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A Miami Moment with ... Martha Weber


Martha Weber
Martha Weber
Martha Weber (Miami '72 MS '07) knows about legacy. She and members of her family share a long history with Miami University as students and employees. As newly appointed coordinator of undergraduate research, Weber welcomes the opportunity to champion Miami’s longtime tradition of faculty mentoring students in research.

Q: Miami prides itself in having a long history of students working directly with faculty in research. How is the office for the advancement of research and scholarship working to foster this?

A: We are continuing that culture of encouraging inquiry-based learning by developing more and more opportunities for our students. President David Hodge and Provost Bobby Gempesaw want to move toward students becoming scholars, not just learners. The president and provost have embraced Miami’s culture and, with Jim Oris’ lead, it’s like all the spokes of the wheel are coming together. My role is to coordinate information about undergraduate research. Miami offers a variety of programs spanning the curriculum including the Undergraduate Research Awards Program, Doctoral Undergraduate Opportunities for Scholarship, Undergraduate Summer Scholars Program, Miami Hughes Internships in the Biological Sciences Program, Undergraduate Presentation Awards and Undergraduate Research Forum. There are also numerous other programs on campus as well, including many offered by the College of Arts and Science.

Q: The FYRE program is one of those spokes?

A: Yes. In 2009, the administration provided us with new funding to develop and implement the First Year Research Experience (FYRE) program. According to Jim Oris, this effort was conceived by a group of faculty and staff in a Faculty Learning Community and is funded by the Provost and President's offices, and provides a series of opportunities for first year students to begin connecting to the research endeavor. Miami’s successful Scholastic Enhancement Program has become a part of FYRE. In just four years, the increase in the number of faculty willing to include first-year students in their research has allowed us to double FYRE enrollment to 90 students involved in research in over 15 departments. Mentoring a first-year student takes a lot of work on the faculty member’s part. They have to know just how much to guide a student without ending up doing the work for the student. But the work pays off. We are seeing the impact undergraduate research has on the university.

Q: What kind of impact?

A: Several areas, but the most important is that I see it influencing scholarly achievement. I remember one student who wanted to do research, but was not part of the FYRE program. I told her to contact professors and ask to become involved. She did, and she can’t stop talking about how she is working in Michael Kennedy’s (chemistry and biochemistry) lab extracting DNA. I also recall one professor who remembered a student who observed while doing an experiment that he was coming up with more and more questions. The professor told him that developing questions is exactly what researchers do. It’s those “Aha” moments that make me smile. I teach EDL 260, Undergraduate Research for students in the FYRE program. Students write journals that describe those “Aha” moments when they begin to think like researchers. I also see the impact these programs have on faculty members. Colleagues from other universities ask me how I encourage faculty to participate because of the time factor. It doesn’t take much convincing here at Miami. I’ve seen remarkable engagement from faculty.

Q: What do you mean, engagement from faculty?

A: I have several examples. First-year students wanted to get research experience in the School of Engineering. However, because they were not yet enrolled in the higher-level courses, they could not. So. faculty put their heads together and came up with Project High Flight. A remarkable program that provides first-year students a collaborative project matching their skill levels. Other remarkable student-led FYRE teams are conducting long-term research guided by professors, Fernandes, Radina, and Kennedy. The junior and seniors are presenting research in national forums and have become peer mentors to younger FYRE students making these research projects sustainable. I want to work to keep the momentum going.

Q: What’s in store for the next year?

A: More and more collaborations. We are working with residence life and their living learning communities. Many of Miami’s efforts continue to receive outside national attention and honors, and I believe we've only just started. Finally, one of my favorite things is the spring semester undergraduate research forum. I always say that’s the day the entire Miami community can see and learn about all these research collaborations and say, ‘Wow!


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