Lu studied in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, Zhejiang University (ZJU), and majored in hydrodynamics (hydraulic mechanics). He graduated from ZJU in 1964, and became a lecturer in his department at ZJU. 1979, Lu was an Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellow at RWTH Aachen University, West Germany. Lu obtained his doctorate in 1981, based on his dissertation Entwicklung vorgesteuerter Proportionalventile mit 2-Wege-Einbauventil als Stellglied und mit geräteinterner Rückführung. Aachen: Techn. Hochsch.; Diss.; 1981.
In 1981, Lu returned to ZJU and continued his teaching position as a lecturer. He soon was promoted to associate professor and was the research group leader of the Laboratory of Fluid Power Transmission and Control at ZJU. 1983, Lu was promoted to professor, and was the Director of the Institute of Fluid Power Transmission and Control, Department of Mechanical Engineering, ZJU. From 1985 to 1987, Lu served as Vice-president of ZJU; and from 1988 to 1995, he was the President of ZJU. Lu is also a part-time professor at Tsinghua University.
Lu was appointed Vice-president of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) in November 1993. From 1993 to 1997, he was the Executive Vice-president of CAS. From July 1997 to March 2011, he was the President of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and also the Executive Chairman of the Presidential Committee of CAS Academic Board (中国科学院学部主席团). Lu has served as a Vice-chairman of National People's Congress.