Today we’d like to introduce you to Newton Lee.
Newton, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…. Oh wait, actually, I am a bigger fan of Star Trek than Star Wars, because I really dig the Vulcan IDIC (Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations) concept that beauty, growth, and progress all result from the union of the unlike. MIT Prof. Emeritus Marvin Minsky wrote in The Society of Mind that the power of intelligence stems from our vast diversity. As Star Trek encourages people “to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations,” I took a leap of faith and left my homeland – Hong Kong – to come to the United States with a full scholarship to study Electrical Engineering at Vincennes University. Two years later, I transferred to the Computer Science program at Virginia Tech, supporting myself financially with teaching and research assistantship.
Due to my own personal experience, I am a firm believer in the importance of education, research, and scholarships. That is why I created the 501(c)(3) nonprofit Institute For Education, Research & Scholarships (aka IFERS) in 2004 during my 10 years of full-time job at The Walt Disney Company as a senior staff software engineer, producer, and 4-time recipient of the Disney VoluntEAR Project Leadership Award. I have also been teaching part-time at Woodbury University since 2000. I always encourage my students to practice critical thinking and to realize their full potential.
Besides teaching, writing books, and running my nonprofit organization, I am also the editor-in-chief of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Computers in Entertainment magazine as well as the chairman of the California Transhumanist Party that puts science, health, and technology at the forefront of American politics.
I got to where I am today by taking leaps of faith, working hard, collaborating with people, thinking outside the box, and being courageous to accept new challenges.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
The biggest challenge was to overcome my introversion. I did not transform into an extrovert, but I have learned to enjoy public speaking and meeting new people. I was really nervous when I conducted a video interview with Roy E. Disney for the ACM Computers in Entertainment magazine. I am more used to it after having interviewed Quincy Jones, George Lucas, and many other great minds.
Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Institute for Education, Research, and Scholarships – what should we know?
I am the founding president of the 501(c)(3) nonprofit Institute For Education, Research & Scholarships (IFERS) since 2004. We operate many impactful programs around the globe.
Here are some highlights:
In the area of education, we partner with the world’s largest academic publisher Springer Nature as well as our own imprint to promote interdisciplinary studies and critical thinking. Our published books are in more than 4,000 library holdings worldwide.
Internship and studying abroad are perfect citizen diplomacy. Since 2006, we have assisted hundreds of interns and students from more than 70 countries around the world to intern and study in the United States.
We also sponsor educational conferences, music production, computer magazine, menstrual health hub, veteran’s book club, and Type 1 diabetes education and research, among others.
It brings us to the topic of research. We are proud to be the fiscal sponsor of EASE T1D (Education, Awareness, Support, Empowerment – Type 1 Diabetes) since 2015. We have provided vials of insulin to Type 1 Diabetes Helping Hands Foundation as well as funding to medical researchers including the Massachusetts General Hospital MGH Faustman Lab. On March 14, 2016, we were acknowledged by the California State Senate in our efforts to raise awareness of and to find cures for Type 1 diabetes affecting many children and adults.
We also partner with Stanford University researchers and Foldscope Instruments to produce low-cost, origami-based print-and-fold optical microscope that is ideal for applications in global health, field based citizen science, and K12 science education.
In cybersecurity research, we were among one of the 104 teams registered with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) for the first-ever Cyber Grand Challenge (CGC) in 2014. Only 28 teams made it through two DARPA-sponsored dry runs and into the CGC Qualifying Event. Our team was ranked #7 at the CGC Scored Event 2 in April 2015 and #13 at the CGC Qualifying Event in June 2015.
Last but not least, our scholarship program reaches the needy globally — from an abused female filmmaking student at the American Film Institute (AFI) in Hollywood to an underprivileged medical student at the Ivano-Frankivsk National Medical University in the Ukraine. As of December 2017, we have offered half a million dollars in scholarships to poor students as well as to Wesleyan College’s Spectacles Math and Science Camp, Mercer University’s Youth Programs, and Museum of Aviation STEM Summer programs.
I am also the founding chairman of the California Transhumanist Party since 2017. We support (1) significant life extension and quality of life improvement achieved through the progress of science and technology, (2) an inclusive cultural, societal, and political atmosphere informed and animated by reason and science to foster peace, prosperity, and universal rights for all, and (3) efforts to use science, technology, and rational discourse to reduce and eliminate various existential risks to the human species.
Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
The most influential mentor in my adult life is Dr. Daryle Riegle who not only taught engineering but also gave wing to my aspirations. The Billups family in Virginia always makes me feel at home away from home, exemplifying the best of humanity that inspires my work. All my team members and project leaders are essential to the success of the 501(c)(3) nonprofit Institute For Education, Research & Scholarships (IFERS). In particular, I want to give a shout-out to Debbie George and Michelle Thornburg for their work on Type 1 diabetes education, Jim Cybulski for low-cost microscope, Danielle Keiser for menstrual health hub, John Lee for veteran’s book club, Jeremy Wang for Loving Day San Jose, Nischal Bandi for raising scholarships for students in STEM, Monica Herrick and Chloe Estelle Carrier for helping students with autism, Rain Breaw Michaels for scholarship awards to female students in cinematography, and Marja Perren for inspiring children to have an openness to art and good deeds.
- Address: 800 Wilshire Boulevard, Suite 200
Los Angeles, California 90017
- Website: http://www.ifers.org
- Phone: 818.861.9580
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org