Researcher Focus: Dr Thanh Nguyen

Friday 15th March 2024

Get to know our Net Zero Operations Senior Research Fellow, Dr Thanh Nguyen. Originally from Vietnam, Thanh has been part of the Net Zero Operations team at the NSC since October 2018. Prior to joining, Thanh earned his doctorate in Computer Science from Griffith University, Australia. During his PhD, he was awarded the prestigious Academic Excellence from Griffith University and an Endeavour Award from the Australian Government, as well as multiple research awards for his outstanding scientific contributions.

What is your research all about?

My research specialises in industrially applied AI and machine learning, collaborating with a diverse range of companies across the energy and manufacturing sectors. I focus on developing and implementing advanced algorithms and models to address specific challenges including: hydrocarbon allocation techniques, predictive modelling, maintenance in energy systems, flow metering systems, subsea monitoring, diagnostic analytics for ocean energy industries, and object detection and collision avoidance. By leveraging machine learning and decision support techniques, my work aims to optimise processes, enhance efficiency, and improve safety in industrial environments, ultimately driving innovation and productivity across various sectors.

What or who first sparked your interest in your research subject?

The spark that ignited my interest in my research subject can be traced back to my academic journey and professional experiences. Initially, my academic background centred around Applied Mathematics at Hanoi University of Science and Technology, Vietnam where I also served as a lecturer for nearly six years.

In 2013, my academic trajectory took a significant turn when I decided to pursue further studies in Australia. Initially drawn to Applied Mathematics, my perspective shifted as I recognised the immense potential of AI and Machine Learning in the upcoming years. Driven by my passion for programming and the desire to integrate intelligent systems with my mathematical foundation, I transitioned to studying Computer Science.

Upon my arrival at Griffith University, I had the privilege of working with Prof. Alan Liew at the School of ICT. It was under his guidance that I delved into the realm of Machine Learning, specifically focusing on Ensemble Learning for my research.

In the early stages of my PhD, I faced numerous challenges as I navigated this unfamiliar territory. However, the encouragement and mentorship provided by Prof. Liew were instrumental in overcoming these obstacles. Over the following six months, I diligently expanded my understanding by not only delving into Ensemble Learning, but also exploring various facets of Machine Learning, Computer Vision, Pattern Recognition, and Medical Image Analysis.

Through this comprehensive exploration, I gradually gained confidence in my background and knowledge. The initial difficulties transformed into a deep passion for my chosen research area. The broader perspective gained from delving into diverse aspects of AI and Machine Learning further fuelled my enthusiasm, making me realise the immense potential and impact these fields hold for the future. Thus, the initial spark evolved into a profound love for my research subject and a commitment to contribute meaningfully to the advancements in the field.

What impact is your research having outside of academia?

My research in Machine Learning and Computer Vision is driving tangible impact outside of academia, particularly in engineering, healthcare and industrial automation.

In the realm of engineering, my work is revolutionizing inspection processes, such as with the SAIBOK project in collaboration with the Net Zero Technology Centre, Aberdeen. By employing advanced Ensemble Deep Learning algorithms and Computer Vision techniques, we are enabling automatic subsea pipeline inspection, enhancing efficiency, and reducing the human efforts associated with manual inspection methods. This innovation not only improves the safety of critical infrastructure but also contributes to environmental sustainability efforts in the energy sector.

In healthcare, my research is advancing the field of cardiovascular diagnosis through collaborations like the project with UNAM in Mexico. By leveraging Deep Learning and Computer Vision technologies, we are developing automated systems capable of accurately detecting and diagnosing cardiovascular diseases from medical imaging data. These innovations have the potential to revolutionize healthcare delivery, enabling early detection, and ultimately, saving lives.

Moreover, my involvement in projects like the Automatic Measurement System for O-ring for RubberAtkins Ltd, Aberdeen, as part of the AKT initiative funded by Innovate UK, demonstrates the practical applications of my research in industrial automation. By integrating Machine Learning and Computer Vision algorithms into measurement systems, we are enhancing accuracy, efficiency, and reliability in manufacturing processes. This not only improves product quality, but also optimises resource utilisation, driving cost savings and competitiveness in the industry.

Are there any role models or mentors who have helped you along the way?

Certainly, my academic and professional journey has been shaped by the invaluable guidance and mentorship of inspiring individuals who have played pivotal roles in my development.

One significant mentor in my academic path has been Prof. Alan Liew. His guidance during my PhD journey, especially in navigating the complexities of a new research area like Ensemble Learning, was instrumental. Professor Liew not only provided unwavering support but also challenged and inspired me to delve into diverse facets of Machine Learning and related fields, broadening my perspective and deepening my understanding.

In addition to academic mentors, I've been fortunate to work with esteemed managers and collaborators, Prof. John McCall and Prof. Eyad Elyan, in various projects. Their expertise and insights have been instrumental in expanding my knowledge and refining my research and management endeavours.

While there have been numerous role models and mentors throughout my journey, each contributing in their unique way, the collective impact of their guidance has been transformative. Their mentorship has not only shaped my academic and professional identity, but has also instilled in me a commitment to paying forward the knowledge and support I have received along the way.

What advice do you have for somebody embarking on a research career?

For someone embarking on a research career, I have several pieces of advice that have been crucial in my own journey:

Work Diligently and Seriously: Dedicate yourself to your research with diligence and seriousness. Research is often a demanding and continuous process, and the commitment you bring to your work will significantly impact your outcomes.

Read Extensively Across Various Fields: Expand your knowledge base by reading extensively not only within your specific research domain, but also across various related fields. A broad understanding will provide you with a solid foundation, fostering creativity and interdisciplinary thinking.

Gradually Elevate Research Quality: Start by submitting your work to conferences or journals that align with your field, offering a platform to gain confidence and exposure. However, as you progress, aim for more profound research contributions. Target high-quality journals or conferences to enhance the impact and credibility of your work.

Collaborate and Network: Actively seek collaborations and engage with fellow researchers. Collaborations offer diverse perspectives and skill sets, enriching your research endeavours. Attend conferences, workshops, and seminars to meet and exchange ideas with professionals in your field and related areas. Building a robust network is essential for both personal and professional growth.

Embarking on a research career requires perseverance, continuous learning, and strategic decision-making. By adhering to these pieces of advice, you'll be better equipped to navigate the challenges and make meaningful contributions to your chosen field.

Favourite thing about the NSC?

My favourite thing about the National Subsea Centre lies in its commitment to fostering a conducive environment for research and development, allowing employees the freedom to explore, innovate, and grow.

Firstly, the centre provides a unique atmosphere that encourages independent research and creativity. This autonomy empowers individuals to pursue their ideas, fostering a culture of innovation that is crucial in the ever-evolving field of subsea research.

Secondly, the National Subsea Centre is exceptionally generous in providing state-of-the-art infrastructure for research. With modern machinery suitable for projects of all scales, the centre ensures that researchers have the necessary tools and equipment to conduct effective and impactful studies.

Thirdly, NSC actively supports the personal and professional development of its staff. Employees have access to a range of opportunities, from soft skills training to job-specific skill development. Personally, I have experienced significant personal growth during my time at the centre, benefiting from participation in specialised workshops, management classes, and the chance to enhance my leadership skills as a line manager.

Lastly, the collaborative spirit is evident as everyone is willing to assist each other in their work. Whether it's seeking advice from experts or overcoming challenges in projects, the centre’s collaborative ethos ensures a supportive and cohesive work environment.

In essence, the NSC's commitment to a dynamic, well-equipped, and supportive work environment makes it a standout place for research and professional growth.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work? 

Outside of work, I enjoy two main activities: watching football and reading adventure novels.

  • As a crazy supporter of Arsenal Football Club since my childhood, I find immense joy and excitement in watching their matches. Being part of the passionate fanbase and witnessing the thrill of the game unfold is a source of great enjoyment for me.
  • Additionally, I have a deep love for adventure novels, where I can immerse myself in thrilling escapades and daring exploits. Whether it's exploring ancient ruins, navigating treacherous jungles, or embarking on epic quests, I find solace and inspiration in the pages of these adventurous tales.