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URGO Student Spotlight | Kelly Lu ’22

Kelly Lu landed at Augsburg for two reasons: the location and her mom. Kelly wanted to stay within her comfort zone of the Twin Cities and was focused on smaller campuses for the small class sizes, which is how she first encountered Augsburg. Kelly had an opportunity to tour Augsburg’s campus during an URGO field trip, and when she told her mom about her experience, her mom told her to go to Augsburg.

“My mom believed URGO was a helpful program,” said Kelly.

Kelly enrolled at Augsburg and initially planned to follow a medical track. She didn’t have a clear direction in high school about what she wanted to major in, but her mom thought the medical field would hold promising work.

A picture of Kelly Lu '22.
Kelly Lu ’22

While in a class with professor Dr. Vivian Feng, Kelly learned about biochemistry. And she found her calling.

“Biology tells you facts. Chemistry tells you how that happens. I was more interested in why things happen, so I changed my major from biology to biochemistry.”

Currently, Kelly is on a research project with Dr. Feng on identifying common DNA modifications on gill cells of trout fish upon exposure to nanoparticles from lithium-ion batteries.

“I have been working with Vivian since the summer of my freshman year. Our lab is part of the Center for Sustainable Technology funded by the NSF, where I get to study nanomaterials and living organisms like animals and plants.”

Because of this project, Kelly is able to collaborate with the graduate laboratory at the University of Minnesota. She says the most valuable part of working with that lab is she gets a chance to experience graduate-level lab work while still at Augsburg. And with her plans to go on to graduate school after earning her bachelor’s degree at Augsburg, this is a major benefit to Kelly.

“This project has dragged my interest to public health. What we’re doing at Augsburg is more related to what they’re doing at the U of M graduate labs, we’re using their methods.”

COVID-19 disrupted Kelly’s work initially, but the quick pivot from Augsburg’s Chemistry and Biology departments to remote teaching kept her work on track.

“Last summer, we didn’t get anything done in the lab, it was all virtual. At the end of July, we started on this project. It’s a little discontinuous because of limited access to the lab. But I’m now able to work in both labs, Augsburg and the U of M.”