Lee received his B.S. degree from the National Taiwan University in 1959 and Doctorate from UC Berkeley in 1965. After working with Professor Mahan at Berkeley and Professor Herschbach at Harvard as a post-doctoral fellow, he was appointed Assistant Professor at the University of Chicago in 1968. He returned to Berkeley as Professor of Chemistry in 1974. He was University Professor and Principal Investigator at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, UC Berkeley, before he returned to Taiwan to serve as the President of Academia Sinica from 1994 to 2006, the highest ranking academic institution in Taiwan. He was elected President of the International Council for Science (ICSU) in 2008 and served from 2011 to 2014. He has received numerous awards and honors, including the 1986 Nobel Prize in Chemistry and Doctor Honoris Causa from 41 universities throughout the world.