An intellectual desire

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With a US doctorate degree, 33-year-old Nguyen Huy Dat is one of the few people to buck the so-called "brain drain" trend, which often sees Vietnam's best and brightest seek their fortunes overseas.

Dat first returned to his homeland two years ago when he attended, and then organized, some information technology conferences designed to facilitate the exchange of knowledge between local and foreign scientists.

"After approaching Vietnamese life, people and culture more, I somehow was tied to the country," he said.

"Vietnam is also an environment that offers many good opportunities to work."

To come back to Vietnam, the doctor of theoretical chemistry "packed" his suitcases with Vietica, a Vietnamese language search engine, and the Vietnamese Public Library of Knowledge (ViPLOK), an e-journal for Vietnamese intellectuals around the world.

A gift for Vietnamese only

Two years ago, Dat set up Vietica Inc. in San Jose, the capital of Silicon Valley, with some colleagues who were experts in fields such as mathematics and information technology.

Vietica Viet represents Vietnam, while ica, a Greek suffix, means "belonging or pertaining to" is an engine that retrieves Vietnamese information from the Internet.

Other search engines are not able to properly search Vietnamese information, Dat said.

Google, for example, has yet to "understand" the differences between Vietnamese and English syntax and semantics, he said.

The search engine for Vietnamese language is built on an algorithm that Dat developed four years ago.

Dat's algorithm also powers his "top news" system, which allows readers to view the most important news of the day.

"I wanted to create a fast, exact and comprehensive search engine for Vietnamese language only," he said.

"I wanted Vietnamese people to be able to search and access information on the Internet easily and quickly from both their computers and mobile phones. They can do it with Vietica."

Vietnamese readers can now read their top news at http://news.vietica.com and www.zing.vn, one of the largest portals in Vietnam to use the Vietica search technology.

A treasure of Vietnamese knowledge Dat is also one of the founders of the Vietnamese Public Library of Knowledge (ViPLOK) an e-journal designed to enhance the "understanding of frontier knowledge by providing a peer-reviewed and open-access platform for the dissemination of scientific and scholarly publications worldwide."

Launched last year, the e-journal was set up by Vietnamese scientists working at foreign establishments people such as Eugene Trinh, who works for the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and Rieu Q. Nguyen, who is a doctor of physics at the Sorbonne University in Paris.

"Vietnamese intellectuals all over the world are a precious resource," Dat said.

"If I can gather them, I will have an invaluable treasure for Vietnamese people and friends from other countries."

To the founders, quality is the top priority, he said.

Therefore, each paper is carefully reviewed by researchers and scientists in different areas before being published.

"The last product is the most perfect, so it takes us six to nine months to get an article approved," he said.

Provided for free, all articles, e-books and other materials are in both Vietnamese and English.

The contributions are from the founders themselves and their friends and colleagues around the world.

"I hope ViPLOK will be a promising land where all Vietnamese people can together sow the seeds of knowledge so that Vietnamese intellectuals have better conditions to blossom," Dat said.

A sketch of the doctor

Dat went to the US when he was 18 and faced the same problems as other Vietnamese people living overseas, including the language barrier.

Attending the University of California, Davis, Dat chose theoretical chemistry as his major because it is "the core industry of other sciences" such as mathematics, physics, chemistry and information technology.

He graduated in 1996 with the Outstanding Graduate Student Award.

He is now doing a post-doctorate degree in theoretical chemistry and biophysics at the Harvard Medical University.

"To me, in addition to sciences and knowledge, Harvard is the best environment that can offer conditions of scientific vision and leadership development," he said.

Dat often shuffles back and forth between Vietnam and the US as he furthers his ambition of earning a post-doctoral degree and developing a network of Vietnamese intellectuals.

Reported by Le Thi Thai Hoa

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