Every year, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences recognizes a faculty member for their extraordinary achievements in research unusually early in their career. This year, Dr. Chaoqun (Crystal) Lu, from the Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology Department, received that honor. Potential honorees are tenured or tenure-track faculty who have had independent academic careers of less than six years.
Indeed, Dr. Lu has had many outstanding achievements thus far in a relatively short but promising career. She has been at Iowa State University since 2016, and in that short time, has co-authored over 30 different peer-reviewed publications. In 2020, she received a prestigious NSF CAREER award, which supports a five-year project that will assess and predict how extreme climate events such as heavy rains and storms could affect nitrogen loading from land to bodies of water. Dr. Lu is excited that this project will also support developing education tools such as an online game of “choice and chance” to make the complex concept of climate-smart watershed management more concrete for young students and the general public. She hopes that educational tools like this will influence future scientists as well as decision-makers. Because the Midwestern U.S. is such a critical food-producing region, she recognizes how much potential we have in improving ecological and environmental outcomes: “We need comprehensive assessments and better predictions regarding agroecosystem sustainability before our decisions and policies are made.”
Dr. Lu’s lab focuses on the climate-human-ecosystem nexus, especially nitrogen flow, but has also expanded into aspects of ecosystem sustainability, carbon cycling, land-use changes, and ecosystem resilience. Speaking about the university, she stated, “I am fortunate to have excellent collaborators, postdocs, and students here at Iowa State. They all help to make this dream come true.”