Undergraduate Research

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Trieu Pham

Trieu Pham
“Thanks to my professors’ contagious enthusiasm and my mentors’ motivation, they helped spark an interest that I never knew had existed.”

Faculty Supervisors:

Dr. Greg Clark, Molecular Cell & Developmental Biology
Dr. Stanley Roux, Molecular Cell & Developmental Biology

Briefly describe your research project.

I am currently investigating the role of two ectoapyrase enzymes, AtAPY1 and AtAPY2, in regulating the response of Arabidopsis thaliana primary roots during gravistimulation. My experiments are unique because they are done with the Phytomorph system, which employs computer algorithms through time-lapse images taken from IR light to analyze gravitropic growth and curvature. Phytomorph system is one of the most advanced methodologies developed today for researchers to study plant development.

How did you become involved in research?

The Freshman Research Initiative (FRI) really had me interested in research during my freshman year of college. I was enrolled in Dr. Cassandra Delgado-Reyes’s Research Methods class, where I learned about critical thinking, data analysis, and research. By the Spring semester, I was doing research in Dr. Roux’s Discovery Plant Biology lab.

I think what is most remarkable about my research experience is how I first got into Dr. Roux’s plant biology lab. As part of the FRI program, I was given a collage with various research streams’ concentrations and asked to rank them according to what appeals to me most. With plans of going on to medical school after college, I knew it would be most beneficial for me to be matched to a stream that utilizes animal systems for their research. Instead of being placed into a stream that I thought I was most comfortable, I was matched to Dr. Roux’s Discovery Plant Biology Lab. I was apprehensive at first about the idea of working with plant systems. I eventually decided to give it a chance and saw it as an opportunity to learn something new. Thanks to my professors’ contagious enthusiasm and my mentors’ motivation, they helped spark an interest that I never knew had existed.

What was the most rewarding part of your research experience?

The most rewarding part of my research experience is being co-author of a manuscript. For the past year, I have been working with my professors, Dr. Clark and Dr. Roux, along with other former FRI colleagues, to compose a manuscript for publication. The experiences of collaborating with others to conduct novel experiments, collect valuable data, and oversee the process of how scientific papers are reviewed and published in an academic journal will definitely be one of the top highlights in my undergraduate career.

How has participating in research affected your undergraduate experience?

Research has enriched my undergraduate experiences here at UT in many ways. It has given me hands-on experiences in the lab, challenged my scientific intuition, and helped me evolve into a more rounded student. Above all, however, it has taught me the importance of mentorship and helped me realize my passion for teaching. Every Fall semester, Dr. Clark and I, along with other lab colleagues, volunteer at Wooten Elementary, a low SES school located in north Austin. We work with 3rd and 4th graders to help them develop ideas for their science fair projects. Furthermore, we teach them the scientific method, how to construct experiments, and how to collect and present data. Watching them pursue their scientific inquiries has made me aware of my passion for teaching and allowed me to reach to my community.

What advice would you give incoming students about getting involved in research?

My advice for incoming students about getting involved in research is to step beyond what they feel is most comfortable and challenge themselves to try something new. For me, I strayed away from the premed conventions of studying animal systems and decided to research about plants instead. In many ways, I felt that this was one of the best decisions I made because it gave me a chance to extend my horizons and marvel at the diversity of life.