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Lesa Tran Lu is an Associate Teaching Professor in the Office of Research and Senior Lecturer in the Department of Chemistry. She received her B.S. (2007), M.A. (2009), and Ph.D. (2012) in Chemistry from Rice University. As an NSF Graduate Research Fellow under the mentorship of Prof. Lon J. Wilson, Tran studied the development of gadolinium-loaded carbon nanostructures as medical agents to improve stem cell retention and MRI detection in cardiomyoplasty.

She joined the Rice teaching faculty in 2012 to transform how General Chemistry is taught by developing an inquiry-based learning model known as the Student-Centered Active Learning at Rice (SCAL@R) method. With her colleagues, Tran studies how the SCAL@R method impacts student learning. Tran also teaches the Chemistry of Cooking, which is taught in collaboration with Rice Dining staff and Houston-area chefs. In recognition of her teaching excellence, Tran was named a Faculty Fellow of the Center for Teaching Excellence (2018-2024) and is the recipient of a Teaching Innovation Fund (2018), the Brown Foundation Teaching Grant (2014, 2019, 2023), and the George R. Brown Award for Superior Teaching (2019, 2021, 2024).

In 2019, Tran joined the Institute of Biosciences and Bioengineering (IBB). As Executive Director, Tran led the institute's team and oversees all administrative and academic processes that support its various programs, which include the Systems, Synthetics, and Physical Biology (SSPB) Ph.D. Program and the Bioelectronics NSF Research Traineeship (NRT) Program. She also developed and executed strategic initiatives in accordance with the mission and vision of the institute. In 2024, Tran served as Interim Executive Director of the Rice Synthetic Biology Institute.

Tran also spends much of her time supporting undergraduate student life at Rice. She formerly served as a Faculty Resident Associate at Sid Richardson College (2018-2020) and is currently a Divisional Advisor for the School of Natural Sciences (2015-present), a member of several university committees, and a faculty sponsor to multiple student organizations and student-taught courses.

  • Department of Chemistry (CHEM) | General Chemistry I (CHEM 121), General Chemistry II (CHEM 122), Chemistry of Cooking (CHEM 178), Undergraduate Teaching Practicum (CHEM 280), Research for Undergraduates (CHEM 391, 491, 492, 493) 

  • Systems, Synthetic, & Physical Biology (SSPB) | Graduate Seminar (SSPB 550), Graduate Teaching in SSPB (SSPB 599)

  • NSF Graduate Research Traineeship (NRT) in Bioelectronics | Interdisciplinarity I (SSPB 601), Interdisciplinarity II (SSPB 602), Bioelectronics Colloquium (SSPB 610), Bioelectronics Writing (SSPB 620), Bioelectronics Research (SSPB 700)



B.S. in Chemistry, Rice University, 2007

M.A. in Chemistry, Rice University, 2009

Ph.D. in Chemistry, Rice University, 2012

Honors & Awards

CTE Faculty Fellow, 2021-2024

George R. Brown Award for Superior Teaching, Rice University (2019, 2021, 2024)

NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, 2008


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