Dr. Nguyen Dinh Dang – Imagine!

On October 29, 2014, Dr. Nguyen Dinh Dang from The Institute of Physical and Chemical Research (RIKEN) gave a talk at Tan Tao University. In the talk, titled “Choosing science and art”, Dr. Dang spoke about his career as a physicist-cum-artist living 35 years in Russia, Europe, US and Japan.


Nguyen Dinh Dang was born and grew up in Hanoi during the Vietnam War. In 1976 he won the state scholarship to study at the Moscow State University in the former Soviet Union, from which he graduated in 1982. In 1985 he received his PhD in nuclear theory and in 1990 his Soviet Doctor of Physics and Mathematics Sciences’ degree, which is the highest academic degree in the former Soviet Union. After a few years conducting research in Europe, he was invited to Japan in 1994, where he has been working during the last two decades at the Institute of Physical and Chemical Research (RIKEN).

Besides his career as a nuclear theorist, Dr. Dang is also an artist and member of the Vietnam Fine-Arts Association and Shutai Fine-Arts Association of Japan. His oil paintings have been displayed in many solo and group shows in Vietnam, Russia, Italy and Japan, and can today be found in private collections in Asia, Europe and the US. Dr. Dang has received several awards for his paintings, including the “Outstanding Rising Artist’s Prize” by Sompo-Japan Fine-Arts Foundation.


Nguyen Dinh Dang
The forgotten giant locusts (2010)
oil on canvas, 130 x 162 cm

During his talk at TTU, Dr. Dang shared his thoughts and experiences in life, which were illustrated by his paintings. Dr. Dang shared with the audience how his parents were leading intellectuals of their time in Viet Nam. His father graduated Sorbonne University, Paris, while his mother graduated Paris Medical University in the field of pediatrics. They came back Viet Nam in 1954, whereupon his mother became the first doctor in Ha Noi.

Therefore, right from his early age, Dr. Dang was well educated by his family and was taught literature, art and music. From his own experiences he asserted that: “Family education and self-study cannot be replaced entirely by school education“.

Being confident in one’s ability and set goals.

When sharing his experiences in research with TTU students, Dr. Dang cited Prof. Akito Arima’s words (Prof. Akito Arima is a prestigious nuclear theorist, former President of RIKEN Institute and former Minister of Education – Science – Technology, Japan): “You should never give up, even if other people criticize you” – this is particularly important when conducting scientific research. Dr. Dang elaborated further: “Scientific research is finding something that is new, for sure there are some or even many people who criticize you because it is the nature of human society. However, if because of the criticism you become disheartened, you will never be able to do what you want. This will also challenge  your patience. So believing in your ability and what you pursue is very important, not only in research but also in many other works.”


Studying in the former Soviet Union – the determination of self-studied painting.

Since the age of four, Dr. Dang has been passionate about painting. He was able to stand in front of the back board for many hours painting or sitting to draw on paper and even on the floor. In addition to painting, Dr. Dang also loves playing piano, and he used to perform in the annual concerts organized by Yamaha Music School at Ima Hall in Tokyo.

For Dr. Dang, Moscow is a great school, not only in natural science but also in art. It was in Moscow that he saw with his own eyes the original masterpieces of great painters in the famous Russian museums.

During winter and summer vacations, Dr. Dang devoted most of his time to painting. After two years, he took some of his paintings to a professor in Surikov Art University in Moscow, and received an offer from this professor: he was told that if he gave up physics, he would be supported to become a great painter. Although he couldn’t give up physics, the professor’s offer encouraged him to continue with his self-study of painting. Dr. Dang said: “At that time, I really did not care about becoming a great painter. I saw only that I have great passion for painting“.

Becoming a professional artist does not depend entirely on inspiration.

When you paint, should not only rely on inspiration. If you wait until you have inspiration, you are not truly a professional artist. One should continue to paint even when one does not have inspiration. If you paint as any other worker does, inspiration will eventually come. According to Dr. Dang, we can deal with having no ideas by changing our routines such as reading, going for a walk, or travelling. However, you should never become disheartened if the ideas don’t come immediately. Rather than waiting until inspiration appears, you should establish a regular disciplined work routine.


At the end of the talk, the one word that Dr. Dang emphasized was “imagine“. Citing the words of Albert Einstein: “Imagination is more important than knowledge“. According to Dr. Dang: “Knowledge may become outdated or may be wrong, but if you do not have imagination, you cannot discover the new.”

Le Chi – TTU Media