Nina Lu: Coder and Founder
by Anika Rai '23 for Silver Quest
"The best part of my job is working with my cofounder and classmate Katy and trying to build something new from the ground up!" Nina Lu, Class of '12, says.
If you had asked her ten years ago whether she would be finishing her MBA at Stanford and running a startup in the virtual physical therapy space, Lu would have probably answered with a resounding "no." While some of the classes she took at Blair never overlapped with her career, Lu finds that the concept of "being open to being surprised and in constant wonder with the complexity of the world still resonates" to this day.
Lu's journey actually began in middle school, when she began to code for the first time. She mentions her gratitude to having computer science classes with other like-minded students, especially with other girls. "I never felt like my gender was an issue and this gave me a lot of confidence to pursue a computer science degree in college," she says. Her fascination with the subject and dedication to her degree gave her the skills she needed to be a builder and creator in this world.
When at Blair, Lu was a multifaceted student; as a part of the math team, web design club, Rubik's Cube club, and as the web manager for Silver Chips, she contributed immensely to the school's diverse community. Lu's favorite class was Origins of Science with Mr. Donaldson. "He took us through the big bang and cosmic microwave background and I loved learning more about where the universe came from," she says. Though a topic she did not know much about, Lu enjoyed the philosophy, astronomy, and spirituality the class included and felt as though it was "a breath of fresh air in what can be a really math-heavy magnet curriculum."
Her favorite teacher at Blair, Mr. Clay, who taught her 9th grade English, "instilled in [her] a lifelong love of literature," Lu says. She brings up how you can read a book twice at different points in your life and have completely different interpretations because reading is a communion between the reader and the author. Being able to "explore the inner worlds and imaginations of other people in an incredibly intimate way'' only further fostered this appreciation.
After Blair, Lu went to the University of Pennsylvania where she studied computer science and finance in theJerome Fisher M&T program, which continues to be Penn's most selective and challenging undergraduate program. Even so, "classes in college were a breeze after the magnet program," she notes laughingly. "The level of intellectual rigor of students in the Magnet has exceeded every academic environment I've been in afterward."
When in high school Lu was sure she wanted to do something technical. Her Senior Research Project was on "Binding Energy Hotspots on a Broadly Neutralizing Antibody against HIV1. "Unfortunately, this passion "clarified to [her] that [she] was awful at wet lab research and probably wasn't cut out to be a scientist." She eventually settled into a career in computer science and business. "My memory was far too bad so I opted for a major that allowed me to Stackoverflow everything," she says. After spending hours on MIT Scratch games in middle school and taking part in PennApps, the largest college hackathon in the world, she was convinced of her path.
Lu, to this day, remains best friends with some of her Magnet peers. ''There's nothing like going through a crazy grueling experience to bring you together," she says. While maintaining current friendships, her biggest advice for current Magnet students would be to also seek out different experiences and people to broaden their perspectives. ''The Magnet can be a bit of a bubble," she says, "but you realize people have really different priorities about what makes a good life and there is so much to explore in the world."
Regardless of her incredible success in both her academic and professional careers, Lu's most cherished memory from Blair is "staying after school for the math team and going to get meatball subs at Santucci's," the Italian deli across the street from the school. "We did all sorts of random things to occupy our time," she says, "including playing baseball with a history textbook as a bat in the field behind Blair."