I were in luck, and that is not an understatement. I knew other applicants who much smarter than me. Within my undergrad school, those applicants simply blew me out water.  I attended Hanoi University of Science and Technology (HUST), formerly known as Hanoi University of Technology (HUT). Many of my classmates came from the provincial gifted schools if not the gifted schools belong to the MOET.

In 2009, I submitted my application to the VEF online system round May.  In August, I passed the screening process that mostly took care of incomplete applications or obvious unqualified ones. The post below was originally posted on Vietphd.org's forum in August 7, 2009 . Thank to the website to store my data, otherwise I cannot recall that much in detailed.

10h02, a secretary – Mr Chu came and called my name. He asked if I was in Civil Engineering which I did not. My major is Environmental Engineering. He told me that, in this room, there were two US professors; they would ask question and another, a Vietnamese professor just observed the interview with no question. I never looked at to my watch from this time.

Dr. Case and Dr. Robert Duane Hanson were ready for the interview. They welcomed me with nice smile and white teeth.  Shaking hand and greeting were the first things I did. My name is Binh, like the name of [famous product of MS - Bing]. Both professors seemed to be surprised and have fun for my greeting. Dr. Case pointed toward the white board right behind me “you can write or draw picture on it”, I replied “I hope to be an artist to draw nice pictures!” Dr Case continued “Tell us a little bit about your self and your family?” I graduated from Hanoi University of Technology … years ago. From this time, I work for private company in CDM (Clean Development Mechanism) projects. My father is a teacher, I have a little sister. Our parents live in Middle of Vietnam, near … province. Dr. Case looked at my application, “you have studied in HUT, it is ok”.

“Now, you have done a lot interesting research here, just pick one that you like the most”.Well, most of my researches were coursework or course project that I did in some important courses. Thinking in 3 seconds, I choose my final thesis to be the thing I want to tell them today. “My most interested research is my final thesis which is “stimulation wastewater plant by ASM3”. I stressed that what I have done is mostly review the literature and to be an engineer – calculation the basic parameters for wastewater treatment plant.

Dr. Case “Just draws the diagram about wastewater plant?” And I draw it. Getting nervous because I could not pronounce clearly and exactly what I need to say. It is ok. The white board is the thing VEF come up with to remove the gap of English of interviewees and interviewers, both of us can understand what we saw in white board without too much explanation. When I draw, I said that my hand writing is terrible, that why I used computer too much. I heard they laughed. I blocked the biological reactors to my focus part of my research. Ok, No question about it. Then Dr Hanson asked me about energy need for these reactors, how we can run them effectively and efficiently. Well, not too much difficult. The model is developed to help us can predict the need of oxygen of reactor, so we can control the pump- considered the most energy consumption in wastewater plant. In addition to this, with model we can expand the ability to operating.

Dr. Hanson was quite silent, now he asked. “You have been working for CDM project, tell us what CDM means?” I have been working for 2 years. CDM projects are very familiar. “this is one of three mechanisms under Kyoto Protocol which basically green house gasses” draw a diagram of what Annex I countries do and developing countries do and receive, “annex I countries with come from European, Japan, they provide the money for developing countries to develop clean technology through buying carbon credits”. I took an example of building hydropower plant and coal-fired plant to explain to them more. Dr. Case: “it is seemed that annex I countries do not do anything in their countries?” Smiling, I answered “actually, what happened here is economics”, draw two number of 95% and 99%, “if we can increase the efficiency of one pump from 95% to 99% to archive one 1ton CO2 reduction, the cost is 100$(airblade), now they invested it through developing countries, for example, hydropower plant, to achieve the same thing, 1 ton CO2 with 10$”. Both of them looked satisfied. Dr. Case told Dr. Hanson “this is international issues”. I added “personally, I think science and economics just two part of one process. Science deal with product, quality and economics is the cost. When we achieve the same thing, we will compare the cost”.

Dr. Hanson “tell us about what your company do?” I draw the cycle with I quite sure about it, explained to them what CDM project stared, how to turn from idea to Certified Reduction Emission to have money. They seemed already know about it.

Dr Case “So annex I countries just wait to buy carbon credit!” “No, they actively work. They provide us the opportunity to have cleaner technology”. Dr. Hanson add question on how many people that my company have, “about …, I should say it is very small”. Both of them smile, “it is good”.

Dr Case wanted to start again in my research. “Now just tell me what your model used in your research”. Carefully, wrote the name of ASM3- Activated Sludge Model No 3, show them what part of biological reactor applied for this model. I told them about the model structure- with no much clear pronunciation. “it is a matrix, consist of 13 components and 12 processes, it each position in matrix, we have number to show how what amount of component is used to this process”, then I continued “and I used mass balance equation, accumulation = input-output + reaction” and wrote it in white board. “This is heart of this model” and adding “ in stabilization process, accumulation is assumed to be zero and input and output are calculated by flow rate and COD and divided them with the components above, the reaction part is calculated by sum of reaction of process”.

Dr. Case seemed ok with this but he continued to fire other question. “What the model you use and what the input, output?”.

I said “Well, first, I tried to program my self by C++ but it worked so bad, I could not have the good illustration and I come up with using ASIM Demo version. I used my parameters that I had calculated like to volume of reactor, volume of classifier, using COD (Chemical Oxygen Demand) of Hanoi wastewater and run it”. Wrote the name of software and where it came from to the white board, went to other side and wrote to blank part of white board. “I assumed that the wastewater experience overflow or over loading of COD, nitrogen and I have graph like this”, draw a line to white board with a bit of variant and other line, explain to them why it is different.