Professor Dam Thanh Son delivers a speech at an international physics conference held in Vietnam's central province of Binh Dinh on July 16 this year (Photo: VNA) 

Washington DC (VNA)
– Vietnamese Professor Dam Thanh Son of the University of Chicago was recently named one the three winners of the 2018 Dirac Medal and Prize by International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP).

Son and the two others winners – Subir Sachdev of Harvard University and Xiao-Gang Wen of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology – received the honour for their independent contributions toward understanding novel phases in strongly interacting many-body systems, introducing original cross-disciplinary techniques.

All three winners study how quantum mechanics affects large groups of particles, known as many-body systems.

In its announcement of the laureates, the ICTP wrote that Son was the first to understand that gauge/gravity duality could be used to address basic questions in strongly interacting many-body problems.

ICTP's Dirac Medal, first awarded in 1985, is given in honor of Paul Dirac, one of the greatest physicists of the 20th century. It is awarded annually on Dirac's birthday, August 8, to scientists who have made significant contributions to theoretical physics.

Dam Thanh Son was born in Hanoi to a pharmacy-professor father and a biochemistry-associate-professor mother.

In 1984, he won a gold medal in his first time competing in the International Mathematical Olympiad at the age of 15. A year later, Son went to Moscow, Russia, to study physics at the Lomonosov Moscow State University.

Talking about his decision to study physics instead of maths, Son mentioned the impact of his uncle who was a teacher, Dam Trung Don, who guided the Vietnamese national physics team for years, and his growing love and interest for the science.

Son received his Ph.D. at the Institute for Nuclear Research in Moscow in 1995, at 25.

In his later life, he moved to the US. He subsequently held postdoctoral appointments at the University of Washington and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a faculty appointment at Columbia University. He was also a fellow at the RIKEN Brookhaven National Laboratory Research Center.

Since 2002, he has served as a senior fellow at the Institute for Nuclear Theory and also held an appointment as a professor of physics at the University of Washington.

In 2012, he became the 19th person to hold a University Professorship at the University of Chicago.

Son gained international prominence for his application of ideas from string theory to the understanding of nuclear matter under high temperature and high density. The scientist is the author or co-author of more than 100 scholarly publications.

The physicist has returned to Vietnam on many occasions to attend the “Meet Vietnam” programme, which is organised by the Meeting Vietnam Science Association and features various international workshops and training courses on science. He has also joined the panel and organising boards of several mathematics and physics competitions in Vietnam.-VNA