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ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT: From PhD to Postdoc: Why a Khalifa University Alumnus Chose to Continue his Groundbreaking Research at the Country’s Top University

Khalifa University’s distinguished world-renowned professors, and its deep commitment to supporting research with real-world applications, drew Dr. Nguyen Van Viet to Khalifa University in 2015.

After completing his BCs degree from Vietnam and his MSc degree from Taiwan, Dr. Viet came completed KU’s PhD in Interdisciplinary Engineering with a focus in Mechanical Engineering in 2019. A few months later he took up a postdoctoral position at the University, so he could continue his research in smart materials and energy harvesting. 

He says his decision to continue at KU post-graduation in a postdoctoral appointment was a no-brainer. 

“Being able to continue the research work I did as a PhD student, but at a deeper level, while further developing my research skills, accruing additional publications, and working with KU’s world-class faculty, is a unique opportunity that I didn’t want to pass up,” Dr. Viet shared.

The Vietnam native credits his professors at KU for providing him with the necessary guidelines, motivation, and engineering skills needed to overcome complex challenges and successfully complete his PhD work.

“The research environment at Khalifa University is like nothing else in the country. Researchers here collaborate with one another, and have access to state-of-the-art research facilities that make running large-scale experiments possible,” he said.

Currently, under the supervision of Associate Professor Dr. Wael Zaki, Dr. Viet develops constitutive models — which are mathematical models that describe the mechanical properties of a materialfor 3D printed shape memory alloys (SMAs). A shape-memory alloy is a special kind of material that can “remember” its shape, so it can be deformed when cold, but will then return to its pre-deformed shape when heated.  SMAs have numerous applications, including in medical devices like surgical tools, in aerospace components like rockets, in robotics like robot fingers, and more. 

Dr. Viet studies the mechanical structure of 3D printed SMAs in order to identify and analyze the influence of microscopically tiny ‘voids,’ or holes, that appear on the structure during service. These voids can pose challenges to the structural integrity of the SMAs, as the volume of the voids evolve when loads are applied on the structures. Thus finding a way to be able to model behavior of 3D printed SMAs, including void evolution, is a key aim of Dr. Viet’s research. 

“During my PhD studies, I focused my research in the area of solid mechanics. Initially, I worked on mathematical modeling of nanomaterials, and the design of and mathematical modeling for sustainable energy harvesters from wind and ocean waves based on piezoelectric effect. This research was supervised by Dr. Quan Wang. Afterwards, I worked on the development of mathematical models for energy harvesting based on smart materials, such as shape memory alloy and piezoelectric materials. This research was supervised by Dr. Wael Zaki and Dr. Rehan Umer.”

Dr. Viet’s research resulted in 17 original research papers in non-open access journals in the mechanical engineering field, in which he was the first author. All were published in Q1 journals, which represent the top 25% of journals in his field.  He also presented his research at international conferences in the US numerous times. 

“To get these works published in Q1-journals, we created novel and innovative research ideas that could be applied practically and developed into novel solutions capable of overcoming the challenges that emerged from such ideas.”

While conducting his own research is his current focus, Dr. Viet is eager to encourage the next generation of scientists to pursue their research interests. He believes that it is students who will shape the world’s future, which is why he hopes to take the skills and knowledge he’s gained at KU and become a professor one day, so he can pass on the knowledge, and help nurture the learning and development of future scientists.

To the current students of Khalifa University, and his own future students, he shares some words of wisdom:

“Humans, especially our brains, are much more powerful than we can imagine. Our potential is unlimited. Therefore, stay motivated, hardworking, and collaborative. Push yourself to the limit, and keep asking yourself for solutions while your body is being energized – for example, while you are walking – every day. If you do, you are going to receive wonderful answers from your powerful brain.” 

Erica Solomon
Senior Editor
14 June 2020