Story behind the research: Meet Pham Nguyen Anh Thu!

June 14, 2022
Pham Nguyen Anh Thu

We took up on Thu's wise words: "News and updates come from people, so the more connected you are, the more updates you get", and hope to share a connection while telling her story, sources of inspiration, research interests, and lifestyle.

Pham Nguyen Anh Thu
Pham Nguyen Anh Thu

How would you describe yourself?

From a professional standpoint, I am a researcher in public policy, currently pursuing a doctoral degree in Spatial Planning and Transport Engineering at Aalto University. On a personal level, I am simply an avid learner and an enthusiastic traveler. I love learning through books and through the people I meet around the world. As such, I hope that the doctoral journey will enable me to explore my research interests, become an independent researcher, and open the door to various research opportunities and mobility programs around the world.

How did you end up being a researcher?

Prior to joining Aalto University, I was a senior policy analyst in a government affairs consultancy, focusing on taxes in the environment, food & beverage sectors, policies for renewable energy, education, and technology. I also worked as an international cooperation specialist at the Ministry of Science and Technology of Vietnam for 3 years. This work experience provided me with empirical insights on the policy making process and inspired me to pursue a higher degree to advance my understanding about how to design the right policy mixes to drive sustainable development. My work experience in consulting also provides me with a good foundation to transition to the academia, so it was natural for me to pursue a researcher pathway.

What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think about yourself and your research?

I think both my personal experience and my research can be described as “interdisciplinary”. Throughout my studies and work experience, I have been involved in projects that require the accumulation of knowledge from different fields of study. My research topic also requires the synergy of studies from different fields, including political science, policy studies and transport planning.

What are you currently researching?

I am doing research on policy mixes for the decarbonization of transportation in Finland.

Which are your interests in research? Why?

My research interest includes policy design, governance, and sustainable urban development. These topics are closely related to my previous work experience in policymaking and policy analysis in Vietnam.

What do you do in your free time? Hobbies/Interests?

I love travelling, photography and food. I recharge and draw energy from learning, e.g., learning new things from people around me, from unfamiliar places and I hope to capture all those things through photographs. Enjoying healthy and tasty food also makes me happy and gives me energy to travel and do things that I like. I also practice meditation and try to do it daily to relax and calm my mind. For me, this is a good habit to take care of my well-being and be mindful of any stress or pressure that I experience during the studies.

What inspires you?

I draw inspiration from various sources. In research, I feel inspired by new findings on how to design good policy and engage stakeholders in policymaking, as well as how renowned scholars communicate those findings effectively and persuasively to the readers. Those kinds of excellent research work broaden my vision about how I can grow as a researcher and how to produce impactful research to support policymaking. In my personal life, I find inspiration from nature and from people around me. Most trees and flowers are leafless during the harsh winter, but in the spring, they grow beautifully under the sun. I also know people who work hard with a deterministic goal and finally succeed. Both inspire me to work harder and stay resilient whenever I experience challenging times and feel discouraged.

How does your lifestyle influence your research? How does your research influence your lifestyle?

Lifestyle shapes and supports my wellbeing and health, which ultimately influence my capacity to conduct research work. I try to divide time for research and time for life, hobbies, and interests so that I am not overwhelmed with my research work. To use the time efficiently, I usually listen to podcast during breakfast to update myself with the latest news and sometimes read books on the bus to school. I sometimes work in library in the city center or in a café to change the work environment and to feel more relaxed while doing research. I think as a doctoral student it is easy to become so invested in research that I may forget to relax, so developing these activities as a habit will help me build a more balanced and healthier lifestyle.

How do you update yourself in your field?

News and updates come from people, so the more connected you are, the more updates you get. So far, I have been following LinkedIn, ResearchGate and some research network email lists to stay updated. In the future, I plan to attend more conferences and workshops to learn about the latest research and to network with other researchers in my field too.


Photo credits: Mona Eendra, 2017 on Unsplash