Two generous international scholarships are helping Duyen Tran realise her dream of helping people with chronic illnesses, especially those in disadvantaged communities.
Currently completing her PhD in Pharmacy with the University of Tasmania’s School of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, Duyen has also completed her Master of Pharmaceutical Science at the University of Tasmania and intends to pursue further research opportunities beyond.
“I hope in the future I can apply for precious funding and conduct some high-impact research that can help the community and our society,” she said. “That’s my ultimate goal!”
Duyen, 30, grew up in southern Vietnam, in a city known for its agriculture and eco-tourism. While she loved growing up in such a beautiful place, Duyen said it was also an area where families and children still experienced significant difficulties accessing primary healthcare services.
Her interest in this issue led her to study a Bachelor of Biotechnology at Vietnam National University, the first step in her personal mission to make a difference.
“After finishing that degree I got a job working for a biopharmaceutical company in Vietnam, studying and developing treatments for a range of life-threatening diseases.
“It made me realise there were so many new things to learn in biotechnology and pharmaceutical science. My eagerness to understand the origins and underlying mechanisms of these diseases inspired me to pursue an advanced degree in a western country.”
Duyen turned her sights to the University of Tasmania, which looked like the best fit for her chosen studies, with a good reputation for producing well-rounded researchers. She was also impressed with the high employment rate for Pharmacy graduates. But she knew she would be unable to study abroad without a scholarship.
After applying online, she was awarded the Tasmanian International Scholarship (which covers 25% of tuition fees for the duration of the course) and moved to Hobart to start studying her Master of Pharmaceutical Science in 2016.
“That was the first time I’d ever been overseas,” she said. “The University of Tasmania’s Pharmacy program is known as one of the best in Australia for medical and pharmaceutical research, so I was drawn to that.”
For her Master project at the School of Pharmacy and Pharmacology and the Menzies Institute for Medical Research in Hobart, Duyen studied a novel anti-obesity agent called aspersuloside, which was originally extracted from the leaves of a plant traditionally used in Chinese herbal medicine.
University of Tasmania chemists discovered a new and cheaper method of extracting the same compound from native Tasmanian plants and Duyen’s thesis explored the new compound’s effectiveness in the treatment of obesity.
In a related theme, her PhD research followed the link between high rates of obesity and high rates of type 2 diabetes in the Tasmanian population. Duyen relocated to the University’s Newnham campus in Launceston to base herself in the School of Health Science to conduct her research into early predictors of type 2 diabetes, guided by her supervisors, Dr Vanni Caruso and Dr Sabrina Sonda.
Duyen’s PhD studies were supported by the Tasmania Graduate Research Scholarship (Living Allowance), which covered her full tuition fees for the duration of her doctorate and provided a living allowance for four years.
She said she was deeply grateful for the scholarships, as they took a considerable amount of pressure off her and her family during her studies, and without the high level of financial assistance she would not have been able to complete her research degrees.
And thanks to the availability of such scholarships, Duyen’s sister and cousin have both followed in her footsteps, accepting scholarships to study at the University of Tasmania as well.
Duyen is now an Australian citizen and has been offered a research position working on a COVID vaccine booster clinical trial for the Launceston General Hospital’s Vaccinology and Infectious Disease Laboratory.
“My original plan was to go back to my country after finishing my studies but now things have changed a bit! I love the lifestyle here, the environment, the people, and there are still more opportunities to learn and develop myself in my research career.
“Studying at this university helped me to realise I wanted to be a scientist, I want to continue my research.
“In the future, in five or ten years, maybe then I will go back to my country to bring more funding and collaboration to help my people have better lives.”
We believe study is for everyone, which is why the University of Tasmania has a big range of scholarships you can apply for, including many that are specifically for international students. So, what’s stopping you?