“When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.” ― Audre Lorde
Meet Vivian Lu, an advocate for accessibility and equity in science education for students. She has received a Gold Award from the National Scholastic Art & Writing Awards and won competitions hosted by the Walt Whitman Birthplace Association and National Poetry Quarterly. In addition, her independent research in clinical psychology has received awards at various science fairs and conferences.
Beyond awards, Vivian is the Founder and Executive Director of The Axon Project, the Editor-in-Chief of the international literary publication, Bitter Melon Magazine, Executive Director of a local nonprofit in South Jersey called Equilibrium, President of Key Club, Captain of a Neuroscience Brain Bee Team, President of Female Empowerment Club, a National Student Ambassador for Peerlift, and a published poet.
Tell us about yourself along with a fun fact!
Hello! My name is Vivian Lu, and I’m a high school junior from Cherry Hill, New Jersey. This year, I founded The Axon Project (https://www.axonproject.org/) to broaden accessibility to neuroscience education for aspiring female neuroscientists. I wanted to encourage young women to learn more about their brains and pursue careers in scientific research, while showing them that neuroscience doesn’t have to be arcane, despite the many articles filled with technical jargon arguing otherwise. With enough resources, the brain doesn’t have to be surrounded by enigma for teenagers. Neuroscience is about impacting humanity, and I think it’s important to have more females in the field.
Fun fact: Beyond science, I also love writing poetry! I participated in The Adroit Journal’s Summer Mentorship Program and I’m currently in the process of publishing a full-length poetry chapbook. My favorite poets are Louise Gluck, Ocean Vuong, and Sylvia Plath. I’m very interested in the intersection between science and the humanities.
Favorite website / app:
My favorite website is TEDEd. The content focuses on a wide spectrum of educational topics, and their videos are always fascinating and accessible for anyone willing to learn. My favorite app at the moment is Mimo, an educational application that teaches beginners how to code and make their own apps!
Someone who inspires you and knowledge they have imparted:
I’m constantly inspired by different people, but my family will always be my greatest source of inspiration. I can aspire to do great things because of my family, and for that, I’m extremely grateful. My leadership, academic, service, and entrepreneurial pursuits are all a result of years of exposure to my family’s doctrine of hard work and positivity. My grandmother owned a restaurant in the Bronx, New York, and I was exposed to her astounding ability to run a business, despite not knowing English well enough to hold a conversation. I watched as her restaurant was robbed multiple times and was eventually shut down, but I also watched how my grandmother picked herself back up again and continued to work hard and aspire to greater heights. I admire the strength and optimism within my family, and I want to inspire others in the same way my family has always inspired me.
I come from a family of hard working, low-income immigrants, and I have personally experienced the dire lack of accessibility and equity in science education for students like myself. As a result, I seek to pay homage to my family by giving back to my community through my endeavors benefitting marginalized communities.
Challenge you’ve faced and how you overcame it:
In middle school, I was soft-spoken and fearful of being ostracized for my inability to speak fluent English. However, as a junior in high school, I’m grateful to reflect back at who I once was and confidently state that I have overcome the fear and shame I once associated with being Chinese and struggling from financial hardship. My endeavors in neuroscience and STEM have made me realize a fundamental truth: the only thing keeping me from what I want is fear. Without my experiences in STEM and my devotion to helping my community, I don’t think I would be who I am today.
What knowledge would you impart to women in order for them to REIGN their lives?
Find something that makes you wake up in the morning. Don’t pursue anything for the sole purpose of fortune or prestige; pursue something that enthralls and excites you and motivates you to work even harder.