Tucson High Magnet senior Cathy Tran may be an award-winning science researcher, but don't be fooled. The 18-year-old can rock the steel drums, too.

"It's the connection I make with people when I play," Tran said of her love for music. "The audience is so touched by the music; it makes every experience so fun."

Tran, who will graduate today, also plays the French horn and mellophone.

When she's not playing music, Tran can be found in a laboratory at the University of Arizona, where she fosters her inner scientist. Her primary interest is in neuroscience.

She describes her research - glial cell modulation of motor neuron activity as revealed by behavioral assays in Drosphila larvae - as "complex." Simply put, she aims to develop a full picture of the relationship between neurons and glial cells, Tran said.

Her work earned her second place in the 12th-grade cellular/molecular biology category at the 2013 Southern Arizona Research, Science and Engineering Fair. Other honors bestowed to Tran include a SciEnTeK-12 Foundation second-place award and a first-place University of Arizona GIDP in Genetics award.

"It's just interesting to understand why everything works the way it does," Tran said.

Though it would seem that most would tend to lean either toward the arts or the sciences, Khris Dodge, who leads the steel drum program at Tucson High, says that's not necessarily the case.

"There is a large percentage of all our fine arts students who are also very passionate about the sciences," Dodge said. "Part of that may account for large amount of mental processing, ordering, manipulating and creative passion that is required in both fields."

He said Tran also "gives of herself and gives a lot of her time helping others. … Doing something for herself is pretty low on her priority list."

She plans to attend the UA and major in pre-pharmacy. She'll also continue her research over the summer and into the next year or two.

Contact reporter Alexis Huicochea at ahuicochea@azstarnet.com or 573-4175. On Twitter @AlexisHuicochea