Oct. 7, 1999
Vol. 19 No. 2

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    [ka yee lee with two students] by jason smith
    Ka Yee Lee (seated), the winner of a Packard fellowship and a Searle scholarship, works in chemistry lab with two of her students.

    Professor Lee named Packard fellow, Searle scholar

    By Steve Koppes
    News Office

    The David and Lucile Packard Foundation has named Ka Yee Lee, Assistant Professor in Chemistry, a 1999 Packard fellow, an honor that includes a five-year, $625,000 research grant. Lee also has been named a 1999 Searle scholar, which will bring her an additional $180,000 in funding over the next three years.

    A Chicago faculty member since June 1998, Lee is one of 24 promising young faculty members selected annually as fellows by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation of Los Altos, Calif.

    Lee will use part of her Packard grant to support her research on lung surfactant, a complex mixture of lipids and proteins that assists the breathing process. Her research is designed to better the understanding of the molecular causes behind the proper functioning of the lung and to help explain how specific chemical or physical alterations in lung surfactant might lead to Respiratory Distress Syndrome.

    Lee applies a wide range of theoretical and experimental methods to her work, including X-ray and neutron scattering as well as optical and atomic-force microscopy.

    The effort could lead to the development of improved artificial lung surfactant used to treat RDS victims.

    Another part of the Packard fellowship will help fund Lee’s research into beta amyloid, a plaque-forming substance responsible for killing brain cells in patients with Alzheimer’s, the most common brain-degenerative disease in the United States, afflicting 4 million people annually.

    The Packard fellowship also will support Lee’s X-ray and neutron scattering research. Previously unfunded, the work is aimed at gaining new insight into biological systems using physical techniques not traditionally applied to such systems.

    Meanwhile, the Searle grant also will augment Lee’s research on lung surfactant.

    She was one of 15 scholars selected from throughout the United States by the Searle Scholars Program, which distributes grants to support the independent research of exceptional young faculty members in chemistry and the biomedical sciences.

    The Searle Scholars Program was established at the Chicago Community Trust in 1980, and the estates of John and Frances Searle fund the program. John Searle was president of G.D. Searle & Co., a research-based pharmaceutical company in Skokie, Ill.