It comes as a surprise to see that the son of a well-known poet of Vietnam did not follow in his father’s footsteps, but is today a renowned mathematician who often finds his great mathematical works published in leading magazines around the world.
|Vu Ha Van and his father, poet Vu Quan Phuong at his house in Hanoi|
Vu Ha Van, son of poet Vu Quan Phuong, was recognized as a professor of the Institute of Mathematics in Hanoi at the young age of 39 in 2009. Van and Professor Ngo Bao Chau were the two youngest maths professors in Vietnam.
When Ngo Bao Chau won the mathematics world's version of the Nobel Prize, the Field Medal, he was transferred to the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.
Vu Ha Van, Ngo Bao Chau and Dam Thanh Son from Washington University in Seattle became close friends as they all hailed from Hanoi and shared a common desire to work for their homeland.
Like Professor Ngo Bao Chau, Van still maintains his Vietnamese nationality, although this decision has caused him much inconvenience. He faced discrimination when participating in mathematical conferences in German and the US, but he stubbornly held his Vietnamese nationality. The Vietnamese government now allows dual citizenship and Van has a US nationality besides his Vietnamese one.
Van received an engraved medal and a US$20,000 cash award for the George Pólya Prize. Established in 1969, The George Pólya Prize is given every two years in two categories: notable application of combinatorial theory and for notable contribution in other area of interest to George Pólya such as approximation theory, complex analysis, number theory, orthogonal polynomials, probability theory or mathematical discovery and learning.
In 2008, the George Pólya Prize was given to Van H. Vu from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey for developing fundamental concentration inequalities for random polynomials that are applicable to broader contexts than earlier inequalities.
These inequalities have enabled the solution of long-standing problems in projective geometry, convex geometry, extremal graph theory, number theory and theoretical computer science.
Vu Ha Van’s biography can be found on SIAM’s website. Vu Ha Van was born in Hanoi, Vietnam. He received his undergraduate degree at Eötvös University, Budapest, Hungary in 1994 and his PhD in Mathematics at Yale University in 1998 under the direction of László Lovász.
After his post-doctorate at the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) and Microsoft Research, he spent the years 2001-2005 at the University of California in San Diego as assistant, associate and full professor. Since fall of 2005, he has been a professor in the Mathematics Department at Rutgers. He was also a visiting professor at University Paris 6 in 2006.
His research interests include combinatorics, probability and additive numbers theory. He has received a Sloan Dissertation Fellowship (1997), a Sloan Research Fellowship (2002) and a NSF Career Award (2003). He has been a member of IAS in 1998, 2005 and 2007, the last time as leader of a special program ‘Arithmetic Combinatorics.’
|Vu Ha Van (L) and Terence Tao( wear glass) at his house|
Professor Vu Ha Van was introduced to Terence Tao in 2003 when Tao was 28 years old and Van had not yet received the Fields Medal. At that time, Tao was living in a small flat in Orange County of California. He usually lay on the floor to solve mathematical puzzles.
Because Tao and Van were Asians they formed a common bond with each other. Together they wrote 15 scientific articles and a 500 page book which took them three years to complete.
The book, Additive Combinatorics, was published by the Cambridge University Press in 2006. Talking about the book, Ben Green, a famous English mathematician from University of Cambridge, remarked that the book had greatly contributed to the mathematic field and students who pursue mathematics as a career would greatly benefit from it.
Ben claims he owns three editions of Additive Combinatorics books, one of which he keeps in his house, another on his work table and a third he keeps as a spare to use when the other two are worn out!
Mathematical magazines are divided into four types: excellent, good, average and weak. Vu Ha Van from Rutgers University, Le Tu Quoc Thang from Georgia Institute of Technology, Nguyen Tien Dung working at the University of Toulouse (France) and Dinh Tien Cuong from Institute of Mathematics in France are the only four mathematicians to have published articles in top grade excellent magazines.