Throughout the course of Street’s latest Ego of the Week interview, Luis Leme (C ‘23) wears the brightest smile possible on his face, bringing his personal sunshine to Philly’s gloomy Thursday storm. It’s clear he’s fully invested in everything he does, whether it's writing a smashing song with his friends or spending countless hours in the lab studying what goes on inside people's heads. He himself is a case study in how passion is the greatest motivator—through both arts and sciences, Luis is looking to make this world a better place.

Name: Luis Leme

Hometown: São Paulo, Brazil

Major: Neuroscience with a minor in psychology

Activities: Service Link, Netter Center for Community Partnerships, Psychiatric Research Assistant at Penn Medicine and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Penn Records, The Songwriters Collective

What's it like going to college so far away from home? 

I actually lived 17 years of my life in Brazil, and then I went to the University of Florida for two years and then transferred from Florida to Penn. It's [been] a really hectic experience. I kind of restarted my life two different times moving to Florida and then moving from Florida to here. There’s definitely a really difficult part, which is missing friends, family, and missing home, which is just so far [that] I cannot go back as often as I wanted to. Also, some things are super different, like the culture shock with food and different environments [in] different countries, [as well as] seasons and climate—all of that plays a role. But overall, it's just great to have a new, different experience and be able to learn and live that, because it's nice to explore the new [things]. 

Can you tell us about your passion for music and how you continue to pursue it at Penn?

Music is my main hobby and definitely what I do for fun and with my friends since I was a little kid. Back in Brazil, I had a band in São Paulo, and I still have it with some friends. We used to do gigs all around the city and earn some money with it and produce our own music, which we still do. I try to carry that on as much as possible, even after moving to the States, so I continue to do that with them. But I also wanted to get involved here at Penn with music. 

So, the first thing I did was join Penn Records. Nowadays, I'm directing their concerts department, so we set up concerts and shows all around the campus (and also off–campus) for new artists. We also promote new artists. I’m also in The Songwriters Collective, where I get to be a songwriter and write songs with other people who are artists here at Penn. We share music together and we play. My biggest passion in life is music. It’s what I'm always doing, so I keep trying to pursue that as much as I can.

What’s your favorite song you've performed? 

Probably “Dani California” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I was able to see them in Philly recently, and they played that song, which was amazing. It’s just a song that I've been playing with my friends from Brazil for a long time, and it's just so fun to perform. It has some cool guitar solos and layers that I love to do.

Tell us about your medical research.

So, the reason I transferred to Penn was because I wanted to do research in psychiatry. I know for sure that I want to go into psychiatry in the future, specifically related to mood disorders and working with child and adolescent patients, so I've been doing that here at Penn. I started working at CHOP doing research on suicide, suicide prevention, and suicidal ideation in [children]. We work in the emergency department, so it’s actually really interesting to get to see and work closely with those patients to make interventions. [We focus] specifically on Black youth to reduce near–suicide ideations and emergencies that we see in the hospital. 

At the Perelman School of Medicine, I work in a lab that specifically focuses on motivation and how people at risk for psychosis and schizophrenia are impaired by motivation. We study their brains, we do functional MRIs, and we see what is impacted and what's not. It all [connects] to the different roles that motivation plays in their lives, which is pretty cool. I find psychiatry, and the brain specifically, extremely interesting. It's something I was really looking forward to [pursuing] when I was coming to Penn and definitely something that I love to learn about.

How does music play into your scientific interests?

Not here at Penn, but back at the University of Florida, I used to be part of an organization called Music Meets Medicine, where we specifically engaged in the interaction between music and medicine. In some classes I’ve heard references of how music can positively impact patients, but I haven't specifically worked with that here at Penn. However, I find it extremely interesting and I try to incorporate it as much as I can. These are two of my main passions, so I try to keep them as close together as possible.

As a pre–med student, do you find it difficult to pursue both scientific and artistic passions? 

Well, it's definitely a lot of work to be a pre–med student and a Penn student overall. But I always try to find time in my routine, even if I have to schedule a time for it, to continue pursuing my hobbies and what I like to do. I guess it becomes easier when you become associated with something here on campus, like The Songwriters Collective or Penn Records, because they have a specific time that they meet, so I never get off track. But for my hobbies, I try to always schedule some time for them and try to always do that throughout the week. 

That would be my advice for people who are reading this: just try, even if you are too busy and feel like you can't find time. See if you can schedule a time, even during the weekend, for yourself to just continue pursuing your passions. And you know, it's been working for me so far as a pre–med student and as a senior—I've been doing this for four years now and more. It's been working, and it can for you, too.

What's next for you after Penn? 

Hopefully medical school. I plan to apply in the next cycle, which starts next semester. I'm taking a gap year. In this gap year, I plan to continue working in research or as a medical scribe. Maybe I’ll try getting some clinical experience before diving into medical school. Then, I’ll pursue my passion for psychiatry later on!

Lighting Round:

Soundtrack of your life? “Herói do Futuro” by O Grilo.

No–skip album? Where The Light Is: John Mayer Live in Los Angeles.

Fall break plans? Going to see a UF football game with friends in Gainesville.

Favorite spots on campus? WilCaf and Biopond.

There are two types of people at Penn … Those who grind until two in the morning and those who wake up super early. 

And you are? The person who studies late at night, because I don’t do well in the morning. 

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.