Brown University School of Engineering

Brown Engineering Alumna Ka Yee Lee ’86 Named Provost at University of Chicago

January 8, 2020
Credit: Jean Lachat

The University of Chicago has appointed Ka Yee C. Lee as its new provost, promoting her from vice provost of research. The professor of chemistry becomes the first female in the role for the University of Chicago, effective Feb. 1.

As vice provost for research, Lee has overseen increased access to research funding and resources, particularly federal funding, university research administration, research safety, research computing and research development support. She has also played a lead role in the university’s partnerships in Hong Kong. Lee, who has been at the University of Chicago since 1998, was appointed a full professor in the University of Chicago’s chemistry department in 2008 and specializes in membrane biophysics. She moved into the vice provost role in 2018.

“Ka Yee brings to her leadership as provost deep and broad experiences at the University, the ability to bring people of varied disciplines and perspectives together, and a clear understanding of the University’s values of academic excellence and rigorous inquiry,” University of Chicago President Robert Zimmer said.

Lee earned her undergraduate degree in electrical engineering from Brown University in 1986. Her work as an undergraduate researcher in the laboratory of Professor Nabil Lawandy resulted in her first three publications, shaping the beginning of her career path. After receiving her Sc.B., she attended Harvard University and obtained her master’s (1987) and doctoral (1992) degrees in Applied Physics. She went on to Stanford University for her first postdoctoral training in the Department of Chemistry, and her second at the University of California, Santa Barbara in Chemical Engineering. She was awarded the Brown Engineering Alumni Medal in May of 2018.

She was named by Crain’s Chicago Business as one of the up and coming Chicagoans and was the recipient of the “40 Under 40” Award in 1999, when she was 35. Since the University of Chicago appointed its first provost in 1962, there have been 13 successive men in the role, according to the university’s website.