The value of research

illustration of women in stem

Scholarship winners prove their hypothesis The value of research

Started research their first year at Miami

Lexie Adams and Hope Kirby both started hands-on research during their first year at Miami, and they reaped the rewards two years later when they received the Goldwater Scholarship, the premier undergraduate award for research in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields.

portrait of lexie adams portrait of hope kirby

Adams and Kirby were among 396 students nationwide, and 13 from an Ohio public university, to receive the 2019-2020 Goldwater Scholarship. Adams is a chemical engineering major and Spanish minor from Liberty Township, while Kirby is a microbiology major and geology and bioinformatics double minor from Glendale, Arizona.

Although their research was disrupted by the coronavirus outbreak in spring 2020, they each are dedicated to continuing with careers in the STEM fields that the Goldwater Scholarship is meant to enhance.

Adams was in her first semester at Miami in the fall of 2017 when she connected with her faculty mentor Andrew Jones, assistant professor of chemical, paper and biomedical engineering. Jones said Adams “has made lasting contributions to research in my laboratory. Her strong work ethic and positive attitude have shaped the laboratory culture by pushing her fellow researchers, including myself, to do their respective best.”

Engagement in multiple campus engineering activities on the Oxford campus - including as an Undergraduate Summer Scholar in 2018 - has advanced Adams’ research. “Without that experience, I do not think I would have had the opportunity to be published or win an award such as the Goldwater Scholarship,” she said.

Scientific curiosity drives Kirby’s research focus

Originally a pre-medical studies co-major, Kirby joined the lab of her faculty mentor Luis Actis, professor and chair of microbiology, lured by the medical implications of his research on the bacterium Acinetobacter baumannii. The antibiotic-resistant bacterium can persist in medical environments and cause serious infections in humans. She studies the way A. baumannii responds to light.

“Ironically, by the time I actually started working in the lab I realized that the only reason for my interest in medicine was the science,” Kirby said.

Actis said Kirby “has an amazing capacity to listen, learn, and respond by understanding methods, interpreting data, and relating them to published observations,” Actis said.

Kirby plans to pursue a doctorate in microbiology after graduating from Miami. She said she made the most out of her time at home during the pandemic.

“This time has forced me to slow down and remind myself of the true important things of life,” she said. “I’ve been able to spend quality time with a family I rarely get to see, and play piano in a place where I can sing as loudly as I want to.”

Luis Actis teaching a class