Meet Helen Tran
What sparked your interest in chemistry?
Growing up, I was always keen on pursuing a career with a creative and artistic slant. To my surprise in college, I fell in love with Organic Chemistry. It was a beautiful mix of molecular design and tangible construction of new materials with atomic precision. It is important to understand which building blocks to use and which synthetic techniques are needed for chemical transformations. In the end, you make molecules that nobody else has ever made, and they can potentially be used for new technologies.
What are you looking forward to exploring in your lab at U of T?
I sometimes refer to myself as a molecular architect, and I specialize in designing polymers. When building blocks ("monomers") are connected together, they form a larger chain called a polymer. The type of building blocks used, how they are connected, and how many of them are connected all influences the final properties of the material. I am interested in using building blocks that are electronically active, sequences that are encoded for self-assembly, and connections that are reversible for recyclability. The new materials that will be developed by Team Tran will address current unmet challenges in health and sustainability.
What keeps you busy outside of the lab?
Outside of research, I enjoy learning about how simple, functional, yet innovative designs are implemented in architecture, products, and service models. I hope to translate these concepts in my scientific work. Also, from biking to cross-country skiing, I find a lot of joy spending time outdoors.