Robert Lue in a library

Honoring the Legacy of LabXchange Founder Dr. Robert Lue

This May, for what would have been his 59th birthday, we’re honoring the life, work, and ongoing legacy of our founder, Dr. Robert Lue (1964 – 2020). Dr. Lue was the “father” of LabXchange and the original principal investigator of our forthcoming Racial Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Science Education (RDEISE) project.

“We envision a world with equal opportunity for success in science for anyone, anywhere.” – Dr. Robert Lue

Dr. Lue was a scientist, researcher, and academic with a passion for inclusive education. He held a PhD in cellular biology from Harvard, where he served as Professor of the Practice of Molecular and Cellular Biology. In his lifetime, he filled many roles, including founding faculty director of Harvard’s online education platform HarvardX, dean of Harvard Summer School, and faculty director of the Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning. He passed away in November 2020 after a brief fight with cancer.

In addition to his fascination with the natural world, Dr. Lue had a keen interest in art and how an interdisciplinary understanding of art and science could enrich teaching. To this end, he worked extensively in the field of science visualization, and in 2006 he co-authored “The Inner Life of the Cell,” one of the most viewed science animations in history.  

A still from the animation “The Inner Life of the Cell,” showing the Golgi apparatus with newly forming vesicles. The vesicles are blobby blue shapes. A screenshot of a YouTube comment from user @rlazar1 posted 10 years ago reads: Best animated representation of the life of the cell… like, ever. Oh, and the music is fabulous, too. I have showed this to hundreds of my biology students throughout the years and they, like me, watch this video in awe.
A still from “The Inner Life of the Cell” created by BioVisions at Harvard University.

An esteemed and beloved educator, Dr. Lue had a lasting impact on the lives and careers of many of the students he taught. In an obituary, The Harvard Crimson wrote: “Lue left an indelible mark wherever he went. He fought relentlessly to ensure that all students could access a high-quality education, whether they were at Harvard or not. He saw no limits to where a Harvard education should — and could — be accessed.”

Dr. Lue’s passion for inclusive education informed his work as faculty director and principal investigator of LabXchange, founded in 2020 with the vision of alleviating barriers to access in STEM by providing high-quality, free learning materials to support both educators and students.

“To Rob, inclusive learning is not about ‘I include you, and you learn from me or about whatever interests me.’ Rather, it is about creating environments and content to enable learning and to maximize its efficiency and depth for students (and others) in subjects that they are most passionate about.”

Xiao-Li Meng, Editor-in-Chief, Harvard Data Science Review

The historic Black Lives Matter protests of 2020 sparked conversations at LabXchange about racial equity in science education, a topic that was deeply personal for Dr. Lue, who was himself a multiracial scientist. In 2021, LabXchange announced the RDEISE project. Produced with support from the Amgen Foundation and in collaboration with leading scholars and experts, RDEISE addresses systemic racism as a barrier faced by racialized groups, especially Black Americans.

“The universal principle of inclusive teaching is something that LabXchange seeks to integrate into our work so seamlessly that at times it can disappear into the fabric of what we do. However, they should not be divorced from the broader societal forces of racism and exclusion that make these principles essential support for so many of our learners and educators.” – Dr. Robert Lue

Comprised of two new learning clusters, RDEISE will provide educators with evidence-based inclusive teaching tools and high-quality curricular materials that examine the history of racism in science and the structures that prevent equal access to opportunities in healthcare, education, and STEM fields.

We’re honored to continue Dr. Lue’s legacy as we work toward a world with equitable access to science learning and career resources. Subscribe to our newsletter to stay up-to-date with the RDEISE project in 2023.

Written by
LabXchange team

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