Skip to main content

Two Duke Juniors Named Goldwater Scholars

John Lu and Karen Xu were among 240 students selected from a field of 1,150 mathematics, science and engineering students nationwide

2017 Goldwater Scholarship recipients John Lu and Karen Xu
2017 Goldwater Scholarship recipients John Lu and Karen Xu

Duke University juniors John Lu and Karen Xu have been named 2017 scholars by the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program.

Lu and Xu are among 240 students awarded Goldwater Scholarships for the 2017-18 academic year. The one- and two-year scholarships go toward covering the cost of tuition, fees, books, room and board up to a maximum of $7,500 per year.

The Goldwater Scholars were selected on the basis of academic merit from a field of 1,286 nominated mathematics, science and engineering students nationwide. Virtually all scholars intend to obtain a Ph.D. The federally endowed scholarship program honoring the late U.S. Sen. Barry Goldwater was designed to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, the natural sciences and engineering.

Lu, a Trinity College of Arts and Sciences student from East Hanover, New Jersey, is double majoring in chemistry and math, with a minor in biology. After Duke, he hopes to conduct research on viral neglected tropical diseases. Lu has conducted research with Micah Luftig, an associate professor of molecular genetics and microbiology at Duke, and is currently conducting research at the University of Oxford.

“John has a depth in thinking and maturity regarding his approach to science that is both refreshing and exciting,” Luftig said.

Lu has also conducted public health research in Tanzania, founded Duke’s first undergraduate global health journal, taught a house course on neglected tropical diseases, and served as a peer adviser for the Academic Advising Center.

Xu, a Pratt School of Engineering student from Manassas Park, Virginia, is majoring in biomedical engineering, with a minor in chemistry. After Duke, she hopes to pursue a research career working at the nexus of cell biology and materials science.

As a Pratt Fellow, Xu has conducted research with Brenton Hoffman, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Duke. She has also worked at Washington University in St. Louis with Samuel Wickline, a professor of medicine, physics, biomedical engineering, and cell biology and physiology. Xu has served as an intern at the National Institutes of Health and participated in a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates at Northwestern University.

“Karen is, by far, the most talented, driven and creative undergraduate student I have ever worked with,” Hoffman said.

At Duke, Xu is active in Females Excelling More in Math, Engineering, and Science, as well as the wind symphony. She is also a resident adviser.

Two other Duke juniors, Reena Debray and Dev Dabke, were among 307 students who received honorable mention.

Since its first award in 1989, the foundation has bestowed 7,921 scholarships worth approximately $63 million. Sixty-seven Duke students have received Goldwater Scholarships since 1995.  

For a full list of winners and more information about the Goldwater Scholarship, visit