Lifetimes Dedicated to Environmental Science Inspire Fellowship Gift

  • Every year the Fu-Lin E. and William P. Chu Fellowship will help fund a student whose research area is environmental change.
    Every year the Fu-Lin E. and William P. Chu Fellowship will help fund a student whose research area is environmental change.    
Photo - of -

After many years of working in environmental science, Fu-Lin Chu Ph.D. '82, P '97, P '12 and William Chu P '97, P '12 have seen a lot of changes in the natural world. Drastic changes.

“The polar ice is melting,” Fu-Lin said. “We have extreme temperature variations, more severe hurricanes and wildfires. The situation is urgent.” Now retired, she and William wondered how they could contribute to the solution outside of their labs.

As a young scientist, Fu-Lin first saw the impact of environmental changes while working with oysters at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science and wanted to know more. At the suggestion of faculty member Mo Lynch, she applied to the VIMS graduate program and wrote a proposal to fund her research. Both were accepted, and she completed her PhD program while working full time and caring for two young daughters.

Her research focused on two areas: marine nutrition and parasite interactions in fish and shellfish, particularly in Virginia oysters. Fu-Lin studied the effects of environmental factors, including pollution and environmental stress due to climate change, on the development and reproduction of aquatic organisms. She received the VIMS Outstanding Faculty Researcher Award and the Dean’s Prize for the Advancement of Women in Marine Science during her tenure. She retired in 2009 and is now an emeritus faculty member.

William spent the majority of his career at NASA, where he started as a contractor in the 70s. When he first joined NASA, he was part of a team studying the hole in the Earth’s ozone layer. “That’s how I became interested in global change,” William recalled. “We were looking at atmospheric signs, then building a satellite so we could monitor the atmosphere from here.”

While the changes the two scientists witnessed during their careers continue to concern them, they have not stripped away their hope. Young people, and particularly graduate students at Fu-Lin’s alma mater, the School of Marine Science at VIMS, give them reason to believe in a brighter future for our planet. “We have to have hope,” William said. “The hope is with our young people to find a solution.”

“We talked about funding a graduate student at VIMS. We knew VIMS’ mission and the strength of its research.” The couple agreed they were particularly interested in helping to support someone who shared their passion for solving the problems of environmental change. In 2021, the Chus established a new fellowship at VIMS to do exactly that, and recently the couple doubled the amount of their endowment. Now every year the Fu-Lin E. and William P. Chu Fellowship will help fund a student whose research area is environmental change.

“We hope these students can produce results that will help mitigate the problem,” William said. “We know there’s a long way to go,” Fu-Lin added, “but ultimately we must find solutions to help the future.”