Campus: CSU Los Angeles -- May 5, 2004

Cal State L.A. Biochemistry Major Awarded a National Graduate Fellowship

The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi recently announced that Cal State L.A. biochemistry major Mary Elizabeth Lee (Rosemead resident) has been awarded a Phi Kappa Phi Graduate Fellowship for the 2004-2005 academic year. Lee is one of only 60 students nationwide to receive the $5,000 Graduate Scholar Award from The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi. This is the sixth year since 1998 that a Cal State L.A. student has been among the select national winners of the Phi Kappa Phi graduate fellowship.

Phi Kappa Phi is the oldest and largest national honor society dedicated to the recognition and promotion of academic excellence in all fields of higher education. The selection process for the Phi Kappa Phi Graduate Fellowships is based on applicants’ undergraduate academic performance; leadership and service on the campus and in the community; evidence of graduate potential; personal statement of educational perspective, purpose and objectives; and the evaluation reports from three individuals who are in a position to attest to the student’s performance, citizenship and character.

Cal State L.A.’s Phi Kappa Phi Installation Ceremony & Banquet is scheduled for Sunday, May 16, at the Golden Eagle Ballroom on the CSULA campus.

Phi Kappa Phi National Fellowship winner: Mary Elizabeth Lee

Mary Elizabeth Lee will graduate from Cal State L.A. this June with a B.S. in biochemistry with honors from her department and a cumulative 3.8 GPA. Lee, who plans to earn a Ph.D. in biological sciences and pursue a scientific research career in academia, has been accepted to these prestigious graduate programs—Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University, Stanford University, Caltech, UC Berkeley and Yale University. She will attend MIT this Fall.

Recognized as a high achiever, Lee was admitted to Cal State L.A. in the fall of 2000 as a President’s Scholar, a scholarship program funded by alumni contributions to the University’s Annual Fund and augmented by an allotment from student government. (Lee received $5,000 per year for four years of full-time enrollment at Cal State L.A.) Before enrolling at Cal State L.A. as a freshman, Lee was already familiar with the campus and the research opportunities it had to offer, having spent her summers taking classes through the CSULA Accelerated College Entrance Program as a secondary school student.

In 2002, Lee was selected as one of Cal State L.A.’s Beckman Scholars, working in the lab of Krishna L. Foster, assistant professor of chemistry. The Beckman Scholars program helps stimulate, encourage and support research activities by exceptionally-talented undergraduate students. Her current project aims to develop a technique capable of characterizing the amounts and photochemical reactivities of a class of chemical pollutants, known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, in the environment. As a result of her work, Lee took home one of the top awards last year from the 17th Annual CSU Student Research Competition at CSU Stanislaus. The awards for research and creative scholarly activity were presented to 36 outstanding CSU undergraduate and graduate students in areas that included the sciences and the humanities. Her research efforts have also resulted in her coauthorship of a paper recently accepted for publication in the Journal of Chromatography A. She also participated in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Summer 2003 Research Program, working in the lab of Robert Sauer in the Biology department where she studied the regulation of a bacterial gene called ssrA in Escherichia coli.

Lee, demonstrating exceptional leadership, has served as a tutor, secretary and president of the Chemistry and Biochemistry Club. During her term as president, this club was presented with a “Student Organization of the Year” award. Impressively, Lee was instrumental in obtaining an Instructional-Related Activities (IRA) grant for the club from the campus, which helped to pay the travel expenses of students for the 2004 Quest Trips to visit and tour graduate or medical schools.

A Dean’s List and General Education Honors Program student, Lee’s honors include the Lee On Dong Benevolent Association Scholarship for Academic Excellence, the Chemical Rubber Company (CRC) Freshman Chemistry Award, the American Chemical Society (ACS) Award in Organic Chemistry, and the Robert Louden Award in Service to the Community. Additionally, she is an active member of the Phi Kappa Phi, Golden Key, and Beta Beta Beta national honor societies.

“[Mary Lee] is a truly exceptional candidate, being one of the best Ph.D. applicants I have ever known in my 22 years as a university professor and research director. I believe she has the potential to become a truly outstanding graduate student and career scientist...,” notes Raymond E. Garcia, professor of biochemistry and faculty advisor of the Chemistry and Biochemistry Club.

Krishna L. Foster, assistant professor of chemistry and faculty mentor, adds, “Mary’s research experience is extensive and serves as an example of her capacity to do original work as a graduate student… She is not only a dedicated scholar, but also a well-rounded, high-energetic, creative, and caring individual with leadership potential.”

Contacts: Margie Yu, (323) 343-3047

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