Alumna Cheyenne Lee offers advice to UNCP undergraduate researchers

Alumna Cheyenne Lee (center) served as keynote speaker at the RISE program’s end-of-summer research symposium

As a fourth-year doctoral candidate researching the genetic factors behind Clostridioides difficile infections at one of the nation’s top research universities, there’s not much free time carved out in Cheyenne Lee's schedule these days.

When Lee managed to block off a day recently, she made the five-hour trek to her alma mater to advise current UNCP undergraduate students considering the graduate school path. It was important for Lee to give back to the institution that helped ease her transition to the Microbiology and Molecular Genetics program at Emory University.

It was her first visit since earning a Bachelor of Science in Biotechnology in 2019.

“It was great to be back at UNCP,” Lee said. “The students were super curious. It was interesting because I remember being in their shoes. I was able to give them a realistic picture of the process. I wish I had reached out to more grad school students whenever I sought advice.”

Lee was the keynote speaker at the Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (RISE) program’s end-of-summer research symposium. The event featured poster presentations highlighting research mentored by faculty at UNCP and several other universities, including UNC Chapel Hill, Wake Forest University, N.C. State University and City College of New York.

While at UNCP, Lee was a RISE Fellow and member of the COMPASS scholar program.

She stressed the importance of networking, internships, undergraduate research experience and participating in conferences––all keys to her acceptance to Emory. She connected with Dr. Carlos Goller in the summer of 2018 while attending the Bio-Technology Sequencing-based Undergraduate Research Experience (BIT SURE) at N.C. State. Goller served as co-director of the program and is an alumnus of the Microbiology and Molecular Genetics program at Emory.

“That was a great networking opportunity. It helped me make so many connections. The faculty at UNCP was also a big help. But the biggest perk at UNCP is the small class sizes, allowing me to engage in one-on-one relationships with the professors. This was all fundamental in preparing me for grad school and helped me decide my future career plans.”

Lee is leaning toward a career in academia as a faculty member.