Born in Vietnam, Tú Nguyen works as a PhD student at VITO. Here, she participates in a high-tech project on 3D printing of battery electrodes. She has now been living and working in Mol for a year and a half. Contrary to what the 'quiet Kempen' might suggest, she has a vibrant community around her in and around VITO. 

Batteries, chit chat and badminton:  

"Here in Mol, I have the most international community around me" 

"This project could result in a new commercial battery. The PhD is high-tech and is still in the 'proof of concept' phase. Our goal is to prove that we can bring a better battery to the market with this new technology. In the next three years, I want to form a clear picture of the battery. Later, we will look at what applications the technology can be used in: laptops, cars or small devices? We are keeping all options open for now."


Back home in Vietnam, Tú studied chemistry. "However, it did not run in the family," she laughs. "My parents have a background in social sciences. Even in secondary school I was fascinated by science, so it quickly became my major. At university, I was often in the lab. I did realise that my opportunities in Vietnam - a developing country - would be limited by the lack of facilities. So I decided to pursue my master's at Utrecht University. There, I got to know nanotechnology as a scientific domain. 

"My then supervisor was scrolling LinkedIn in an Amsterdam tram and discovered this PhD project at VITO. He alerted me to it and motivated me to seize this great opportunity." And so Tú moved from the Netherlands to Belgium, to Mol. She moved into a residential area near VITO, with studios and flats. 

Vietnamese food

"It looked like a forest. How could I ever go out and meet friends here, was my first impression. But nothing could be further from the truth. Many international employees live in the flats, including PhD students like me. That made it very easy to connect because we are all young and foreign and live close to each other. Meanwhile, we have built a nice community."

Near the flats is Nuclea's sports club, where Tú and her friends often play badminton. "It started with a tournament that SCK-CEN and VITO organised together. We united, practised together and, above all, had a lot of fun during and after practice. Since then, we have continued to play badminton. Sometimes we also organise other activities, like wall climbing for example." 

Coming to Belgium was not too big a step for Tú. "I had already got over the culture shock after moving to Utrecht. I got used to it easily. Of course, I miss home. My friends from Italy or Spain can go home for a weekend with relative ease, while I have to plan a visit months in advance. The tickets are expensive and it eats up all my holidays. What I miss most is the food. There are no Vietnamese restaurants here, so I order specific ingredients online. But I cope with it. I have friends, fine colleagues and an involved supervisor. I live far from home and miss it, but despite that, I am not lonely or unhappy here." 

Colleagues from all over the world

Tú's working days at VITO are well filled with her research. "During coffee breaks or lunch, I catch up with colleagues and friends. I also constantly meet new people here. Our community changes often, as some people stay here for six months, others for two or four years. So although you live in the same place, you always meet new people."

Tú is grateful to be able to expand her knowledge and skills at VITO. "In Vietnam, I could never have worked on a high-tech project like this. VITO is a pioneer in innovative 3D printing, or 3D micro-extrusion specifically. It's great that people from all over the world get opportunities here. This allows us to work together in Mol on technological innovation that makes the whole world better."


One of VITO's strategic objectives is to train young people in applied scientific research so that they can add value to the Flemish economy and industry. Around 70 PhD students are currently working as researchers at VITO. Half of them come from abroad.

Have you recently graduated as a master in (bio-)engineering, exact, industrial, economic, human or medical sciences? Would you like to further boost your career opportunities by obtaining a PhD? Then be sure to discover the opportunities VITO has to offer you! Each year, VITO launches a number of new PhD projects in close collaboration with excellent universities.

+32 14 33 67 87