Anthropology Professor Brings Something More to CHASS

By Catherine Szilagyi, Student Intern of CHASS College Computing
Sang-Hee Lee
Sang-Hee Lee

Professor Sang-Hee Lee of the College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences’ Anthropology Department recently collaborated on a project with three other professors outside of CHASS in an effort to better visually portray the extensive similarities between the human and chimpanzee genomes.

Professor Lee, who has been teaching at UCR for the past four years, was invited to contribute her expertise as an evolutionary anthropologist to the project along with Eamonn Keogh, an assistant professor of computer science and engineering who headed the venture, expert in bioinformatics Stefan Lombardi, and graphical computer expert Victor Zordan. The team reported their results this past September.

Lee’s interest in medical anthropology and work as a paleoanthropologist is something rare and quite inspiring, particularly with regard to her background. As a female in a minority group known for leaning toward the sciences and mathematics, Professor Lee is a prime example of the diversity and broad spectrum of individuals found among CHASS‘ faculty, and is an inspiration to her students.

“I did not know that I was being a role model, until I became a professor at UCR and had Asian students tell me about how my example in this field [of anthropology] encouraged their own interest in it,” Lee said. “I think it has allowed myself and others to break free of the idea that Asians can only be good at math, computers, and the sciences.”

Lee’s fascination with the evolution of human morphological variation, human longevity, the development of human brains, and the development in the differences between the sexes, both biologically and culturally, have all lead her to a series of distinct contributions in her field. For quite some time, she has endeavored to blend the sciences and humanities by integrating biology and culture to answer the core question anthropologists seek to answer: What makes us human?

“Since I was a child, I very much liked detective stories and piecing together mysteries,” Lee said, looking back. “As I progressed through the study of anthropology, my passion and drive for it grew even more as I realized that this is a subject relevant to the general public’s own desire to know where humans come from, and where we are going. I think that was what really gave me a sense of worth in what I was doing.”

Professor Sang-Hee Lee has studied a wide array of topics in the discipline of anthropology such as how men are different from women, when those differences developed, when and how humans began to age, how the brain has developed to the size it is today, and what human DNA may tell us about our origins. Lee has also published several research articles and last year held a very successful and popular UCR Freshman Discovery Seminar on the topic of Cannibalism.

For more information on Professor Sang-Hee Lee, please visit her personal website or the Anthropology faculty website.

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