Lesa Tran graduated from Rice in 2007 with a B.S. in Chemistry. As an undergraduate she participated in Professor Lon Wilson’s research group for three years, where she had the rare opportunity to be a part of the team that created and developed a novel drug, the Gadonanotube, in 2005.
When Tran started applying to Chemistry Ph.D. programs around the nation, she decided to continue her studies in Wilson’s lab as a graduate student. “It is definitely an exciting and successful project, and I am so happy to have stayed at Rice and personally develop the Gadonanotubes into something medically relevant with great potential,” she says.
Tran elaborates on her research: “My project involves the development of gadolinium-based carbon nanocapsules (known as the Gadonanotubes) as a simultaneous therapeutic and diagnostic (or “theranostic”) agent for cardiovascular stem cell therapy. The Gadonanotubes are powerful T1-weighted (or brightening) MRI contrast agents that can label stem cells with high efficiency. Also, the magnetic properties of the Gadonanotubes can be exploited to help magnetically steer and manipulate the movement of stem cells. This can improve the retention of stem cells during injections into the heart.”
Tran finds the most surprising thing about Rice to be its ability to simultaneously and successfully foster a productive and laid-back research environment. “Graduate students and research staff are not extremely cut-throat or competitive, and everyone is willing to help and collaborate with one another, even with those beyond their department or institution. I believe that this contentment with their career and environment translates into high productivity and success in the lab,” Tran said.
When not working in the lab at Rice, Tran is conducting research at Texas Heart Institute in the Texas Medical Center.
Tran is a self-acknowledged “foodie,” and you will likely find her cooking in her kitchen or enjoying Houston’s phenomenal variety of eateries.
This fall Tran plans to serve at the Wiess Instructor of Chemistry, an important step in fulfilling one of her dreams— to be an influential educator in the future. She says her perfect job would combine her love of food, chemistry, and teaching.
Tran’s parents are her main source of inspiration. It is obvious that the qualities she admires in them—perseverance, diligence, and hard work, are second nature to her.