Cheyenne Lee gives keynote address for annual RISE symposium

Keynote speaker Cheyenne Lee (pictured on the right) with two of her former UNCP faculty mentors Dr. Maria Pereira (left) and Dr. Conner Sandefur (middle)
Keynote speaker Cheyenne Lee (pictured on the right) with two of her former UNCP faculty mentors Dr. Maria Pereira (left) and Dr. Conner Sandefur (middle)

Alumna Cheyenne Lee (Biology 2019) had sage advice for students during her keynote address, “The grad school bundle: skills to take to and through the journey.” She spoke before an audience mostly of undergraduate students during the RISE Program’s annual end-of-summer research symposium last month. Dr. Ashley Allen, Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, welcomed the audience, and Dr. Bob Poage, Co-Director of the RISE Program, introduced Cheyenne to the audience. 

Cheyenne credited faculty for offering critical guidance during her first year at UNCP, and she credited her research experiences on and off campus, the RISE and COMPASS mentoring programs, and networking during a national conference as important stepping stones to her entry into graduate school at Emory University. Her first year in the doctoral program in Microbiology & Molecular Genetics was more challenging than anticipated, however.  When COVID swept the nation, it prompted virtual interactions (including her qualifying exam) and social distancing in the research lab. Cheyenne encouraged her student audience to seek help while in college and to make friends and to reach out to other graduate students once reaching graduate school. She topped off her talk by explaining her research on the genetic factors behind Clostridioides difficile infections. Chancellor Robin Cummings spoke briefly afterwards, recognizing Cheyenne’s accomplishments and emphasizing the importance of undergraduate research.  

Nearly 30 student posters were presented during the late afternoon session of the RISE symposium. Family, friends, students, and faculty were among numerous people who gathered to support the presenters and to learn about their research. Student research was mentored, not only on the UNCP campus, but on several other campuses, including UNC Chapel Hill, Wake Forest University, and NC State University, and on far-flung campuses, such as City College of New York.  Research at UNCP was funded by the RISE Program and the Office of Academic Affairs.  A photo gallery of symposium participants is included at the bottom of this webpage.

The RISE (Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement) Program is funded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health. Its primary goal is to create a more diverse work force in scientific research by targeting undergraduate students from underrepresented groups. For more than a decade, RISE has helped steer UNCP students into graduate programs across the nation and to prepare them for careers in biomedical and biological research. RISE Cohort 16 includes students majoring in Biology, Chemistry, Environmental Science, and Physics. In addition to Co-Director Dr. Bob Poage (Biology), RISE leadership includes Program Director Dr. Rachel Smith (Chemistry) and Co-Director Sailaja Vallabha (Chemistry). Students who are interested in joining the RISE Program should visit the RISE Program website, and they should contact one of the program directors.