching math at some schools and centers. Let's get to know this friend!
Hello Le Phuc Lu! Could you introduce something about yourself, please?
My name is Le Phuc Lu, I was born in 1991. I am the 5th graduate of FPT University in Ho Chi Minh City and my major is Information Systems. Having been through a long time of "fighting" with the graduation project, I graduated in the summer of 2014. After being unemployed for a week, I joined Fsoft (FPT Software) in Ho Chi Minh City. Since then, I have been in Software Developer aspect for over 1 year.
Why are you so passionate about math although many people assumt it to be arid?
I think Math is very beautiful. Anyone who loves Math will understand how interesting it feels like to sit for hours and hours at night solving and research a problem. Although I also have to admit that the old mathematics was the desire to explore and learn, it is currently more or less different to me. There was a stage where it was the goal, the orientation for me to strive for the Olympics, and now it is works, no matter what, it is an integral part of me.
Math gives me the ability to think, to be able to solve many problems in a more scientific way and to be more creative in work and life.
It is known that you love math which makes you famous since high school and also made it to a prestigious university, so how did you come to FPT University?
I liked Math when I was young, until I studied high school, I majored in Math. When I went to university, I switched to IT because I wanted to follow a new path and study whatever I like rather than get into the rut. Of course, my aspect is more or less related to math which is one of the forms of my hobbies and advantages so it is quite reassuring.
In 2009, I also considered many times when choosing FPT University, but because Mathematics has given me creativity so I want to do something really breakthrough for the future. Therefore, I studied FPT. Until now, I am still very satisfied with the decision to become a FPT student which is what I have also "confessed" in the yearbook of the school (He laughs).
During your time at FPT, did you have any memories with your favorite math subject?
In 2011, my school in Ho Chi Minh City did not participate in the Math Olympiad for students, so I ventured to register as free candidate. At that time, I was encouraged by the Maths teachers and the one who taught me Business Communication: “Just do it – If you want something, go for it” which made me quite confident. Then, I took the car to Quy Nhon University to participate in the contest and fortunately contributed 2 second prizes to the overall achievement of the school. Luckily, I had a chance to be acquainted with the teachers and siblings of Hanoi FPT University in the same year. Consecutive years of 2012 and 2013, I have more great memories with this exam in Phu Yen and Da Nang. Sometimes when looking at the juniors taking the exam, I was quite happy and nostalgic for the review days, for the tense atmosphere in the exam room before interspersed with the cultural exchanges or when going out with the brothers in the delegation, ...
Could you share something about your current job? How has the trained knowledge, especially the specialism and passion for mathematics supported your work? What skills do you think students need to be able to fulfill their corporation’s responsibilities?
Currently, I am working at Fsoft as a project R&D. Indeed, I find it very interesting because it is not only quite comfortable but also doesn’t have time pressure and I also enjoy the work’s creativity. Because of working mostly on the algorithm side, I sometimes approach problems that require a lot of use of Math. Of course the work in general at the company is not always like that. On the other hand, there are many other friends of mine who have to follow deadlines for projects every day and work overtime extremely stressful. Therfore, students who want to become a future developer need to be well-prepared and basically know the keywords to be able to search on Google because not anything worth remembering.
Most proudly, you have recently joined a group of multinational lecturers who train math for KAUST students, which is a part of the program to train students who are good at Natural sciences to attend international exams, especially the International Math Olympiad (IMO) of Saudi Arabia. How do you feel when knowing that you will come to this charming country?
Earlier this year, a teacher from the Math Institute asked me to join him and other teachers to go to Saudi Arabia to support their Olympic team. Furthermore, as far as I know, the fostering of Arab excellent students has been accelerating in recent years; they want to keep high positions in this field, to be worthy of the elders role of United Arab Emirates. Last year, they had invited experts from the US and China. They want to try to collaborate with countries that often achieve high results in the International Math Olympiad to learn experience from them so they contacted the deputy head of the Mathematical Olympiad of Vietnam to develop a plan. To me, this is an extremely attractive opportunity, so I agree immediately. Following the plan, I went to the last 3 weeks of May with Mr. Nam Dung, a specialist in Olympic Maths and also a former Head of Student Admissions and Student Affairs of FU Ho Chi Minh. In addition, there are many other famous experts and professors; therefore, I both feel very happy and have the pressure to invest in lectures carefully and thoughtfully. My English in this area is also quite good; the obstacle here is that communication in English is a bit unpopular so I have to prepare a lot.
Teaching mathematics may not be strange to you, but in a country that different from us in every aspect, do you encounter any difficulties? How did you overcome?
Arab students are very active even girls, which is not alike what I imagined. Over there, I was assigned the task of teaching Flat geometry and combinatorics that I attached from the first years to teach the talented students of Ho Chi Minh City. Students are very hard working and their English is also very good.
KAUST is the gathering place for the team and also the most modern and ideal University campus in the Middle East, built by King Abdullah in 2009 with a scale of 36km2 which is extremely ideal for graduate students, international graduate students in all majors. I have to teach students with a projector, using files written with Latex so I was not used to it at first. Students have prayers in the middle class so it disrupts the teaching time.
In addition, their working style is also quite focused, a working session from 8 am to 6 pm, only 60 minutes off for eating from 2-3 pm. Sometimes I have to teach until 8-9pm which is quite heavy. During the last holy month of Ramadan, the followed teachers had to teach from the middle of the night to the morning because they were not working during the day. There are many other obstacles about culture, the ways of living and eating but not too difficult to overcome.
After that trip, have you learned any innovations to apply in your home country?
Their learning and teaching environment is quite ideal. Students are also spoiled in every way. However, in terms of experience in the Olympic field, they are still in the learning phase of Vietnam. It's about the content of training, but from an organizational perspective, they have a few good points. For example, the examinations are very comfortable, but not too cumbersome and strict like Vietnam. The entrance exam for the most important team there is also done simply; contestants can go in or out and can eat in the middle of the test comfortably. After that, until the grading time, the contestants were also able to directly discuss with the examiners about the work to protect their views and ideas so as not to cause any mistakes. This is a very democratic and humane thing that our country should learn.
Do you love teaching and sharing mathematical knowledge like this or simply love numbers, formulas, equations and desire to do specialized research on it? What is your upcoming orientation for your passion?
In addition to the programming work during office hours, I also teach and foster culture for high school students at night at the center as well as occasionally teaching in some neighboring provinces. There are times when I worked extremely stressed, nearly 20 hours a day, and almost had no time to relax and entertain. In the last session, I also taught in a summer school for teachers in Binh Duong and taught a team of excellent students in the South for the framework of the Math Meeting in Vung Tau program. This is also the work I've been doing for 4-5 years already.
I'm not purely passionate, but I want to find opportunities to apply what I research and find out in reality with the most practical job is teaching. That is also the motivation for me to love Math and have the opportunity to stick with it more.
However, in the next 2-3 years, I will still stick with FSOFT. Not only to keep the 3-year contribution obligation to FPT as committment to the previous scholarship but also to have the opportunity to improve my ability as well as my specialization and to think more properly about decisions for the future.
To do things like you, not everyone can do it, does Lu have anything to share with FPT University's undergraduates and especially those who are "falling in love" with maths like you do?
In general, if you want to do something, you have to be determined and sometimes you have to take a little risk. During the early part of my previous student life, I enthusiastically participated in outside programs, seminars as well as math forums. As a result, we will have the opportunity to know more people and they can help us with things that ourselves can hardly handle. Sometimes you have to sacrifice your free time, take the time to contribute to the community that you care a little bit, help the young people following you.
All of our efforts will always be properly compensated. It can be said that living with passion is very lucky, but living by passion is even happier and more meaningful!
Thank you, Le Phuc Lu, for your time on this questionnaire. I Wish you would be more and more successful and can spread this useful passion to others.
Some outstanding achievements of Le Phuc Lu:
In 2007: 30-4 Olympic Bronze Medal in Hue.
In 2008: the second prize in the provincial round, the gold medal in the Mekong Delta, the second prize in the provincial mathematics contest on calculators, the third prize in the mathematics contest on calculators in the southern region, the 30-4 Olympic gold medal in Ho Chi Minh City.
In 2009: the second prize for excellent students in the province, the Gold Medal in the Mekong Delta, the first prize in the provincial calculator math competition, the second prize in the southern region, and the second prize for excellent students at the national level.
2011: the second prize in Algebra and the second prize in Analysis of OLP Mathematics Exam for Undergraduates in Quy Nhon.
2012: First Prize in analysis of OLP Mathematics Exam for Undergraduates in Phu Yen.
2013: First Prize in Algebra of OLP Mathematics Exam for Undergraduates in Da Nang.