Carnegie Mellon University
April 07, 2021

Junior Ethan Lu Selected as Goldwater Scholar

By Emily Payne

Jocelyn Duffy
  • Associate Dean for Communications, MCS

Mellon College of Science junior Ethan Lu has received a 2021 Barry Goldwater Scholarship. Given by the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation, the prestigious award supports students who intend to pursue research careers in the natural sciences, engineering and math.

Lu is pursuing the Mathematical Sciences Honors Degree Program. He takes both undergraduate and graduate level classes and will graduate from CMU next year with his B.S. and M.S. in mathematical sciences along with a minor in computer science.

At CMU, Lu’s interests have been at the intersection of geometry and computer graphics. Lu is a member of CMU’s Geometry Collective. Headed by Assistant Professor of Computer Science Keenan Crane, the group of researchers study digital geometry processing, which plays a vital role in engineering and scientific discovery and has transformed technologies that impact our everyday lives such as depth cameras and 3D printing. 

“I enjoy studying mathematics because of how it can combine both abstractness and practicality, which is something I find really beautiful,” noted Lu.

He’s particularly interested in analysis research because of how it can leverage extremely powerful and advanced theoretical results to solve real world issues that people care about, whether that be in computer graphics and simulation or in fluid dynamics and partial differential equations — all areas Lu has explored in his undergraduate research career.

Working with Associate Professor of Mathematical Sciences Ian Tice, Lu recently worked to develop a variational-geometric formulation of the equations of motion for fluids with surfactants. Surfactants, also called surface-active agents, are substances that help reduce surface tension, making them one of the most versatile products in the chemical industry that can act as detergents, wetting agents, foaming agents and more.

Tice noted how adept Lu was with the technical components of the project, which resulted in an article for journal publication.

Lu has also used his mathematical skills to help others, working as a teaching assistant at CMU and as a tutor and faculty at various math camps as well as volunteering for CMU’s Informatics and Mathematics Competition and Princeton University’s Mathematics Competition.

These experiences have shaped Lu’s career plans to earn his Ph.D., during which he hopes to continue his research in analysis and partial differential equations and ultimately pursue a career as a university professor.

Being selected as Goldwater scholar was a huge honor, says Lu.

“I'm incredibly grateful for the opportunity to not only have my own work acknowledged but also to recognize all the great mentorship and guidance I've received at CMU,” he said. “Receiving this scholarship has helped to reaffirm the different academic and professional decisions I've made.”

Lu is one of 410 students selected for the scholarship from an applicant pool of over 5,000 sophomores and juniors nationwide. He is also one of four Carnegie Mellon University recipients.

Stephanie Wallach, assistant vice provost for undergraduate education, said that CMU can nominate four students annually for the award. Brittany Allison, assistant director in the Office of Undergraduate Research and National Scholarships, oversees the university’s Goldwater nomination process, which includes a committee of faculty members who discuss the nominations, and also includes working closely with each nominee before the final submission.

“The Goldwater Scholarship is an outstanding award that recognizes high achievement and depth in research. This accomplishment is just the beginning for Ethan, as we are confident that he is on the path to a notable career and important contributions in his field,” said Allison.