Lesa Tran Lu is a Lecturer of Chemistry at Rice University and a Faculty Resident Associate of Sid Richardson College. She received her B.S. in Chemistry from Rice University in 2007 and continued her Ph.D. studies there as an NSF Graduate Research Fellow. Under the mentorship of Lon J. Wilson, Tran’s graduate work focused on developing gadolinium-loaded carbon nanostructures as medical agents to improve stem cell retention and MRI detection in cardiomyoplasty. This work was awarded 1 of 200 $1M NIH Challenge Grants in 2009.
In 2012, she joined the Rice teaching faculty to transform the way General Chemistry is taught by developing a form of structured inquiry-based learning model known as the Student-Centered Active Learning at Rice (SCAL@R) method. Using the SCAL@R method, she has taught over 1200 students and mentored over 45 student teaching assistants. With her colleagues, Tran studies the impact of the SCAL@R method on student learning, study habits, and attitudes towards learning in General Chemistry. Tran also teaches the Chemistry of Cooking, an elective course taught in collaboration with Rice Housing & Dining and Houston-area chefs and business owners. In this course, basic chemical concepts are covered and reinforced with guided-inquiry kitchen laboratory assignments, such as how to create the “perfect” chocolate chip cookie, burger patty, or apple pie. In recent years, Tran has taught other courses including the Chemistry of Art and managed the Chemistry Undergraduate Research Program.