Through their lens: Nancy Tran sees the scientific method at work in daily life

This summer we’re sponsoring high school interns in stem cell labs throughout California. We asked those students to contribute to our Instagram photos and YouTube videos about life in the lab, and write about their experiences.

Nancy Tran did a stem cell research internship this summer in the laboratory of Gerhard Bauer at UC Davis. Part of the Creativity Award program required that students study a second subject outside the field of science as a way of promoting creative thinking.

Gerhard Bauer’s 35mm film projector. Tran submitted this photo through Instagram to CIRM’s #CIRMStemCellLab collection


(Nancy also submitted a blog entry about her research project, which you can read here.) 

Over the past eight weeks, my non-science related activity was a class about the history of the motion pictures. Dr. Gerhard Bauer taught us about how this “optical illusion” worked and showed us the amazing quality of film even in the 1930’s. It was astonishing that even today, we use the same 35mm film format that became the standard back in 1892 from Edison’s Kinetograph movie camera. Before this second activity class, I also had no idea that colored film existed such a long time ago; I always thought everything was in black and white until recently.

On our last 2nd activity day, we, creativity students, had the opportunity to go to Dr. Bauer’s own movie theater to experience a real movie –one projected by film. We watched cartoons by Disney such as the “Three Little Pigs” and “Moving Day” (featuring Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Goofy). Honestly, I was really surprised at the quality of the film because the colors were very bright and the animation moved very smoothly. Keep in mind that these are countless images each shown for a brief moment at a very fast speed from the reel. In addition to the cartoons, we watched Sherlock Holmes and a news reel. The movie was really intriguing and had a great story line compared to most movies today. There was comedy, suspense, and all sorts of feelings! Also, we got to take a really close look at the machine itself. It truly was like magic before your eyes.

Overall, the history of the motion pictures can also be related to science as most things are. The movies did not become perfect within a single try, it took many different ideas and hypotheses to make things better one step at a time. Like in science, people built off of what was already discovered. I never would have learned about the history of the motion pictures if I had not received this internship. I am very thankful to CIRM and the UC Davis Institute for Regenerative Cures for giving me the opportunity to learn more every day and become well rounded. This was honestly the best summer I’ve ever had.

Nancy Tran

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