Helen Tran is a 3rd-year Environmental Science major studying environmental microbiology with Dr. Jennifer Glass.

A photo of Helen.


How long have you been an undergraduate researcher at Georgia Tech?

I have been involved in undergraduate research at Georgia Tech since I have joined the Glass Lab in May 2023.

How did you get involved with undergraduate research?

I enjoyed keeping up with the research being done in my major’s department, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, and found myself particularly interested in the work Dr. Glass was doing in environmental microbiology. After reading some of the lab’s papers I reached out to Dr. Jennifer Glass to see if there was any way I could help. Then, I was working in the lab making media and attending meetings.


Helen working in the lab.

What are you working on?

The Glass Lab’s focus is analyzing microbial mechanisms and their evolution alongside the Earth’s as we observe how they use and produce compounds. Over the summer the focus was making media and growing cultures of cyanobacteria (Synechococcus sp. PCC 7002) to better understand its production of nitrous oxide. This semester I am helping PhD student Claire Elbon on her project about microbial production of manganese oxide by working on cell imaging to determine autofluorescence rates and the association between manganese oxide and these cells.

Some equipment Helen uses in the lab to grow cultures of cyanobacteria.

What is your favorite thing about research/researching?

The best part of research is the people. Researching with others makes it so there is always something new to learn and gives a sense of community as you see everyone working hard on their projects. That sense of community makes the chilly lab feel a bit warmer. Also, learning how to use the cool instrumentation is a major bonus of research.

What are your future plans and how has research influenced them?

My plans are to attend a PhD program in environmental science, continuing to research environmental microbiology. Before research I was somewhat aimless about my future, but after becoming involved and switching to the new major of environmental science I have developed a clearer vision for myself. Research has made me more patient, determined to face challenges, and reaffirmed my future as a scientist.