Tu, a member of the University Honors program and a Banneker/Key Scholar, has been conducting translational molecular biology research for the past six years at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) and UMD. His work has resulted in two published papers and six submitted manuscripts—including two that list him as the first author.
At Hopkins, he studied sex differences in Alzheimer’s disease for three years. In his ongoing research at UMSOM, he studies how the low-oxygen microenvironment in pancreatic cancer induces radiation resistance and tumor aggression on the molecular level. Tu is currently planning an experiment to computationally model oxygen levels following a novel radiation therapy.
Tu also conducted STEM education research with Daniel Levin, an associate clinical professor in UMD’s Department of Teaching and Learning, Policy and Leadership, on active learning strategies that resulted in one accepted first-author manuscript and another first-author manuscript submitted for publication.
“As a researcher, Kevin is highly motivated to take on complex problems,” Dinman said. “The project he’s working on will mark the first demonstration through which a disruption in a -1 programmed ribosomal frameshifting signal leads to the development of a specific human disease. In addition to his keen scientific insight and fierce devotion to research, he has demonstrated his versatility and innovative approach as an educator.”
In addition to his many research projects, Tu created and teaches a one-credit class (BSCI238D) on research methodologies through UMD’s Student Initiated Courses (STICs) program. The course, which teaches the mechanisms behind common lab techniques, grew from Tu’s observation that undergraduates are proficient in following experimental protocols but often do not understand the chemical basis of the techniques, which makes it difficult for them to troubleshoot and optimize experiments. He has been teaching the course since fall 2020.
Tu also founded and serves as president of CORA (Combating Overdoses in Rural Areas), a nonprofit organization that provides opioid education, resources and harm reduction to rural communities across the country. For his efforts, Tu received the Governor’s Service Award in the Emerging Leader category and UMD’s Ed Snider Center Leadership Award.
After graduation, Tu plans to pursue an M.D./Ph.D. in cancer biology. His goal is to develop new gene-based therapies and diagnostic tools for aggressive and untreatable cancers.