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Caltech Grad Student Awarded Prestigious P.D. Soros Fellowship to Build Programmable Circuits in Living Cells

Published on Thursday, April 14, 2022 | 5:59 pm
Andrew Lu

Andrew Lu, an MD/PhD student in the UCLA–Caltech Medical Scientist Training Program, has been awarded a Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans. Lu is among 30 selected for this fellowship out of more than 1,800 applicants. Each will receive up to $90,000 in funding to support their graduate studies.

Lu was born in Tainan, Taiwan. After a childhood of frequent moves with his family—from Taiwan to Canada then to the United States—Lu chose to attend UC Berkeley to study computer science. According to biographical information provided by the Soros Foundation:

“After a personal encounter with disease, and a serendipitous introduction to science, Andrew became increasingly drawn to biology and medicine. These events led to Andrew dropping out of college after sophomore year, and he started working full time in a biology laboratory. This experience confirmed Andrew’s interests in biology, and he decided to return to Berkeley to study molecular biology. Back in school, Andrew helped develop a method to identify the set of proteins that control how genes turn on in health and in disease. After graduation, he worked at [UC San Francisco] using high-resolution, single-cell methods to perturb and study cells of the human immune system.”

As an MD/PhD student, Lu has spent two years at UCLA as a medical student before joining the Caltech laboratory of Michael Elowitz, professor of biology and bioengineering and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator. In the Elowitz lab, Lu studies how to build synthetic programmable protein circuits in living cells.

“Biology is traditionally concerned with studying life as it naturally exists,” says Lu. “I love the field of synthetic biology because I get to create brand-new artificial behaviors that have never existed before in living human cells. This engineering process is thrilling to me.”

Ultimately, Lu plans to combine his training in medicine and science to build a new generation of therapeutics, leveraging advances in synthetic biology and oncology.

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