Dr. Naomi Lee, Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Northern Arizona University (NAU), an NIH Early-Stage Investigator, an officer in the Army Reserves, an affiliate faculty of various STEM-related professional societies, and a member of the Seneca Nation (bear clan), has been selected as the 2024 recipient of the Council on Undergraduate Research’s (CUR) Silvia Ronco Innovative Mentor Award. This award, established in February 2022 by a gift from the Research Corporation for Science Advancement (RCSA), is in honor of CUR’s past president and current RCSA Senior Program Director, Silvia Ronco. The Silvia Ronco Innovative Mentor Award recognizes a tenure-track faculty member within ten years of their first faculty appointment who demonstrates success in chemical sciences and whose mentoring practices have supported undergraduate research.

“I am extremely honored to be selected for the Silvia Ronco Innovative Mentor awardee,” stated Lee. “One of the highlights of my career is helping students excel and reach their potential either in the classroom or laboratory. More importantly, I strive to create an inclusive environment where students feel they can express themselves in academia and research.”

Dr. Lee has expressed that her career goal is to increase the health and welfare of Native American communities through research, STEM education, and mentoring. Through her research, she found that in 2013 NSF data detailed one Native American student graduated with a doctorate degree with a focus in organic. This likely candidate was Dr. Lee herself. After seeing the data, Dr. Lee strives to change the pattern of the future. Dr. Lee mentored hundreds of high school and undergraduate students, primarily Native American or Hispanic. Within the past five years at her current institution, Dr. Lee continued pursuing her passion by securing multiple NIH grants and foundation funding, publishing peer-reviewed articles with students as co-authors, and executing one patent and numerous culturally informed materials for her lab at NAU. Through her mentoring, Dr. Lee has been recognized on various levels across the country, including the 2018 Professional of the Year by the American Indian Science and Engineering Society, named among the Top 15 Emerging Scholars in Diverse Issue in Higher Education, and listed as one of the “Visionary Women of Rochester” by the University of Rochester.

“Dr. Lee exemplifies the spirit and dedication that the Silvia Ronco Innovative Mentor Award was created to honor. As an Assistant Professor, an NIH Early-Stage Investigator, and a devoted mentor, Dr. Lee has not only excelled in the chemical sciences but has also made significant strides in fostering an inclusive and supportive environment for undergraduate research. Her commitment to increasing the health and welfare of Native American communities through research and STEM education is truly inspiring. Dr. Lee’s achievements and her tireless efforts to mentor and guide students, particularly from underrepresented backgrounds, reflect the highest ideals of the Council on Undergraduate Research. We are proud to recognize her outstanding contributions and look forward to her continued impact on the academic and research community,” detailed Lindsay Currie, CUR Executive Officer.

Lee will be recognized at CUR’s Award Celebration on June 11, 2024.

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