Irene Lee received her undergraduate degrees in Chemistry and Biology at the University of Toledo, Ohio. She then conducted her graduate work with Stephen J Benkovic at the Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA on screening and developing antibodies that catalyze amide bond hydrolysis; she received her Ph.D. in 1995.
She was then employed as a postdoctoral research associate in the Benkovic lab to study the mechanism of a cell-cycle regulated DNA methyltransferase (CcrM) that has been implicated by genetic studies to be an endogenous substrate of Lon protease. She joined the Department of Chemistry at Case Western Reserve University in 1998 and is currently an Associate Professor in the department.
Her research interests entail enzymology of proteases, kinases, ATPases, amine oxidases and polymerases. Additionally structure-activity studies of synthetic molecules that are designed as modulators or activity probes of the aforementioned enzymes also constitute a major research focus. It is anticipated that information generated from these studies will be used to advance our understanding of enzyme catalysis in the context of their physiological functions in cells.