Princeton Chemistry Senior Lu awarded Rhodes Scholarship

By Tien Nguyen, Department of Chemistry
Monday, Nov. 23, 2015

Richard Lu

Richard Lu, a senior at concentrating in chemistry, has been awarded a Rhodes Scholarship, for graduate study at the University of Oxford. Along with Princeton seniors Cameron Platt and Evan Soltas, and Princeton alumna Katherine Clifton, they are among the 32 American recipients of the prestigious fellowships, which fund two to three years of graduate study at Oxford.

Lu, of Ballwin, Missouri, is concentrating in chemistry, with Professor of Chemistry Jeffrey Schwartz as his senior thesis advisor, and pursuing a certificate in global health and health policy at Princeton. At Oxford, he plans to pursue an M.Sc. in international health and tropical medicine and an M.Sc. in global health science. Later, he plans to attend medical school.

"I've met so many incredible, inspiring people over the weekend [during Rhodes interviews] who all deserve this chance to immerse themselves in issues they are all so passionate about," Lu said. "It's why I am so humbled that this opportunity at Oxford has been given to me to study global health so I can work to transform health systems and improve health access around the world."

During his time at Princeton, Lu has pursued a wide range of educational and research opportunities focused on public and global health. He led a weeklong civic engagement trip in 2013 to explore the impact of the Affordable Care Act on health access and coverage in urban New Jersey. In Kakamega, Kenya, he helped a clinic transition from paper to electronic records and conducted community outreach efforts during the summer of 2014, deciding to stay in Kenya and continue his work even after contracting malaria.

For one of his senior theses, he conducted research this past summer at the Biovac Institute in Cape Town, South Africa, which works to develop and manufacture vaccines. Also last summer, he evaluated health-care payment models at McKinsey & Co. Since 2011, he conducted research at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

"I have had the privilege of teaching and mentoring many impressive Princeton students, but Richard stands out even among that group for his keen intellect, drive for excellence and leadership abilities, and I believe he will continue to thrive, no matter the field to which his studies lead him," said Heather Howard, director of the State Health Reform Assistance Network at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.

"One day, as a physician, I will always marvel at treating patients and seeing them recover," Lu wrote in his Rhodes application. "But I am driven to go beyond the medicine, to empower all individuals to have access to care. Without a doubt, the Rhodes Scholarship offers the perfect path for me to fulfill that life vision devoted to social justice through the health system."

Lu has been a residential college adviser, a student tutor at the McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning and a student liaison for the global health and health policy certificate program. He is treasurer of the Class of 2016 and director of external affairs for the Undergraduate Student Government. He is also active in Princeton Faith and Action.

Thomas Dunne, deputy dean of undergraduate students, said Lu has demonstrated a deep interest in building community on campus.

"No job is too small for Richard and no detail is overlooked; for the past three years I've watched him carry tables, set out food, pay bills, hang posters and pick up trash (in a tux) long after events like the Orange and Black Ball have concluded," Dunne said. "He never seeks recognition nor thanks, but rather is sustained by moments when his classmates gather and a real atmosphere of community and connectedness bloom — he loves a good party."

Read the full story on the Princeton University homepage.