Uddom Lee loves to learn. It sounds simple, but that has been his key to success at ODU.
He already had a head start on his college coursework when he got to the University as an undergrad in 2018 because of advanced placement classes he took in high school that transferred in. From there, he only picked up speed.
“I knew I was pretty good at the schoolwork grind, understanding how a class is formatted, what I need to study and how to perform well,” Lee said. “So, I used that to my advantage.”
To that end, he took 17 to 18 credits each semester.
“I put on that workload until I talked to my counselor, and she was like, ‘Oh, you can graduate next semester.’ And I was like, ‘What?’” he said with a laugh.
Lee graduated with a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity and a minor in computer science in spring 2021 – a year early. Still, it wasn’t enough for him.
“I wanted to learn a little bit more,” he said.
He decided to pursue a master’s degree in cybersecurity, which he will finish this spring.
“He is simply an outstanding student,” said Charlie Kirkpatrick, a lecturer in the School of Cybersecurity. “He is driven with great personal energy.”
As a kid, Lee loved video games and originally thought about being a game designer. He got into coding and programming, eventually finding his way to cybersecurity because it sounded exciting and unique.
“I was prepared to try something new. It was that time in my life, when you’re about to finish high school, go off to college, you want to just keep trying new things,” he said.
During his first semester at ODU, he lived in the Cybersecurity Living-Learning Community (LLC). LLCs allow students to live and engage with other students who have similar academic or professional interests.
"I wanted to learn a little bit more," said Uddom Lee, a cybersecurity master's student.
His decision to study cybersecurity was further cemented through an internship with the ODU Information Technology Services department.
“That’s what showed me what I was going to be doing in my career, and I really liked it,” he said.
He also found a way to share his love for learning through GenCyber, a summer camp about the basics of cybersecurity for high school students and teachers.
“Uddom has been a mentor during the GenCyber program since 2019 to teach cybersecurity lessons to K-12 students,” said Peng Jiang, lecturer in the School of Cybersecurity. “He is always full of passion and eager to learn more for every project and task assigned to him.”
His professors were so impressed with his involvement in GenCyber that they urged him to join the National Science Foundation’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program, which connects undergraduates with faculty on research projects. Students receive a stipend and, in many cases, assistance with travel and housing expenses.
Lee worked on a research paper with Jiang that explored how to give a fuller picture of a location on Google Street View by combining images taken during various times of day and in different weather conditions.
He remembers waking up to an email saying the paper was published this past March.
“When you’re constantly working on that big of a project and you’re making slow progress, it feels like a tiny bit of a slog. But then I woke up to that, and I was like, ‘This is awesome,’” he said.
When he graduates this spring, he will go straight into a job as a junior analyst for Partner Forces, a management consulting firm that helps government and commercial clients manage their risk and enhance their security.
And although his formal education is ending (for now), Lee said “I’m always happy to try and learn new things.”