The story of becoming a Data Science expert in the Netherlands by a Talented Applied Mathematics and Information Alumnus

Data science is gradually becoming a trend in today’s society with undeniable power from a few famous company such as Google, Amazon, Facebook, Alibaba… So how important is data science? And how to keep pace with that trend, how does the international market respond to the question of “Data Science”? Today, we’re going to dig deeper into Data Science in a conversation with a alumnus of Talented Mathematics – Informatics Program who is working in data science in the Netherlands.

First, can you introduce a little bit about yourself?

My name is Chu Manh Dung, former student of Talented Mathematics and Informatics – Class of 46. I am currently a Data Scientist at the Financial Times Media Group of the Netherlands.

How have you been studying and working since you graduated?

I attended the Talented Mathematics and Informatics program of the Department of Mathematics – Applied Informatics (now the School of Applied Mathematics and Informatics – SAMI), Hanoi University of Science and Technology from 2001 to 2006. Before graduating from the university, I received the Netherlands government postgraduate scholarship. I holds a master’s degree in Computational Science from the University of Amsterdam. After that, I did the research for 5 years, also at the University of Amsterdam, on the application of artificial intelligence and machine learning in image and video processing technologies.

In 2013, I left the university to work for an outside company. I am very interested in applying the technologies which I have learned and the researches in the university to practical problems to help companies improve work efficiency. Currently, I am working as a Data Scientist for the Dutch company Financial Times Media Group. I am implementing two projects: (1) building News Recommendation Systems. This system helps readers quickly find the articles they are interested in. The system can suggest articles to readers based on their interests; (2) In the second project, we deployed with the company’s marketing office. I build software that predicts customer behavior. The software predicts customers who are likely to terminate their contracts with the company (churn prediction). The marketing team will actively contact these customers to see if the company can help them.

When you were at school and after graduating, what achievements did you have that you are proud of?

During my undergraduate studies at Hanoi University of Science and Technology, I participated in research projects for students quite early. Thereby, I received the National Research Student Award and the VIFOTEC Award. After finishing university, I was the valedictorian of Hanoi University of Science and Technology in 2006. The Dutch government scholarship helped me to have the opportunity to study for a master’s degree and obtain a good degree from the University of Amsterdam. During the research process, the article that I liked the most was the article in TPAMI magazine about an overview of algorithms in video object tracking. The article has so far been cited by many other articles.

What knowledge does data science need the most that SAMI provided to students?

Technically, data science is not a new field. The techniques/technologies used in data science have been developed for a long time in the scientific world, especially in mathematics and informatics. Thanks to the explosion of digitized data in recent years, techniques in artificial intelligence and machine learning have been increasingly applied in practice. Looking at this aspect, the School of Applied Mathematics and Informatics of Hanoi University of Science and Technology is a very suitable place to train and support students in data science learning and research.

SAMI can equip students with basic and advanced knowledge about artificial intelligence and machine learning. These are very fundamental skills of data science. It will help you to process data in real problems. Probability statistics is also an advantage of the School. Data science uses a lot of statistical probabilities because it allows us to understand more about the characteristics of data.

In addition, SAMI can offer courses on databases: how to organize and store data effectively, especially when the amount of data is extremely large? How to search data efficiently?

What special memories did SAMI leave you that you will never forget?

I have many special memories with SAMI. The most special memories are associated with Assoc. Prof. Phan Trung Huy. I knew him for the first time through a course on automat. Then there’s the subject of machine learning. He has a very in-depth knowledge of these areas. Moreover, he is very enthusiastic about imparting knowledge to students, especially when students have questions. I do research with him on two research projects for students. He helped us learn a lot, not only about professional knowledge but also skills when working in groups.

How do you assess the importance of Data Science in today’s society?

Data science will help us to create many useful services for society. The rapid development of information technology has made a huge part of today’s society digitized. One of the products of this digitization is data: the data of websites themselves, user-generated data, data of digitized devices, etc. Data has become a source of” raw materials” in today’s society, alongside the traditional ones like petrol, electricity, and water. Data science allows us to tap into this new resource. This can bring a lot of new benefits to society. For example, through data, companies have the ability to understand more about their customers. Through X-ray image data, hospitals can automate some diagnostic imaging processes, helping to further assist doctors in their work.

Why did you choose the Netherlands as your destination? What are the advantages of the Netherlands in the field of Mathematics and Information Technology, or your work? What did you do to give yourself the best chance of getting there?

During my university studies, beside my professional studies, I also focused on foreign languages. Before graduating from his school, I received two scholarships: one from Japan, and one from the Netherlands. I thought the Netherlands was better because I liked to go somewhere far away, to a new culture to learn and see. So far, I haven’t been disappointed with his decision.

The Netherlands is very strong in artificial intelligence and machine learning. Currently, Amsterdam is becoming the scientific research center of artificial intelligence in Europe and the world. With a very open and transparent business environment, Amsterdam attracts many big technology companies (eBay, Google, Bosch all have their technology and research offices here) and startup is also a lot (Ex:, Adyen).

Can you comment a bit about the living and working environment, as well as the study opportunities (undergraduate and graduate) of the Netherlands compared to Vietnam?

Studying opportunities in the Netherlands are quite a lot for Vietnamese students. Every September, I and my wife hold a party to welcome new Vietnamese students to the Netherlands. Through this, I see the number of students coming are increasing more and more.

The Dutch university and graduate school environment is very open. Students have a great deal of freedom in choosing the subjects they want. The interaction between the students and the professor is very equal. Students always take the initiative to ask questions to their friends and professors.

Job opportunities in the Netherlands for students of information technology in general, and data science in particular, are high. The Netherlands’ information technology is very developed, but there is also a shortage of human resources in the field. Life in the Netherlands is very peaceful. People are very focused on the work-life balance.

Finally, can you give your students some final advice?

Students should determine for themselves the field of study that they really want and love it. The world is very open today, when you have determined what you like to learn and like to do, there will be many opportunities for you to learn and improve your knowledge.

Thank you very much for this interview, I wish you more success in work and life.