Student profile: Cuong Nguyen


25 September 2018

Student profile: Cuong Nguyen


A bit about me

I was born in Vũng Tàu city, Vietnam. My hometown is a beautiful coastal city in the south-east of the country. With its golden sandy beaches and inactive volcanic mountains, my little city draws many visitors from Ho Chi Minh City who can arrive by hydrofoil. In 2008, I moved to London to complete a B.Sc. and M.Sc. in Economics at Queen Mary University of London and worked as nail technician and assistant accountant. In 2014, I went back to Vietnam to work at Vietnamese-German University in Bình Dương.
During my childhood, I enjoyed studying geography and watching disaster-related movies, especially the Godzilla series. From that knowledge, I learnt more about how public institutions respond during critical times and how communities resist and recover after a catastrophic event.
On top of that, I frequently saw sad news about the effects of storm surges, floods and landslides in Vietnam and Japan. I felt I needed to be more informed and contribute my knowledge to enhancing society’s resilience. As a result, in September 2016, I decided to pursue a PhD in Economics under the supervision of Professor Ilan Noy (Chair in the Economics of Disasters) at Victoria University of Wellington.
In my spare time, I enjoy swimming and playing tennis. Currently, I am in the top 1000 tennis players in New Zealand, based on interclub ranking.

Cuong at Mount Victoria summit and the Wellington waterfront

My project

Through my PhD, I work on several projects regarding earthquake insurance and the property market. In New Zealand we have the privilege of having access to rich datasets from many different sources, which makes it possible to answer many interesting research questions. My focus is on the 2010 -2011 Canterbury Earthquake Sequence (CES). Using the insurance claim payment data from EQC, I examine the role of insurance in residential recovery in Greater Christchurch. I also compare the functions and capability of different earthquake insurance schemes for countries that have similar earthquake risk profiles to New Zealand. In addition, I investigate homeowner’s decisions regarding the Crown’s offers for houses in the residential red zones in Christchurch. I’m currently working on investigating the change in risk perception for property markets post-CES and the effect of coastal hazards on Kāpiti Coast property sale prices.
Local councils and Crown research institutes are interested in my projects and have been very supportive during my research process. I feel that my research outcomes can contribute to their decision-making around natural hazards and resilience. The PhD program provides me an opportunity to enhance my skill set; I have learnt to use different software and programming languages such as ArcGIS, QGIS, Stata, R and Python. For example, I extracted nightlight intensity from NASA satellite imagery to use in one of my research projects.

Night-time light imagery for Greater Christchurch

As part of the Resilience to Nature’s Challenges Economics toolbox, my supervisor and I are collaborating with Resilient Organizations and Wellington Region Emergency Management Office (WREMO) on a research project developing resilience indicators for the Wellington region. As part of this project, I am currently gathering resilience metrics from various ministries and local councils.

Next steps

When starting the PhD program, I did not foresee how interesting the process would be. After two years pursuing the degree, I still think about many ideas for potential research projects that would serve both academic and applied purposes.
My next step is to finish writing my current papers. After that, I will work on one or two additional research projects before my PhD completion. I plan to submit my thesis by summer 2019 and continue my journey in disaster research.

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