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BME alum Renee Liu named Schwarzman Scholar

January 17, 2024

Johns Hopkins University graduate Renee Liu has been named a Schwarzman Scholar and will spend the next academic year studying in China.

At Hopkins, Liu was an NCAA All-American swimmer, Leong Research Fellow, and biomedical engineering design team leader who graduated a year early in 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering. She is among 150 students selected for the prestigious award from more than 4,000 applicants worldwide. Schwarzman Scholars receive full funding for a one-year master’s program in global affairs at Schwarzman College, Tsinghua University in Beijing, an immersive, educational experience designed to prepare future leaders with an understanding of China.

As senior research assistant in the ophthalmology department at Massachusetts Eye and Ear, a teaching hospital affiliated with Harvard Medical School, Liu works on projects related to the genetics of different ocular diseases. One research project took her to India, where she helped develop and disseminate an app called PocDoc, which gives users access to a suite of vision tests, normally only available in clinics, for at-home testing and vision monitoring in low resource settings and rural communities. The trip piqued her interest in pursuing more global health opportunities, and the Schwarzman Scholarship seemed like a natural fit, she said.

“After my trip to India, I realized not only can we as Americans bring a lot to other countries, but we have a lot to learn from other countries, as well,” Liu said. “I wanted to deeply explore the health care system of another large country and gain insights into the Chinese medical school reform led by world-renowned JHU alumni and physician-scientist, Professor Wong Tien Yin.”

Liu said she hopes the experience will enable her to contribute to improving relations between the U.S. and China, particularly in the medical field, where she believes collaborations between the two countries are vital. Her familiarity with helping others overcome preconceived notions about other cultures dates back to high school. Growing up in a predominantly white city, Liu remembers being the only Asian-American in her graduating class. She saw her position as an opportunity to educate others and founded a Chinese culture club, where she bridged the distance between herself and her classmates.

“I believe that relationships between countries lie in their people, so I hope to improve understanding between the U.S. and China,” Liu said. “It’s hard to trust and appreciate a culture when you don’t understand its customs and people.”

Dave Shade, a research professor who teaches a course in the biomedical engineering department,¬†expressed his excitement for Liu: “Renee was a fantastic student and a wonderful TA. It is no surprise that she was selected for this prestigious program. I am proud of her accomplishment and thrilled that she will bring some Hopkins to the program!”

Category: Alumni

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