Thirty years of growth in Vietnam

9 November 2023
John Kovac
Window on the universe John Kovac (Harvard University, Cambridge) talking about challenges for CMB cosmology. Credit: Rencontres du Vietnam

Exactly three decades ago, the first conference in the Les Rencontres du Vietnam series was held in Hanoi, initiated by Jean Trân Thanh Vân, who is also the architect of the Rencontres de Moriond series held each March in La Thuile, Italy. 2023 also marks the 10th anniversary of the International Centre for Interdisciplinary Science and Education (ICISE) in Quy Nhon, host of the Vietnam event.

An official partner of UNESCO, Rencontres du Vietnam’s scientific conferences and schools promote collaboration between Vietnamese or Asia-Pacific scientists and colleagues from other parts of the world. ICISE’s ambitious goal is to focus on the development of science and education, helping young Asian students and scientists to grow their knowledge by attending lectures and exchanging ideas with high-level overseas counterparts.

The 2023 event, entitled “Windows on the Universe”, took place from 6 to 12 August and consisted of two joint conferences, one reporting on the progress and developments in particle physics and the other discussing recent developments in astrophysics. The conference featured joint sessions between both communities, as well as separate plenary and parallel sessions for each discipline. The event attracted some 150 participants, including theorist and 1999 Nobel Laureate Gerard ’t Hooft.

In the tradition of ICISE-based conferences, a significant proportion of participants came from Asia, in particular from Vietnam, where the fundamental-research community has grown considerably since the start of ICISE activities. For example, Vietnam is now a member of the T2K experiment. Son Cao (IFIRSE) gave the plenary review on the results from this and other long-baseline neutrino experiments. Many others, including young scientists, presented their latest work during the parallel sessions.

During an extended opening session, some of the very first “Rencontres” participants shared entertaining memories of how it all began. The scientific part of the meeting followed, with keynote talks from a select group of excellent speakers covering most of the activities in particle physics and astrophysics. A highlight was the final day, when different views on future directions in particle physics were discussed, and the latest Fermilab muon g−2 measurement experiment – released just hours beforehand (see Muon g-2 update sets up showdown with theory) – was presented.

Throughout the week, ICISE confirmed its reputation as an excellent venue for conferences in Southeast Asia. At the end of the meeting, a group of some 40 scientists accepted an invitation to spend a day in Hanoi for an audience with Vietnam’s president, Võ Văn Thưởng, who, together with his staff, discussed science and education in the country. This was the final highlight of a very successful celebratory edition of the Rencontres du Vietnam in 2023.

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