MINERVA VOICES

Alumna Highlight—Vy Tran

Meet Vy, an alumna from the Class of 2021.

March 20, 2024

Can you describe the work you are doing now?

I am currently living and working in Boston as a Ph.D. student in Bioinformatics at Harvard. Previously, I was a computational biologist at the Massachusetts General Hospital, a hospital affiliated with Harvard Medical School. My research focus is on the intersection of computer science and biology, where I am developing statistical methods to detect differentially expressed genes in spatial transcriptomics data. Spatial transcriptomics is a new gene sequencing technology that is able to tell scientists not just the gene expression pattern, but also the location of that expression in the tissue. With that information, we can gain a lot of insights into how gene expression changes in healthy and sick people. We then may be able to discover different disease pathways and have a better understanding of disease mechanisms. My job is to process the data and design and implement computational tools in order to help discover these differentially expressed genes. 

What is a post-graduation project you have worked on that you are most proud of?

The project I am working on now is definitely the one I am most proud of. I designed the methods and I had direct discussions with my principal investigator to sketch out ideas on how to create such methods. I am singlehandedly implementing the technique as a Python (coding language) library by creating large simulations to validate my results. I find myself going back to a lot of concepts that I studied at Minerva. For example, I still remember the modeling and simulations course that I took during my sophomore year. At the time when I took it, I did not expect to use the knowledge because I found it very complicated. Now, that knowledge directly benefits me as I set up my simulations to validate the result that I get from my methods. I am also in the process of finalizing this project for a first-author publication. Hopefully, we will get some good biological insights.

What part of your Minerva experience most significantly informed your current perspective on the world and the way you approach studying now?

After having traveled the world and lived independently, yet surrounded by a strong, supportive network of friends, I am more risk-taking. When I got the offer for my current job from the Broad Institute, Vietnam had its borders still closed. In order to accept the offer, I needed to fly to the United States to apply for my work authorization, and flying back home was not an option, should anything go wrong. Applying for a work authorization can be risky. You can get rejected and at that time I was hesitant because I also had a standing offer with a full scholarship for a Master's Program at Harvard Medical School, which would have been the safer option. Luckily, it all worked out and I am very happy with where I am now in life just because I work with very intelligent people doing important research. I am learning a lot from my wonderful manager who is very talented. I also have a great principal investigator who is always willing to offer his mentorship. My lab mates are amazing and I learn a lot from them every day. I would say, all the risks I took were worth it. I think I was able to make such a big decision and take such a big risk because, at Minerva, we are taking a big risk from the very beginning when deciding to attend Minerva. We are joining a new university, a disruptive educational program, but I think it is immensely rewarding.

Which Minerva semester or summer stands out for you in terms of your professional development? 

As I mentioned before, the Minerva course I took on modeling and simulations definitely impacted the way that I think of simulations now. Because of the course, I was able to design a simulation program that verifies the result of my method. My simulation program also serves as a foundation for other projects in the lab that I am working on right now as additional validation steps.

I gained a lot of research experience during my time at Minerva, having been involved in research internships. During my freshman year, I worked on a research project in medical diagnostics at Keck Graduate Institute, an organization part of Minerva University’s network. The experience ignited my passion for biomedical research, which propelled me into my second-year internship with EnoLink, a biotech startup. The Coaching and Development Team helped me identify that opportunity and I ended up working with them for a long time. 

How does your Minerva education make you uniquely prepared for the post-graduate life?

I, my peers, and even my employers have this observation that Minerva students are a lot more motivated. You have to be a really motivated person to come to Minerva in the first place. And, after having traveled the world, we are more open-minded and independent. Overall, my Minerva friends are very driven people because a lot of us come from humble backgrounds all over the world and we are given the unique chance to study at Minerva. We really take advantage of the opportunity we were given and do our best to arrive in better places and engage in impactful work. We do not take things for granted, we work very hard and put in a lot of effort. All of this makes Minerva students unique.

Can you talk me through your Capstone Project? In what ways do you think your Capstone work informs what you are doing now?

My Capstone Project was about detecting retinal disease using convolutional neural networks, which is a machine-learning technique. My project focused more on computer vision and machine learning, but with applications in medical imaging. I started out with medical diagnostics, trying to build a microfluidic device to detect urinary tract infection disease in my first summer. With that, I began thinking more about how I might detect disease earlier, and how I might predict disease before it even happens for early intervention. I then transitioned into healthcare data science to work on electronic health records in medical prognosis problems using machine learning. At the end of my undergraduate journey, I looked into automating disease detection using machine learning on medical data. Now, after I have done a lot of disease detections, many on the computer science side, I am interested in learning about the fundamental mechanism of disease. This is what prompted me to work on genomics research in spatial transfer topics, which is what I am doing now.

How did relationships within the Minerva community help you to get into your dream career?

During my last year at Minerva, I experienced a lot of self-doubt. I had seen that the Broad Institute was hiring a computational biologist, but I did not have the courage to apply because I thought I would never make it. Then, one of my friends in my class, Munchic, applied and got in. He encouraged me to apply. That was when I started thinking about applying, but I still had not applied until Trang, another classmate, applied and also got in. Trang helped me craft my application and gave me a mock interview. Another upperclassman, Sohit, reviewed my statement and application. Our little bioinformatics group at Minerva joined forces to push me to apply for the Broad Institute, and I finally applied and I got in. This is how I got my job, and it was all thanks to my wonderful friends at Minerva who serve as my supporters, mentors, and role models.

If you were inspired by Vy's story and are seeking a college experience that will teach you valuable pragmatic skills that will enable you to change the world, apply to join Minerva today.

Quick Facts

Name
Vy Tran
Country
Vietnam
Class
2021
Major

Social Sciences & Business

Business & Computational Sciences

Business and Social Sciences

Social Sciences and Business

Computational Sciences & Social Sciences

Computer Science & Arts and Humanities

Business and Computational Sciences

Business and Social Sciences

Natural Sciences

Arts and Humanities

Business, Social Sciences

Business & Arts and Humanities

Computational Sciences

Natural Sciences, Computer Science

Computational Sciences

Arts & Humanities

Computational Sciences, Social Sciences

Computational Sciences

Computational Sciences

Natural Sciences, Social Sciences

Social Sciences, Natural Sciences

Data Science, Statistics

Computational Sciences

Business

Computational Sciences, Data Science

Social Sciences

Natural Sciences

Business, Natural Sciences

Business, Social Sciences

Computational Sciences

Arts & Humanities, Social Sciences

Social Sciences

Computational Sciences, Natural Sciences

Natural Sciences

Computational Sciences, Social Sciences

Business, Social Sciences

Computational Sciences

Natural Sciences, Social Sciences

Social Sciences

Arts & Humanities, Social Sciences

Arts & Humanities, Social Science

Social Sciences, Business

Arts & Humanities

Computational Sciences, Social Science

Natural Sciences, Computer Science

Computational Science, Statistic Natural Sciences

Business & Social Sciences

Computational Science, Social Sciences

Social Sciences and Business

Business

Arts and Humanities

Computational Sciences

Social Sciences

Social Sciences and Computational Sciences

Social Sciences & Computational Sciences

Social Sciences & Arts and Humanities

Computational Science

Minor

Computational Science & Business

Economics

Social Sciences

Concentration

Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence & Cognition, Brain, and Behavior

Designing Societies & New Ventures

Strategic Finance & Data Science and Statistics

Brand Management and Designing Societies

Data Science & Economics

Machine Learning

Cells, Organisms, Data Science, Statistics

Arts & Literature and Historical Forces

Artificial Intelligence & Computer Science

Cells and Organisms, Mind and Emotion

Economics, Physics

Managing Operational Complexity and Strategic Finance

Global Development Studies and Brain, Cognition, and Behavior

Scalable Growth, Designing Societies

Business

Drug Discovery Research, Designing and Implementing Policies

Historical Forces, Cognition, Brain, and Behavior

Artificial Intelligence, Psychology

Designing Solutions, Data Science and Statistics

Data Science and Statistic, Theoretical Foundations of Natural Science

Strategic Finance, Politics, Government, and Society

Data Analysis, Cognition

Brand Management

Data Science and Statistics & Economics

Cognitive Science & Economics

Data Science and Statistics and Contemporary Knowledge Discovery

Internship
Higia Technologies
Project Development and Marketing Analyst Intern at VIVITA, a Mistletoe company
Business Development Intern, DoSomething.org
Business Analyst, Clean Energy Associates (CEA)

Conversation

Can you describe the work you are doing now?

I am currently living and working in Boston as a Ph.D. student in Bioinformatics at Harvard. Previously, I was a computational biologist at the Massachusetts General Hospital, a hospital affiliated with Harvard Medical School. My research focus is on the intersection of computer science and biology, where I am developing statistical methods to detect differentially expressed genes in spatial transcriptomics data. Spatial transcriptomics is a new gene sequencing technology that is able to tell scientists not just the gene expression pattern, but also the location of that expression in the tissue. With that information, we can gain a lot of insights into how gene expression changes in healthy and sick people. We then may be able to discover different disease pathways and have a better understanding of disease mechanisms. My job is to process the data and design and implement computational tools in order to help discover these differentially expressed genes. 

What is a post-graduation project you have worked on that you are most proud of?

The project I am working on now is definitely the one I am most proud of. I designed the methods and I had direct discussions with my principal investigator to sketch out ideas on how to create such methods. I am singlehandedly implementing the technique as a Python (coding language) library by creating large simulations to validate my results. I find myself going back to a lot of concepts that I studied at Minerva. For example, I still remember the modeling and simulations course that I took during my sophomore year. At the time when I took it, I did not expect to use the knowledge because I found it very complicated. Now, that knowledge directly benefits me as I set up my simulations to validate the result that I get from my methods. I am also in the process of finalizing this project for a first-author publication. Hopefully, we will get some good biological insights.

What part of your Minerva experience most significantly informed your current perspective on the world and the way you approach studying now?

After having traveled the world and lived independently, yet surrounded by a strong, supportive network of friends, I am more risk-taking. When I got the offer for my current job from the Broad Institute, Vietnam had its borders still closed. In order to accept the offer, I needed to fly to the United States to apply for my work authorization, and flying back home was not an option, should anything go wrong. Applying for a work authorization can be risky. You can get rejected and at that time I was hesitant because I also had a standing offer with a full scholarship for a Master's Program at Harvard Medical School, which would have been the safer option. Luckily, it all worked out and I am very happy with where I am now in life just because I work with very intelligent people doing important research. I am learning a lot from my wonderful manager who is very talented. I also have a great principal investigator who is always willing to offer his mentorship. My lab mates are amazing and I learn a lot from them every day. I would say, all the risks I took were worth it. I think I was able to make such a big decision and take such a big risk because, at Minerva, we are taking a big risk from the very beginning when deciding to attend Minerva. We are joining a new university, a disruptive educational program, but I think it is immensely rewarding.

Which Minerva semester or summer stands out for you in terms of your professional development? 

As I mentioned before, the Minerva course I took on modeling and simulations definitely impacted the way that I think of simulations now. Because of the course, I was able to design a simulation program that verifies the result of my method. My simulation program also serves as a foundation for other projects in the lab that I am working on right now as additional validation steps.

I gained a lot of research experience during my time at Minerva, having been involved in research internships. During my freshman year, I worked on a research project in medical diagnostics at Keck Graduate Institute, an organization part of Minerva University’s network. The experience ignited my passion for biomedical research, which propelled me into my second-year internship with EnoLink, a biotech startup. The Coaching and Development Team helped me identify that opportunity and I ended up working with them for a long time. 

How does your Minerva education make you uniquely prepared for the post-graduate life?

I, my peers, and even my employers have this observation that Minerva students are a lot more motivated. You have to be a really motivated person to come to Minerva in the first place. And, after having traveled the world, we are more open-minded and independent. Overall, my Minerva friends are very driven people because a lot of us come from humble backgrounds all over the world and we are given the unique chance to study at Minerva. We really take advantage of the opportunity we were given and do our best to arrive in better places and engage in impactful work. We do not take things for granted, we work very hard and put in a lot of effort. All of this makes Minerva students unique.

Can you talk me through your Capstone Project? In what ways do you think your Capstone work informs what you are doing now?

My Capstone Project was about detecting retinal disease using convolutional neural networks, which is a machine-learning technique. My project focused more on computer vision and machine learning, but with applications in medical imaging. I started out with medical diagnostics, trying to build a microfluidic device to detect urinary tract infection disease in my first summer. With that, I began thinking more about how I might detect disease earlier, and how I might predict disease before it even happens for early intervention. I then transitioned into healthcare data science to work on electronic health records in medical prognosis problems using machine learning. At the end of my undergraduate journey, I looked into automating disease detection using machine learning on medical data. Now, after I have done a lot of disease detections, many on the computer science side, I am interested in learning about the fundamental mechanism of disease. This is what prompted me to work on genomics research in spatial transfer topics, which is what I am doing now.

How did relationships within the Minerva community help you to get into your dream career?

During my last year at Minerva, I experienced a lot of self-doubt. I had seen that the Broad Institute was hiring a computational biologist, but I did not have the courage to apply because I thought I would never make it. Then, one of my friends in my class, Munchic, applied and got in. He encouraged me to apply. That was when I started thinking about applying, but I still had not applied until Trang, another classmate, applied and also got in. Trang helped me craft my application and gave me a mock interview. Another upperclassman, Sohit, reviewed my statement and application. Our little bioinformatics group at Minerva joined forces to push me to apply for the Broad Institute, and I finally applied and I got in. This is how I got my job, and it was all thanks to my wonderful friends at Minerva who serve as my supporters, mentors, and role models.

If you were inspired by Vy's story and are seeking a college experience that will teach you valuable pragmatic skills that will enable you to change the world, apply to join Minerva today.