Ka Yee Christina Lee, Ph.D.

AIMBE College of Fellows Class of 2014
For outstanding contributions to understanding fluid surface phenomena in bioengineering, particularly the action of lung surfactants and antimicrobial peptides.

Inaugural Arthur L. Kelly Prizes Honor Faculty Members

Via University of Chicago News | July 26, 2013

Professors Ka Yee Lee and John Frederick are the first recipients of the Arthur L. Kelly Prize for Exceptional Faculty Service in the Physical Sciences Division. The annual prize recognizes University of Chicago faculty members who have made outstanding contributions to the division in addition to their teaching and research. The prize was awarded at last month’s PSD Diploma and Hooding Ceremony.

Former Physical Sciences Dean Robert Fefferman and Arthur L. Kelly, who endowed the prize, presented the awards to the recipients. Kelly received his MBA from the University in 1964, was a University trustee from 1998 to 2008, and served for nearly 20 years on the PSD Visiting Committee, including 10 years as the committee’s chairman.

“It is fitting that we honor his contributions to the division and the University with this award,” said Fefferman. Kelly previously established the same prize at the Booth School of Business in 1999.

Lee, a professor in chemistry, currently serves as director of the Materials Research Science and Engineering Center and formerly served as associate director of the James Franck Institute. She is a member of the faculty steering committee for the University’s Center in Beijing, a member of the PSD Diversity Committee, and she was a fellow in the Committee on Institutional Collaboration Academic Leadership Program.

Quirky Physics Brown Bag Series Prizes Unusual Questions

Via University of Chicago News | March 7, 2012

The subscribers to Thomas Witten’s brown bag e-mail list receive a terse message from him almost every week.

These invitations to the Materials Research Science and Engineering Center’s Friday brown bag luncheons name the topic of the week and little else. The titles are almost always quirky. Recent examples have included “In Search of Sandy Fingering Instability,” “Sights and Sounds of Nanoparticle Drums,” and “Steppin’ vs. STOMPIN on Cornstarch.”

The luncheons have acquired their own mystique under the stewardship of Witten, the Homer J. Livingston Professor in Physics, having become a mainstay of intellectual life in the Materials Research Center and the James Franck Institute.

“This one’s for questions. There are other seminars for answers,” noted Leo Kadanoff, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in Physics.

The speakers remain putatively unknown until the bag lunch attendees show up in the ground-floor conference/lunch room in the east wing of the Gordon Center for Integrative Science. Witten approaches speakers on short notice to give relatively brief, informal presentations that will provoke a fusillade of questions, discussions and suggestions.

“It is not a polished talk that Tom is looking for. He’s looking for some unsolved mystery or question,” said Ka Yee Lee, professor in chemistry and MRSEC director. “Our job really is to listen and to help out in the detective work.”

Universal Solvent No Match for New Self-Healing Sticky Gel

Via University of Chicago News | January 27, 2011

Scientists can now manufacture a synthetic version of the self-healing sticky substance that mussels use to anchor themselves to rocks in pounding ocean surf and surging tidal basins. A patent is pending on the substance, whose potential applications include use as an adhesive or coating for underwater machinery or in biomedical settings as a surgical adhesive or bonding agent for implants.

Inspiring the invention were the hair-thin holdfast fibers that mussels secrete to stick against rocks in lakes, rivers and oceans. “Everything amazingly just self-assembles underwater in a matter of minutes, which is a process that’s still not understood that well,” said Niels Holten-Andersen, a postdoctoral scholar with chemistry professor Ka Yee Lee at the University of Chicago.

Holten-Andersen, Lee and an international team of colleagues published the details of their invention Jan. 24 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Early Edition. Holten-Andersen views the evolution of life on Earth as “this beautiful, amazingly huge experiment” in which natural selection has enabled organisms to evolve an optimal use of materials over many millions of years.