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Chemistry grad's spirit carries her far

Joslyn poses on the cover of Winds of Change magazine. (Click for the full cover image.)

Joslyn poses on the cover of Winds of Change magazine. (Click for the full cover image.)

"Always believe in yourself, and do things that make you happy and sane."

That, in a nutshell, is Joslynn Lee. And it's that spirit -- and the story of how far Lee has been able to go with that attitude -- that is showcased in the cover story in the Summer issue of Winds of Change, the journal of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society.

From Farmington, New Mexico, Lee (Chemistry and Biology, 2006) is a member of the Navajo, Acoma Pueblo, and Laguna Pueblo tribes. The article highlights Lee's successes in graduate school -- for which she thanks her experiences in the FLC Chemistry and Biology programs -- as well as her balancing academic demands with yoga, ultra-running, and volunteerism.

"I hope this article can encourage others to work hard, and even give back to their community," she says.

Lee is a fifth-year Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Northeastern University, in Boston. There she's exploring new uses for proteins and designing molecules that can be used to fight cancer. She is a 2010 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow and an AISES Sequoyah Fellow. She also volunteers at the Science Club for Girls and with Back On My Feet, a running group that helps promote self-sufficiency among the homeless.

Oh, and in her spare time, she trained for and competed in the Leadville Silver Rush 50, a 50-mile high-altitude ultra-marathon this past July.

Like her running -- her first race was the Durango Double half-marathon -- her passion for chemistry started at Fort Lewis College.

"The FLC Chemistry Department is phenomenal," she says. "I felt supported through my coursework, and the department encouraged summer research at FLC or other institutions. The instruments and laboratory facilities allowed for hands-on experience and provided critical-thinking skills. The department also encouraged a large number of students at attend their first American Chemical Society conference to present their research."

"Most importantly, the faculty strongly encouraged students to consider a Ph.D. in chemistry. Which many of my classmates did!" Lee adds. "The chemistry department  prepares their students to have a competitive edge. I really benefited from all the individuals who taught classes or were a friendly face in the hallway."

While at FLC, Lee was one of seven candidates chosen from almost a thousand applicants to participate in biochemistry research at Dartmouth Medical School. She also participated in the National Institutes of Health's Minority Access to Research program (MARC), which supports underrepresented minority students. The program was renewed at FLC in 2010 through a  $1.4-million grant awarded to the School of Natural & Behavioral Sciences.

"The MARC program is what jump started and paved my career," Lee says. "The program provided support and encouragement. It emphasized mentor-student relationships and provided insight for Ph.D. training."

Nationally, Fort Lewis College ranks first in the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded to American Indian/Alaskan Native students and first  in the percentage of American Indian/Alaskan Native students earning bachelor’s degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics from a four-year degree institution.

"I feel honored and inspired to be on the cover," Lee reflects on her new-found attention. "I understand that I am now a role model for a greater community of young scientists and engineers. I hope students can read my story, and make the connection that they, too, can achieve many things through hard work and determination and make their own story."

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