On a gorgeous spring day, Lingzi Lu and two fellow Boston University students ventured to the finish line of the Boston Marathon to observe one of the most storied traditions of their adopted city. Ms. Lu was from Shenyang, one of the largest cities in northeastern China, and had moved last year to Boston, a city brimming with students and youthful energy.
"She was very enthusiastic," said Tasso Kaper, chairman of the BU mathematics and statistics department, where Ms. Lu was a graduate student. "The tulip trees were in bloom. The Bradford pear trees were in bloom. It was a very exciting time to be in Boston."
But the tradition was cut short by two explosions. When Ms. Lu didn't return home Monday evening, Mr. Kaper said, her roommate began frantically looking for her. As the hours passed, more and more friends and classmates became panicked.
One of the three friends at the race was uninjured. Another, Zhou Danling, a graduate student of actuarial science from Chengdu, in China's Sichuan province, was critically injured but is in "stable condition" following surgeries Monday and Tuesday, according to the university.
On Wednesday afternoon, BU officials said they had received permission from Ms. Lu's family to announce that she was one of the three killed in the explosions. The university identified her using the Americanized version of her name, which in China would be Lu Lingzi, with the family name first. Ms. Lu used the American-style version on her LinkedIn account and other listings.
As flowers piled up at makeshift memorials in Boston, and the university began to plan memorial events, a Chinese website similar to Twitter lit up with thousands of condolences and digital candles.
"Can't God hear the prayer of so many people? Why make so many people heart-broken? I wish it were a dream," wrote one university schoolmate using the Weibo identification "Vera Yu Yuanyuan."
Ms. Lu graduated from Shenyang's well-regarded Northeast Yucai School in 2008, then earned a major in economics and international trade from the Beijing Institute of Technology. In 2010, she attended a three-month program offered by the University of California at Riverside that allows foreign students to earn U.S. college credit and increase their chances of getting into graduate school. Ms. Lu was already fluent in English, according to a UCR spokeswoman, and several students in her program continued on to Boston University.
Ms. Lu started her graduate classes last fall. Mr. Kaper said the department's professors carefully watch their graduate students, especially those from foreign countries, to ensure that they properly adjust to their course loads and life in a new place. Ms. Lu had no problem with that, he said, and quickly became the leader of her social circle.
"She was sweet and nice," said Lu Zhang, a fellow graduate student who had trouble speaking about Ms. Lu without becoming emotional.
Mr. Kaper added more adjectives to the list: smart, engaged, bubbly and "very, very happy." Ms. Lu quickly proved herself "an outstanding student," he said, performing "very well" in three courses last semester and four this spring. She had applied for fall internships, showing an interest in working in finance.
"She was well on her way," Mr. Kaper said. "This was someone who was basking in the glory of success. ... It's a senseless loss of a young statistician. And in the most insidious way."