CAPAL Intern Spotlight Emily Tran ’19


Emily Tran is a rising junior at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, where she plans to major in Environmental Sociology and Molecular and Cellular Biology. Some of Tran’s favorite memories include working for the German department and Transitions program at Vassar College, where she began her undergraduate career. This summer, she will be studying plant physiology and plant responses to stressors in Fort Collins, Colorado with the USDA ARS Water Management Unit.


What are the projects that you’re working on this summer?

I am working with the USDA ARS Water Management Unit in Fort Collins, CO. One of my goals is to get a general sense of all of the projects in the unit, which I will achieve by shadowing my coworkers and going out in the field to set up equipment and help collect data. My main focus will be on our research on canopy stomatal conductance (gc). In that field, I’m specifically helping a coworker create a python code that calculates gc using an equation from a paper by Blonquist et al. (2009). I’m also conducting sensitivity analysis on variables affecting gc within two separate measurement techniques. This research will be useful because gc provides insight on the stress level of the plants. The area around Fort Collins is very dry, so farmers can use gc research to determine an efficient way to water their crops while still obtaining a decent yield. Finally, I plan to speak to farmers about how the ARS can better serve their needs (e.g. by making the research more accessible or by directing research towards topics that the farmers find valuable). I will compile this information together to give to the ARS scientists and hopefully we can discuss what is possible for the unit to do to address the farmers’ concerns.


What are you excited to learn about during your internship this summer?

In the past, I had a lack of motivation to learn because the information didn’t feel important outside of the classroom. Rather than being excited to learn about something specific this summer, I’m most excited to enjoy the process of gaining new knowledge and to experience how my learning can help others. I dove into this internship without much background knowledge on the projects that the ARS in Fort Collins does, so one of the first tasks that my supervisor gave me was reading relevant literature on canopy stomatal conductance. Although reading science papers is exactly an assignment that I would be given for a class, the ability to connect the literature to our research and the real life experiences of farmers added a new dimension to the learning process.


How does this internship fit with your professional and career goals?

When I applied for a public service internship through CAPAL, the only idea I had about my future career was that I wanted to help people; I was otherwise unsure how I could achieve that and in which field. During this internship I’ve been able to figure out what sort of work I tend to move towards. I’ve realized that I’m interested in the human side of things; even with scientific research, I’m drawn towards interpreting what our results mean for farmers. In the future I see myself seeking out a career where I can directly interact with people, learn about their concerns, and determine ways to address their needs.



What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?

“A relationship ending doesn’t make the time you spent together less valuable.” This advice has helped me appreciate friendships for how they made me feel in the moment and how they helped me learn rather than thinking about what more they can offer in the future.



What is something that people usually don’t expect or know about you?

I felt like a very unreliable source for this question, so I turned towards my friends for answers. Responses varied, running along the lines of, “You cook well,” “Your passion lies in the environment, food, and animals,” “You have a diverse array of hobbies, like knitting and eating,” and “You’re nice.” I found it interesting that many of my unexpected “somethings” act as windows to what I believe to be my core. My range of hobbies, for example, reflects my constant movement and search for change. My love of eating and cooking is tied to my sense of culture; Vietnamese food acts as a deep connection to my roots and home, reminding me of my family and comforting me when I’m far from them. On a whole, although some answers are more accurate than others, I do believe them to represent me well, and some were unexpected even to myself.


Meet all of our CAPAL Scholars & Interns here.

 Sukhanjot (Sukhi) Kaur is a rising senior at the University of Nevada, Reno majoring in Human Development and Family Studies with a minor in Accounting. She is currently deciding between a master’s in higher education and political science, but hopes to go on to work for a nonprofit focusing on women and education after graduation. Sukhi served as the Service Officer for Kappa Delta Chi Sorority, Inc. the past year. She was greatly exposed to Sikh American representation through her involvement in with the Sikh community in Nevada and having grown up in Punjab until early childhood. Sukhi hopes to promote Sikh American leadership with her commitments and organize more involvement in the Sikh American youth in her community.