Hazel Lee standing by a wall full of names
Hyejung “Hazel” Lee earned her Earth sciences PhD in 2019 at USC Dornsife and now is a scientist at plant-based meat company Beyond Meat. (Photo: Courtesy of Lee.)

From wood fossils to plant-based burgers with an Earth sciences degree

Alumna Hyejung “Hazel” Lee honed her lab skills at USC Dornsife, and now she uses them at Beyond Meat, a maker of meat substitutes.
ByGreg Hardesty

Hyejung “Hazel” Lee spent her first 12 years in the concrete jungle.

Through fifth grade, she lived in a skyscraper in Seoul, South Korea, before her father’s job in the automotive industry necessitated a move to Fairfax County in Virginia.

The seeds of Lee’s interest in the natural world were planted during her three years living in Virginia, before she, her parents and older sister returned to South Korea, where Lee finished high school.

Now, after earning a PhD from the Department of Earth Sciences at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, she’s an accomplished scientist in a field in which women remain underrepresented. Now, she works at, of all places, a food company, an unusual vocation for an Earth sciences graduate.

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