Student spotlight: Angel Lu

Angel Lu received the 2023 Florence Moog Scholarship for her diverse interests in biology and music.

Angel Lu

The Florence Moog Scholarship recognizes an outstanding sophomore who excels in STEM while demonstrating a commitment to a non-science field. Last year, Angel Lu was selected for her impressive work in both the arts and the sciences. While the junior biology major can often be found in a lab on the School of Medicine campus, she spends her free time performing music in retirement homes and overseeing Gift of Music, a community service organization she founded in high school. 

We spoke with Lu about her passion for research, the undergraduate mentorship program she spearheaded, and her love of music. 

Why did you choose WashU?

I came to the United States from Canada to pursue research opportunities as an undergraduate because it’s easier to engage in research here than it is in Canada. I chose WashU for its strong pre-med track and its smaller campus. The close-knit community has made me feel connected to most people in my year, which has been a great experience. 

How did you get interested in biology?

I came to WashU thinking I would be a chemistry major, but I ended up choosing biology because it provided greater flexibility. Biology encompasses a wide range of topics from cell biology and neurobiology to evolution and plant and animal studies. 

What kind of research have you done so far at WashU?

My first year at WashU, I saw the Office of Undergraduate Research advertising lab positions for undergraduates. I didn’t have any lab experience and I didn’t know how to use a pipette, but I shot my shot and sent an email. Surprisingly, I heard back and everything took off from there. I started by shadowing lab members to learn the ropes. It wasn’t until my sophomore year that I started my own project. This year, I’m in Dr. Hrishikesh Kulkarni’s lab trying to harness different components of the immune system to help reduce lung injury and rejection during lung transplants. It is so cool to be doing my own project because I can answer my own questions and see the process from beginning to end. 

The Kulkarni Lab, including Angel Lu (third from left) and Dr. Hrish Kulkarni (fourth from right).

Can you talk about the Biology Research Ambassador Program you spearheaded?

I went into my first research experience unprepared. I hadn’t taken any college biology classes yet, so it was hard to understand what was happening and find my place in the lab environment. Biology classes don’t really prepare you for that, so I wanted to create a program to help with the transition. We offer research lab technique workshops and lab tours led by undergraduates already engaged in research. We wanted to bridge the gap between people with lab experience and those who are interested. Looking ahead, I would love to establish a mentor-mentee pairing system, and I hope to hold an annual mixer to facilitate connections between lab leaders and interested undergraduates. 

Tell us about Gift of Music. What is it and how did you get started?

Gift of Music organized virtual performances during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Image courtesy of Angel Lu)

The origins go back to when I was 12 and started a jazz band with my friends. We started playing in my basement but, in my freshman year of high school, we decided we wanted to perform and started with gigs at retirement homes and hospitals. When COVID hit, we had to adapt. We wanted to continue to bring music to these places, so we began recording our performances and sending them to nursing homes and hospitals. In this virtual format, we realized practically anyone in the world could perform, so we started to reach out to more musicians. Every week, about three to five musicians would partner with us, creating a diverse blend of music that included everything from classic instruments like trumpet and piano to unique instruments like the didgeridoo. It was so cool to bring together all these different cultures and instruments to create music for retirement homes and places where it can be hard to access that kind of art.

How have you been able to combine your love of arts and science at WashU?

I’m in the music-based community service club Beat Therapy where I get a chance to do something similar to Gift of Music and perform in a retirement home. I also volunteer at the St. Louis Children's Hospital in physical therapy services and a lot of my work involves music, singing, and dancing to get kids moving.