Biochemistry Alum Now an Elite Scientist for USDA

Biochemistry Alum Now an Elite Scientist for USDA

Shao-Yeh Lu has worked hard to pave his own path in life, becoming the first in his family to immigrate to the United States and the first to go to college.

But after earning a bachelor’s degree in economics, the native of Taiwan quickly realized that was not the field he wanted to work in for the rest of his life.

Seeking a career change, he began looking into going back to school. But he didn’t want to be just a number, like he was during his initial college experience. He wanted to find a university with a better professor-to-student ratio than his previous institution, and that search ultimately led him to CWU.

“Being the first in my family to go to college—but, more importantly, the first to get an education in a new country as an immigrant—was not easy,” said Lu, who earned a B.S. in chemistry from CWU in 2012. “I was lost and had no direction during my time at UW. CWU made everything so much easier to navigate with clear direction. All the programs and the financial aid needed to graduate were also instrumental.”

During his time at Central, he created strong bonds with many of his professors—something he had hoped would result from his return to higher education.

“Professors from the chemistry department, such as Dr. (Todd) Kroll and Dr. (Yingbin) Ge, made challenging biochemistry and physical chemistry classes fun and interesting, and more importantly, they taught me the necessary biochemistry fundamentals and skills that I would later use in my career,” Lu said.

Earning a degree from Central presented him the opportunity to pursue another career and continue his education at the same time. After graduation, Lu went on to earn a PhD and is now a research microbiologist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in the Agricultural Research Services division.

“CWU was instrumental in providing the knowledge, skills, experiences, and mentorship that allowed me to be successful in my career change, and be able to work in a profession that I love,” he said.

Looking back at his time at CWU, Lu remembers one professor in particular—Dr. Holly Pinkart in the Department of Biological Sciences—who made a profound impact on his education, his career, and his life.

“She was the person who opened the door for me into the world of microbiology research,” he said. “Even though I was a chemistry major, she was kind enough to allow me to conduct research in her lab and provided me the mentorship I needed to continue my graduate studies in molecular microbiology.”

That experience makes Lu want to encourage others to follow their passion and know it is OK to change paths, saying, “I believe there is no timetable in life we must all follow. You must follow your passion.”

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