JSPS Quarterly
No.42 2012 Winter Topics

Research and Life in Japan by a JSPS Fellow (25)

Dr. Nam Hoai Do
Dr. Nam Hoai Do

Researcher, Vietnam Academy for Water Resources
Ph.D. (Civil and Environmental Engineering), Tohoku University, Japan, 2011
M.Sc. (Water Engineering Management), Asian Institute of Technology, Thailand, 2003
B.A. (English), Vietnam National University, Hanoi, 1998
B.Sc. (Water Engineering), Water Resources University, Vietnam, 1997

Hailing from Vietnam, Dr. Nam Hoai Do has been conducting research with his host researcher, Dr. Akira Mano, at the Disaster Control Research Center of Tohoku University under a JSPS postdoctoral fellowship since November 2011. After finishing his undergraduate education in Vietnam, Dr. Do went to the Asian Institute of Technology in Thailand for his master’s degree, following which he came to Japan to earn his doctorate and further his research at Tohoku University.

What are you currently researching under the JSPS fellowship?

As a consequence of rising temperatures, the future is very likely to see a dramatic increase in hydrologic extremes. Taking advantage of the great prognosis capability of a super-high resolution climate model, my present research focuses on a long-term projection of precipitation extremes, a driving factor of severe flood disasters around the world. The projected precipitation extremes will be used as input to a coupled hydrologic-hydraulic model for exploring the extent, depth and duration of future extreme inundations, which provides fundamental information for supporting river basin planning and management and for devising strategies for adapting to climate change.

How did you become interested in your research field?

My initial interest in this field probably came from the fact that Vietnam suffers from severe floods every year. When choosing my major at the university, I picked water engineering so as to contribute to the development of the country by helping to prevent these disasters. There had been a number of evidences regarding the impact of climate change. I thought that gaining an understanding of hydrologic responses to climate change would be a good way to design effective preventive methods at river basin scales.

How did you get to know your Japanese host researcher?

I met Dr. Mano in 2007 during his visit to my university, the Water Resources University in Hanoi. I was enthralled with his leading research activities in the field of environmental hydraulics. Among which, I was most interested in his pioneering work on the development of advanced technologies for improving flood forecasting practices. This was the first step of my current research. I feel very lucky that Dr. Mano was willing to be my PhD advisor and that I could continue my work under his supervision as a postdoc researcher with a JSPS fellowship.

Why did you choose Japan to pursue your research?

Both Vietnam and Japan are highly exposed to natural hazards, such as flood disasters, due to similarities in topography and weather patterns. In the area of geo-atmospheric science, Japan is one of the world’s leading countries, having the most advanced prognosis technologies. Further, Japan has succeeded in flood risk reduction by developing the newest technologies for flood forecasting and warning, while advancing the analysis of climate change impact. My lessons learned and experiences gained in Japan should be very useful to Vietnam.

What is your impression of your host institution?

The Disaster Control Research Center was established in 1990 with a focus on developing advanced technologies for reducing the impact of natural hazards, such as earthquakes, tsunami and floods. The Center, therefore, is an attractive destination for leading scientists and bright students around the world, especially those from countries with high natural hazard exposure. For conducting large-scale simulations of natural phenomena, the Center is equipped with super-power computing platforms, an extensive database, and friendly working spaces.

That leads me to ask, what is your general impression of Japan’s research environment?

I would say Japan is on the cutting edge of scientific research. Many Japanese universities are top ranked within the Asia-Pacific region. Some fall within the ranks of the world’s most leading academic institutions, and a lot of eminent Japanese scientists have received prestigious prizes. The research environment here is very competitive, which spurs new ideas and advanced technologies. Integrated within the flow of globalization, Japan is recognized as one of the world’s most vibrant research environments replete with extensive international exchanges and collaborations.

What are your research achievements under the JSPS fellowship so far?

Within the context of my present research, we are examining the variability of rainfall at river basin scales in Central Vietnam. We’ve projected that by the end of this century, precipitation extremes will rise in both number and magnitude. It is very likely that future precipitation extremes will increase by about 40 percent over the late 20th century. Using our prediction model, areas vulnerable to flooding have been detected. As a result, it’s expected that damage can be reduced through effective urban development planning.

What do you do outside your research work?

One of my hobbies is exploring new places where interesting culture and customs can be enjoyed. Whenever we have time, my family heads to popular places for sightseeing using Japan’s well-developed public transportation system. We have favorite places to visit in each season of the year. We also enjoy going to the countryside, which reminds us of our home country with its similar farming practices. In addition, we’re careful not to miss traditional festivals, which give us a deeper understanding of Japan.

What do you think of life in Japan—its culture and customs?

I think there are many similarities in culture and customs between Japan and Vietnam. I’ve found that traditional values are deep-rooted among Japanese across generations. Respect, discipline, and dedication are fundamental in Japan’s highly structured society. Having a long and traditional history, Japan is a country that maintains its own culture and customs despite its integration within a dynamically changing modern world.

Before coming to Japan, what kind of image did you have of the country? Has your perception changed after coming here?

When I was a child I learned at school that Japan is the country of the “rising sun,” full of dedicated people with a “samurai spirit” who work hard for good causes while showing compassion for the weak and disadvantaged. For me, this was borne out by the way I witnessed people coping with the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami in March 2011. I observed the orderly response and resilience of the Japanese people in the face of this unprecedented natural disaster. In all circumstances, people here are always incredibly resilient, sharing, and dedicated when it comes to bettering their country. This is completely different from what I’ve seen in other places I have lived.

What do you plan to do after your fellowship ends?

I will definitely go back to my home country to share the knowledge and experiences I have gained in Japan with my colleagues and students. I believe it’s my mission to help reduce the impact of climate change on Vietnam, while contributing to a better life for the Vietnamese people and to the sustainable development of our society.

Please give some advice for young researchers who may be thinking about doing research in Japan.

As Japan is a country possessing both advanced science and traditional values, I believe its academic institutions are ideal places for young researchers to pursue their dreams of advancing science. I strongly suggest that you come to Japan where you can work, collaborate and exchange knowledge with leading scientists in a friendly research environment. In addition, you will be able to enjoy the opportunity of experiencing Japan’s four distinct seasons along with its culture, customs and cuisine, not to leave out its year-round festivals.

During our interview with Dr. Do, his host researcher, Dr. Mano, kindly took time out of his busy schedule to join us. Through our visit of his lab, we found that its research team maintains close communication with former JSPS fellows, making visits to each other’s countries to continue research collaboration. It was plain to see that Dr. Do’s research has strong potential to contribute to the development of his home country. We look forward to the network being formed between Dr. Do and his Japanese colleagues expanding in ways that will be helpful to him in becoming a leader in his field back in Vietnam as well as in continuing to advance his research in collaboration with Japan.

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JSPS Quarterly No.42 2012