Helen Tran

Helen Tran

Molecular and Cell Biology

How did you first get involved in research on campus?
I was interested in seeing how the lab techniques that we learned in our classes were done.
I think as students we can learn a lot from the lectures and textbooks, but we can't fully understand how it is done unless we do them ourselves. I really enjoyed the lab I worked in so I stayed in the same lab for 3 years.

What did you gain from the experience?
I definitely learned how a lot of laboratory techniques are done and a lot of new information specific to my project that I wasn't taught in my classes. I also learned to properly budget my time throughout a week to ensure all my bench work would be completed, present my project to a variety of audiences, and to work with different people. I also was constantly getting great feedback and help on how to improve whether it was from my mentor or GSIs from the SURF program.

Have your research experiences informed your career choices?
I learned a lot of new information from working in the lab and new molecular techniques. Being in the lab brought out my interest in seeing the information we discover becoming applied in a clinical setting as a physician. I'm sure that the knowledge and skills I gained from the lab can be applied in the future if I become a physician.

Were you able to apply new knowledge gained to other contexts?
In addition to the science in the lab, I think I developed a lot professionally. I learned how to make better, clearer presentations. I also improved my writing to effectively communicate my data or other information. In addition, I learned to read research papers, so when I took classes in the humanities that required this skill, I had some of the necessary skills to understand the papers. I definitely learned to be more patient and resilient in my work. It took me some time to keep going after experiments didn't work as planned or data wasn't as clear as expected. Finally, I also appreciated having the opportunity to work so closely with a faculty member. My mentor was very helpful and patient with my questions and giving me advice. She also was very friendly and helped me with my presentations.

What advice do you have for undergraduates who want to do research?
I would strongly suggest doing research while you are at UC Berkeley The things I learned in lab often complemented things I learned in class. It made several topics I learned in class a lot easier since I already actually did the lab technique we were learning about. In addition, I learned a lot of new things that weren't taught in my classes. I also got a chance to work with grad students and a faculty member. It was great to get hands on experience and practice with lab techniques that we often don't have the chance to do in classes or only get the chance to do once in lab classes. It really solidified the things I learned and help me have a better grasp of concepts.