Thu-Trang Tach, MPH '10

Summer education programs confirmed Yale as her “dream school”

Thu–Trang Thach, M.P.H. ’10, began her first semester at YSPH with two summers in New Haven already under her belt.

Born in Vietnam, Thach grew up in Texas, graduating from the University of Houston with a B.S. in biology in 2006. Pursuing an interest in research, she spent two summers of college enrolled in programs at the Yale School of Medicine: in 2004, the Biomedical Science Training and Enrichment Program (BioSTEP, at which she researched the process of angiogenesis in rat models of myocardial infarction) and, the next year, the Summer Medical Education Program (now the Summer Medical and Dental Education Program), a six–week enrichment syllabus of science classes, workshops and seminars. As recipient of the National Institutes of Health Postbaccalaureate Intramural Research Training Award, Thach spent two years in Bethesda, Maryland, conducting biomedical research into central nervous system injury and co–authoring a published manuscript of her findings. “The N.I.H. experience helped me understand how to live as a scientist for two years,” she says. “I love working with people, and I wanted to play a role as an educator and researcher—making a tangible impact I can see.” She matriculated at YSPH last fall, attributing the decision to her time at Yale’s summer programs.

“Yale was my dream school,” she says. “Coming from a large public undergraduate institution, the prospect of the summer programs were intimidating. But I found the experience so great because of the people I met—all down–to–earth, willing to help. That’s where my love for Yale grew.”

Enrolled in the school’s Environmental Health Sciences department—“the perfect blend of my interests in behavioral and basic sciences”—Thach takes a personal interest in occupational health risks. “My parents own a nail salon and are exposed to high levels of chemicals every day,” she says. “Like other immigrants, they don’t have the opportunity to worry much about health, but rather how to make it here and provide for their family.” Beyond encouraging them to wear masks in the short–term, she’s motivated to build a career upon calling attention to, and mitigating, health risks for workers.

For her internship this summer, Thach plans to collaborate with investigators at the Environmental Health Center in Cluj–Napoca, Romania, to study organic compounds called trihalomethanes (THMs), byproducts of water–treatment processes, in three water plants in central Transylvania to evaluate the risks of exposure in targeted geographic populations.

As prospective students contact her with questions, Thach says she appreciates “the chance to reflect back on my experiences and share them with others—the same thing I admired in the people I first met here.”