• Tracy Lu
  • Class of: 2026

Avina

Major: Cell Biology and Neuroscience 

 How did you decide on your major?

In my high school biology class, we had a short lesson on the nervous system, and I quickly became interested in the intricate interplay between various domains of the neuronal network. However, I solidified my decision to major in CBN after coming to Rutgers. Once here, I took Fundamentals of Neurobiology and joined a lab at the Department of Neurosurgery at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. Engaging in coursework and independent projects within the lab provided invaluable hands-on experience, allowing me to apply my knowledge in real-world contexts and showing me how much more fulfilling and impactful my studies could be when applied to research and practical settings.

What is it about your chose field (and the CBN Department) that appeals to you?

Learning and diving into the details about cellular biology and neurobiology and using that knowledge to understand disease pathology is an aspect of CBN that appeals to me the most. The CBN Department enables such opportunities by offering diverse courses and a research-intensive option for the major. Following this model, I would learn about the neurological pathways of neurotransmitters in class. Then, in the lab, I could apply that knowledge to understand the mechanisms of GABA signaling in alcohol and benzodiazepine-induced respiratory suppression. Having an opportunity to bridge theoretical knowledge with practical experimentation in CBN allows me to pursue my academic interests and understand and participate in research that works toward mitigating neurological deficits associated with diseases and disorders.

Do you have a favorite class/professor within your major?

Fundamentals of Neurobiology with Dr. Shu-Chan Hsu was one of my favorite classes I have ever taken here at Rutgers. While the course was intensive regarding memorization, Dr. Hsu always emphasized understanding over rote memorization. She always took the time to elucidate complex concepts with mnemonic aids, diagrams, and fun gifs in her presentations. She also was willing to answer my questions about different disease pathologies, allowing me to foster a deeper understanding of the subject. Dr. Hsu’s approach not only facilitated my learning but also ignited a genuine passion for neurobiology within me, for she encouraged me to apply my knowledge beyond the classroom, explore neuroscience further, and consider its practical applications in real-world contexts.

What are your other Rutgers activities?

I am an e-board member in charge of fundraising for the Cell Biology and Neuroscience Society. I am also a member of the American Medical Student Association (AMSA) and the American Preventive Screening & Education Association (APSEA). I work as an undergraduate researcher at the Boison Lab in the Department of Neurosurgery, where I study drug-induced respiratory suppression and brain signaling. In my free time, I volunteer as an EMT for the River Road Rescue Squad. I also try to maintain a regular gym schedule as a stress reliever throughout the week.

What are your plans following graduation?

Following graduation, I hope to pursue either an MD or MD/PhD track. 

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