Nguyen Thi Phuong Trang
MSc in Pharmacology, NUI Galway
Trang was part of the first intake of academic staff from Vietnamese higher education institutions to receive a scholarship under the Irish Aid IDEAS Fellowship. This allowed her to study for an MSc in Pharmacology for the academic year 2013-14.
Before the fellowship, I worked in quality assurance for a bio-pharmaceutical company then moved into lecturing at the University of Medicine and Pharmacy Ho Chi Minh City. As well as teaching students I really like doing research. In Vietnam we have many traditional herbal drugs and we need to know what is safe in humans and this is one of my interests.
I wanted to study a course in pharmaceuticals and the programme I’m doing at NUI Galway is about neuropharmacology. Many people in Vietnam, like all over the world, have neural diseases – maybe to do with memory like Alzheimer’s disease or the motor system such as Parkinson’s disease. Many people have anxiety and depression and it’s very important to address these.
The course is very suitable for me because they have given me good knowledge in neuroscience – how the ‘signalling’ works and how the body reacts. It’s very interesting. We have been looking at assessing data and different models. I have been learning new approaches and techniques and also more about working in a team and discussion. In Vietnam, tutorials are very different, the classes are very large and crowded, but here the tutorials are just 18 people. They are very important and the tutor can help you.
It has not been easy coming to Ireland. It is the first time I have left Vietnam. There have been difficult things to overcome, especially the language because I didn’t have too much chance to practice in Vietnam. At first when I came here, I couldn’t understand many of the accents or some of the vocabulary but people have been very helpful and friendly. Also, I am often lost but people help me to find a place, even though they are busy. Although I feel homesick sometimes, it is easier with the Internet now.
At my university in Vietnam we need new technical approaches and this course has been helping me. I will be able to share what I have been learning with my students and apply it in my work. When I go back there will be a new research centre and following this course I hope to be able to contribute there as well as being a lecturer.
Pharmaceuticals is an important area in developing countries. Many people are in poverty and have diseases so it is important we can have low-cost drugs that poor people can afford. With new techniques, I hope we can draw on our traditional herbal medicines and make safe drugs at a good price. I am hoping to research these traditional medicines more as part of my thesis.
After this course, I hope I can work at developing new drugs and models that can help people. That would make me happy.