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Teenage twins take on UNG sciences

Lynn and Paul Tran
Twins Lynn and Paul Tran combine DNA with E. coli to observe changes in the bacteria's ability to resist antibiotics.

Lynn and Paul Tran, 16-year-old twin sister and brother, can't drive themselves to class quite yet, but they are double-majoring in biology and chemistry in the College of Science & Mathematics at the University of North Georgia (UNG). They are each taking 26 credit hours and are conducting research and taking courses that usually aren't approached by students until their early twenties.

The Trans are involved in research that could affect antibiotics and how our bodies respond to them. Affectionately referred to as "Team Tran" by faculty and students in UNG's Department of Biology, they are already applying to medical school at locations such as Emory University and Duke University.

"Lynn and Paul came to us because they know how rigorous our science programs are, and because they know they can get a great deal more high-quality, personal attention here than they would at larger universities," said Dr. Nancy Dalman, head of the biology department and academic advisor to the twins. "We are proud and honored to have the opportunity to elevate them to their next step, and they will leave here well-prepared."

The siblings both engaged in UNG dual-enrollment courses during their last three semesters of high school at Forsyth Central. They began attending UNG full time in 2012 and plan to graduate in spring 2014.

Undergraduate research plays a large role in the twins' education and interest. They are currently working with Bacteroides in efforts to better understand how certain specimens—such as E. coli—resist antibiotics. Though neither sibling is certain what they wish to pursue for a career, they both feel confident it will involve medical research.

"Unlike many students who do undergraduate research projects, the Trans did not join an already running project; Lynn and Paul have really crafted their own research projects from scratch," said Dr. Paul Johnson, assistant professor of biology, who has been mentoring the twins in their research. "The first time I met with them about a project, I basically gave them a crash course on what an antimicrobial efflux pump was, how it worked, what classes of pumps there were, etc. Then only a few days later they came back to me after having selected a bacteria that is challenging to work with and an uncharacterized efflux pump for their project, which told me how serious they are."

Johnson added that what the twins are doing is not just impressive for their age; it is impressive for any age. Even with their large class loads, multiple research projects, and service as teacher assistants, they still achieve success at amazingly high levels in class as well as labs, he said.

The twins said they are glad they chose UNG to begin their trek through higher education.

"We came to UNG for several reasons," Paul Tran said. "We knew we would receive a high-quality education while still being at a university small enough to ensure more personal interaction with our professors. And also, it's fairly close to home."

Besides being deeply involved in their studies, the twins also greatly enjoy reading, skiing, swimming, and traveling; they have been to all 50 states and more than eight countries. They are also both fluent in Vietnamese as well as English, and conversant in French.

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