SEED Student Sees New Possibilities

A senior in high school, Ngoc Pham dreams of working as a cardiologist, anesthesiologist, or pediatrician in her home state of Texas. She assumed preparing for a medical career would require an undergraduate degree in biology until she became the first Project SEED student to conduct research at Shell Global Solutions. As Pham puts it, “Project SEED opens you up to more advanced research and new possibilities.”

Project SEED selects bright high school students who would not otherwise have the opportunity to participate in summer research experiences and pairs them with a volunteer scientist mentor to conduct hands-on experiments for six to eight weeks in the lab. A grant from the Bayer USA Foundation in 2013 enabled a high school teacher to gain experience in the industrial lab setting of Shell and pave the way for a Project SEED student to participate in 2014.

At Shell Pham used Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) to measure the branching index of a series of base oils. She explains, “I was surprised how my research connects to the medical field. It was petrochemical investigation yet NMR relates to MRI.”

Working alongside her Project SEED mentor, Dr. Pierre Tutunjian, the research helped her better understand organic chemistry. “Dr. Tutunjian was an amazing mentor. He was so informative—always teaching and so driven. Any free time he got, he would prepare notes for me, which made everything much easier to interpret. Although NMR is a college-level technique, he helped me understand the process.”

As for her future plans, Pham revised her anticipated major to chemistry in all of her college applications. Pham says, “I’m staying open-minded. Majoring in chemistry can prepare me for many job opportunities inside the medical field and out.” What’s certain is that Ngoc Pham is on the path to a scientific career with the help of Project SEED.

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Ngoc Pham
Ngoc Pham is the first Project SEED student to perform research at Shell Global Solutions.

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