COSAM Student Spotlight: Aishah Lee
By: Leslie Leak
Aishah Lee’s love of science began at the early age of six.
Specifically, she enjoyed astronomy and wanted to be an astronaut. Lee, a senior majoring in biochemistry in the College of Sciences and Mathematics (COSAM), was initially drawn to science in general at a young age, describing its appeal as an intriguing, undiscovered frontier. As she grew older, Lee began to focus more on chemistry, and as a homeschool student growing up in Montgomery, AL, her mother - as her teacher - was able to introduce her to more chemistry-focused educational resources that interested her.
Lee began college early at age 17, initially attending Auburn University Montgomery in fall 2017 and later transferring in spring 2019 to COSAM at Auburn University. “I transferred to Auburn for two main reasons – my sister was transferring to Auburn, and my older brothers were at Auburn, so it just felt familiar to me."
In spring 2020, she received an email from the president of Auburn’s chapter of the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers (NOBCChE). “I previously wasn’t aware of this national organization or Auburn’s chapter, so it was great timing to join because I was looking for a community and a place to fit in and belong."
In summer 2021, Lee made history by becoming the first undergraduate student to hold the position as president of the Auburn chapter of NOBCChE. “Through NOBCChE, I was able to attend two virtual conferences, and it was motivating to see and hear other black chemists where I aspire to be.”
Reflecting on Lee’s leadership, Dr. Vincent Ortiz, Chemistry and Biochemistry Professor and AU NOBCChe Faculty Advisor, stated, “Our first undergraduate President of AU NOBCChE, Aishah Lee, has been a dedicated leader with a student’s perspective on the ability of this organization to inform and inspire young people who are seeking opportunities to develop their talents.”
Lee began her COSAM research in summer 2019, working with Dr. Doug Goodwin, Professor and Chair of the Chemistry and Biochemistry department in COSAM. In Dr. Goodwin’s lab, Lee’s research focused on evaluating the function of tryptophans near KatG’s heme dependent active site, and she had the opportunity to present a poster session on her research in April 2021 at the Southeast Enzyme Conference “Through my research and presentations, I’ve sharpened my skills in public speaking by learning how to explain scientific information well and worked with different scientific instruments such as UV-vis spectrophotometer, stopped-flow, and oxygraph. I’ve also learned how to write lab reports and how to quickly problem solve. Dr. Goodwin has taught me the basics of how to be a scientist, how to speak precisely, and how to take constructive criticism,” said Lee.
“Aishah has been a fantastic addition to our lab,” said Dr. Goodwin. “From the beginning she has been asking thoughtful and insightful questions. Her intellectual curiosity, enthusiasm for science, and fearless spirit have enabled her to dive deep into her project and make great progress on a difficult question in redox enzymology: How do these enzymes utilize the extremely reactive intermediates necessary to catalyze difficult chemical transformations, and at the same time, protect themselves from inactivation? Aishah has been able to bring a wide range of methods and techniques to bear on the problem. It has been a joy to watch her grow in all facets as a scientist.”
Evaluating the Function of Tryptophans near KatG’s Heme-Dependent Active Site.
COSAM Accomplishments & Awards:
• Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation Scholar
• David B. Haggard Scholarship
• AU Board of Trustees Scholarship
• Marks Family Undergraduate Research Scholarship
• Auburn Together We Will Scholarship
• Recipient of NSF Molecular Biology Grant
• Presenter at SURC and SEC Conferences
• Phi Lambda Upsilon (Chemistry Honory Society)
• Alpha Epsilon Delta (AED)
• Black Student Union
• American Chemical Society student chapter
• NOBCChE (first undergraduate president of Auburn chapter)
Advice for Students:
“When you come to a larger college like Auburn, it can initially be overwhelming, but finding a community of people with related interests as you is important because you’re all on a similar path and can encourage each other along the way.”
“At Auburn, you will start off running! Be willing to learn and study, yet also take time to explore the many other social opportunities that Auburn has to offer.”
Favorite COSAM Memories:
During her time in COSAM, some of Lee’s favorite memories have included her involvement in student organizations, hearing guest speakers in chemistry, and talking with other students about their research.
“Through my research and presentations, I’ve sharpened my skills in public speaking by learning how to explain scientific information well."
Lee plans to apply for an MD-PhD program and is open to a wide range of school options.
Click on the research poster to view a larger image.
Questions for Aishah? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More stories that may interest you
A Road Not Taken: Exploring Alternate Realities to Explain AI
Evolutionary ecologist works on 15-year international research collaboration with insight into the impact of density-dependence on populations
COSAM research scientist uses $400K NSF award to study the origins of elements in the universe
Duke-Marks discuss vaping at Feb. 6 Science Café
Biochemistry undergrad represents Auburn University at invitation-only ACS Leadership Institute
Evolutionary ecologist works on 15-year international research collaboration with insight into the impact of density-dependence on populations02/20/2024