He completed his Bachelor of Surgery at the California Institute of Technology, and his Doctor of Philosophy at Princeton University.
He has taught astronomy at the University of Virginia, where he is a professor, since 1976, and is a Research Associate at the Institut d’Astrophysique de Paris. In 2012, he was awarded the Prix mondial Cino Delegate Duca from the Institut de France. Thuận"s areas of interest are extragalactic astronomy and galaxy formation.
His research has focused on the evolution of galaxies and the chemical composition of the universe, and on compact blue dwarf galaxies.
He was a founding member of the International Society for Science and Religion.