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Department Spotlight: Trang Le, Ph.D. Candidate, Lundberg Lab

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Picture of graduate student Trang Le in front of Stanford engineering quad.

Trang Le

Ph.D. Candidate, Lundberg Lab

I was born in Hanoi, Vietnam, and throughout my life, I've always been driven by curiosity. I follow my interests wherever they lead me, and that has brought me to where I am today.

After high school, I went to Germany. Initially, I majored in economics to study different players’ dynamics and their interactions in shaping the economy. However, as I developed more enthusiasm for the dynamics of human biology and its interaction with the environment, I changed my major to biotechnology. I also found that a multidisciplinary approach, such as applying big data analysis and computational models to biology, can be extremely useful in solving complex problems. 

While working towards my Ph.D., I've learned the importance of resilience. If the question is good and important enough, there’s always an answer, or multiple answers. When experiments aren’t working, I find it helpful to look from different angles, such as using a technique from a different field or reframing the scope. I also work on multiple projects at the same time, and fresh perspectives from one might help me find solutions for another. The  Lundberg Lab is an environment full of inspiration and encouragement. Dr. Emma Lundberg, my research advisor, values my curiosity and supports my exploration of  areas beyond the boundaries of my research. I feel fortunate to continue to be surrounded by people who help me grow. 

In my current research, my work involves modeling and analyzing spatial organization of proteins within human cells. Inside each cell is an intricate multi-scale network that in harmony has remarkable capacities. By understanding this dynamics, we can gain valuable insights into cellular functions, disease mechanisms, and potential therapeutic targets. While it hasn't always been smooth sailing with my projects, the process of breaking down problems and crafting efficient solutions is what makes bioengineering so exciting for me. 

I find joy in the small wins. Progress occurs incrementally, so whenever I achieve something meaningful or make a useful contribution, it fills me with a sense of motivation. We’re always solving big problems, in small steps. Meanwhile, my objective is clear: to get a little bit better everyday, not only in my academic pursuits but also in my connections with family, friends and teammates.