Duke juniors win Goldwater scholarships

Duke Office of News & Communications

Duke University juniors John Lu and Karen Xu have been named 2017 Goldwater Scholars.

Lu and Xu are among 240 students recognized by the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program for the 2017-18 academic year. The one- and two-year scholarships go toward the cost of tuition, fees, books, room and board up to a maximum of $7,500 a year.

Selections are based on academic merit, from a field of 1,286 nominated math, science and engineering students nationwide. Virtually all the scholars intend to obtain a Ph.D. The federally endowed scholarship program honors the late Arizona U.S. Sen. Barry Goldwater.

Lu, a Trinity College 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.

“John has a depth in thinking and maturity regarding his approach to science that is both refreshing and exciting,” said Micah Luftig, associate professor of molecular genetics and microbiology who’s worked with Lu.

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.

“Karen is, by far, the most talented, driven and creative undergraduate student I have ever worked with,” said Brenton Hoffman, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering.

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