U student granted Rhodes Scholarship

This marks the fourth time in five years that a University student has received the award.

Elena Rozwadowski

For most people, Thanksgiving is all about family, friends and food.

But for 21-year-old chemistry and biochemistry senior Katie Lee, Thanksgiving is one of the reasons she loves science.

Lee, named one of 32 Rhodes Scholars on Saturday, said she remembers seeing her mother dissect a turkey heart one Thanksgiving to show her how it worked.

This, along with her father’s influence as a surgeon, gave her a love for medical science that carried her through her undergraduate career.

Rhodes Scholarship recipients receive two years of tuition and fees to pursue a graduate program at the University of Oxford in England. The scholarship might sometimes be renewed for a third and fourth year if the student wishes to pursue a doctoral degree.

Lee also received the Marshall Scholarship last week, which would allow her to study at any university in England for two years. She said she decided to take the Rhodes scholarship because she is interested in studying at Oxford.

“I’m very interested in cancer research,” she said. “I’m particularly excited about the research they are doing at Oxford.”

Lee, who entered the University as a Post Secondary Enrollment Options student at 15-years-old, said she plans to pursue her doctorate and eventually become a medical doctor so she can work with research and people.

Lee is the fourth University student given a Rhodes Scholarship since 2001, said Sally Lieberman, associate director of national and international scholarships.

“That’s a really high number for a public institution,” Lieberman said. Most students come from private, Ivy League institutions, she said.

Lee was one of about 12 students who expressed interest in the Rhodes Scholarship last spring, Lieberman said.

A selection committee of University faculty reviews students who apply. The University gives qualified students an official endorsement.

Lee found out about her finalist status last week and was then interviewed by the district committee.

“The thing that made Katie’s application stand out was all of the research she’s done,” Lieberman said. “She is the perfect example of a student who has taken advantage of all the opportunities here at the ‘U.’ “

Lee spent the last two summers at Harvard University studying the human papillomavirus, a sexually-transmitted disease that can also be linked to cervical cancer.

She also held two undergraduate research positions in labs at the University. She currently works at a lab in the Cancer Center, where she works with nicotine studies.

Sharon Murphy, an associate professor in the Cancer Center and Lee’s research mentor, said Lee’s previous experience made her easy to work with.

“She’s very well-rounded and organized,” Murphy said. “She’s not intimidated in any area.”

Murphy said one of Lee’s best qualities is her ability to work with her peers in the lab.

“She doesn’t do her work at the exclusion of others,” she said.

Although Lee chose to pursue a career in medical science, that is not her only interest.

Lee has been playing the violin since she was 2 years old and has been active in community orchestras for years. She is currently the concertmaster of the University Campus Orchestra and plays in several ensembles in the School of Music.

“I think medical science is my calling in life,” Lee said. “Medicine has really captured my mind and my heart, but music will always be a part of me.”