When it comes to balancing athletics and academics, there are few who do it better than UNCG senior Evan Rees.

From winning a Southern Conference regular season soccer championship to conducting research in England, the chemistry major with minors in math and German has taken advantage of nearly every opportunity at UNCG.

Rees, who will graduate this May, was originally drawn to UNCG because of its strong soccer program. However, he quickly learned that the university offered a world of possibilities – quite literally – both on and off the field.

Rees has spent two of his summers studying and researching in Europe, including a trip to Germany in 2013 to learn the language of his ancestors.

“The initial intrigue for me was the adventure of traveling,” Rees said. “Once I got to Germany, I ended up falling in love with the culture.”

Just last summer, he conducted organometallic chemistry research at the Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies at the University of Bath. The research was funded by a National Science Foundation grant.

Back at home, Rees has spent the past two years working alongside Dr. Nicholas Oberlies in UNCG’s Natural Products and Drug Discovery Center. Rees is part of a team led by Oberlies that is working to identify compounds in fungi that may help treat cancer.

“It’s a blast working with Dr. Oberlies,” Rees said. “He’s been an incredible resource for me. I owe a lot to him.”

When he’s not in the lab, you can find him on the field. For Rees, his favorite college memories are the times he’s spent with his teammates.

“Playing has been a lot of fun, but ultimately it’s about the relationships that you make,” he said. “We really came together this year, and I think that shows with the conference championship.”

So how does he do it all? According to Rees, the key to success in both academics and athletics is to focus on the task at hand.

“I try not to stress,” he said. “Wherever I am, I try to put all of my energy into what I’m working on in that moment.”

This fall, Rees will start working toward a PhD in pharmaceutical sciences at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He plans to explore career opportunities in academia and industry, with dreams of one day becoming an entrepreneur.


Are you or is someone you know graduating in May? Follow #uncggrad on social media for news and updates about Spring Commencement.


Story by Alyssa Bedrosian, University Relations
Photography by Chris Snow, Photography Intern