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UNCP Home Spotlights Cheyenne Lee
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Cheyenne Lee


Student Degree


Student Major


Student Hometown

Cheraw, SC


I am a first generation Native American student from the Pee Dee tribe of South Carolina.  I come from a mostly blue collar background with one grandfather being a construction worker, another being a farmer, and my own father being a mechanical engineer by experience.  My mother was a cosmetologist until she could no longer use her hands to do her work; yet she is still one of the most hardworking people I know.  I live just across the North Carolina and South Carolina border in Chesterfield County, where I attended an impoverished high school with little research opportunity.  My family and I have had to work quite hard to be able to afford my schooling at UNCP. I worked at the INA Bearing factory in Cheraw for my first summer, as a rising sophomore, just to be able to help pay for one semester.  Despite living nearby, I have to pay out-of-state tuition, and I have a twin brother who also attends UNCP, making our costs double.  Thanks to my interests in biomedical research, I was able to apply to both the RISE and COMPASS programs on campus and am extremely grateful to be a part of both, as they have served to lift and guide me towards my ultimate goal of one day earning a PhD degree and being called “Dr. Lee.”  Without the guidance of crucial UNCP faculty, I honestly would have no idea how to accomplish the goals I have set for myself.  I hope they know how grateful I am to them.

Why did I choose to attend UNCP?

I chose to attend UNCP to further myself as a scientist.  I heard people say that UNCP had great faculty who would be extremely willing to help one-on-one with students who really wanted to learn, and they were definitely not wrong.  The University is also close to home, and family is extremely important to me so I love being nearby.

What do I like best about UNCP?

Honestly, I like the UNCP faculty the best.  I am heavily biased toward the Biology Department because of the immense amount of kindness the faculty has shown me, but I have also had great experiences in departments outside of my own field of study.  Most of the professors are extremely patient with my constant questions.  Without the help of the science professors, I would not be able to attend UNCP.

What are my research experiences?

I work in Dr. Conner Sandefur’s Lab, where I am currently researching the antimicrobial effects of Native American (Lumbee) teas made from plants around the area.  We hope that this research may lead to a way to control the gut microbiota in diabetic patients, and result in a treatment for diabetes.  Research has been extremely valuable to me, even during the one semester I have worked.  Already I am able to see how techniques I have learned in a real lab, instead of a classroom, have helped me excel in my actual lab courses, no matter the field of science.  I will hopefully have some off-campus research experience come the summer of 2017, and I am excited to see how the additional experience will reflect in my lab courses.

What are my post-graduation plans?

After graduation, I plan to do research!  Somehow, someway, somewhere hopefully in graduate school, I will be researching something important that will trickle down through the population and into high school textbooks, keeping the upcoming populations smart and ready to battle the next big disease that rears its head.  Hopefully I will be working in some kind of immunology or microbiology lab, but currently I am shopping around for potential graduate schools, and am not ashamed to say that I have no idea where I will end up.

Cheyenne LeeCheyenne Lee

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