DON KETCHUM is a native of Phoenix. He was a sportswriter for The Arizona Republic/The Phoenix Gazette for nearly four decades. He covered high school sports on several occasions as well as the Arizona Diamondbacks, Arizona Cardinals and Arizona State sports. From 2008-14, he was a staff writer for, the web site of the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

When Laura Lu puts her mind to it, things happen

Laura Lu thinks about things in many different ways.

And then there are the rest of us.

Try as we might, we can’t always comprehend the numerous types of projects with which the Xavier Prep senior was or currently is involved.

And that doesn’t count the hours required to refine her skills as a member of the school’s golf program that is among the nation’s best.

All of it is simply amazing.

Laura Lu has a lifetime of experiences in just a few short years. (Photo courtesy of Laura Lu).

She has been happy creating apps that help in various domains. She has participated in a “hackathon,’’ where computer enthusiasts and software designers meet for three or four days to develop software projects.

In Lu’s case, her team stayed up for about 36 hours (with only an hour or two of sleep) and made an app for a food bank. It had the outline of the brain, where users could click on various areas of the brain to see which kinds of foods help a particular area of the brain to operate as efficiently as possible. It also listed information about grocery stores closest to the user and information about expiration dates.

That project earned a first-place designation.

She said she was hesitant about competing at first because of the degree of its intensity, but gradually built her confidence and was able to contribute.

Around the time of her junior year at Xavier, Lu applied to be an intern at the Transitional Genomics Research Institute (TGen) in downtown Phoenix. She was accepted and thus began eight months worth of research (10 hours a week during after-school hours) on projects with Alzheimer’s and Dementia and how to improve treatments.

Lu also has been an officer at Litas for Girls, a non-profit coding school and she hosted a month-long “Incubator’’ in computer sciences and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). Litas helps young women become the next generation of leaders in CS and STEM fields.

She was among those selected to participate in a Business Summer Camp for 2018 at Northwestern University in the Chicago area.

Lu was a co-founder of Phynergetix. She and her three teammates built a company using augmented reality to help injured athletes, primarily runners, in their recovery.

The goal of Phynergetix is to develop a method in which rehabilitation could be curtailed considerably. The computer app coexists with a patterned compression sleeve to track the knee joint’s movements and provide a game-oriented format of exercise. It helps people use the proper form and details overuse prevention.

Forty potential customers signed up for e-mail updates and five users signed up for beta testing.

Lu also won awards for her work at the National Center for Women and Information Technology.

And her eye for artwork and photography helped her earn an Honorable Mention award for Scholastic Art and Writing for 2017. Her entry was called “The Shoreline.’’

“I took it from the Santa Monica Pier in California,’’ she said proudly.

Back home, she volunteered for a Christian service and worked at a Memory Care facility, helping residents with art therapy.

“It helps to stimulate the brain when they are painting. It is interesting how they see things,’’ she said.

At Xavier, she is the Vice President of the Key Club and President of the Photo Club. She enjoys taking nature photographs and portraits. She said some Xavier students approached her about creating their senior portraits.

“Through those types of portraits, I want to be able to promote diversity,’’ Lu said. “Adolescents are some of the most vulnerable when it comes to that. It would help put them in a place where they could have confidence. Their view of themselves will change.’’

And Lu has her own Web site –, where examples of her photography are displayed. She tells the viewers that she would like to become a creative director in digital photography, film, graphic design or oil painting. There are plenty of directions to try.

She continues to work hard in the classroom.

Her interaction with all sorts of people as well as her future should be enhanced by the fact that she can speak four languages – English, Spanish, Portugese and Mandarin. And by the way, she also is now learning French.

 To her credit, she still finds time to play golf. Xavier golf coach Sr. Lynn Winsor said Lu has improved a great deal for the team.

“I really like golf. It’s important to play a sport in high school,’’ said Lu, whose parents have been and continue to be very supportive.

“Golf is a good mental game. Playing at Xavier has helped my mental approach to things. When I played as a freshman, I was nervous because of the number of people watching. But now I have learned to focus on the ball better.’’

She has played in Junior Golf Association of Arizona tournaments during the summer.

What comes next after Xavier?

Lu is looking at some colleges on the East Coast, some on the West Coast. She is leaving her options open as far as playing golf is concerned.

She is a triplet, and her brothers already are in college. Nicholas is majoring in Business and Finance at Boston University and Thomas is majoring in Computer Science at Cornell.

Based on what Lu has accomplished in her life thus far, it would appear that she will not have much difficulty as she takes the next step.

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