Three EEB faculty honored with All-University Awards
May 1, 2022
MSU recognizes the accomplishments of faculty and staff for outstanding achievement and contributions to the university as well as within their fields of research. Among them are three EEB core faculty members.
Jeffrey Conner in the department of plant biology in the College of Natural Science is an internationally recognized expert in plant ecology and evolution, specifically the role of natural selection on species adaptation in a changing or variable environment, the speed of evolutionary change in natural populations, and the various constraints on the course or outcomes of evolution.
Additionally, Conner has performed seminal work on the role of floral traits on fitness in wild radish, an agricultural weed; and on milkweed, the host of the iconic monarch butterfly. He has also studied the impact of herbivory on the interactions of plants with their pollinators.
Conner is an exceptional professional guide, with 24 graduate students and postdoctoral research associates mentored in his lab, along with more than 200 undergraduates; 25 of these undergraduates were from underrepresented minority groups and seven of these 25 now hold a Ph.D. in a STEM field.
Conner’s commitment to helping students learn is evident in his textbook, which contains, according to one of his colleagues, the best explanation of the mathematical and statistical approaches used in ecological genetics available. Another colleague drew attention to his “clear introduction to foundational principles in evolution [that] serves to illustrate his ability
to communicate complex topics concisely [and] with clarity.”
Chris Waters in the department of microbiology and molecular genetics in the colleges of natural science and osteopathic medicine is an exceptional researcher, educator, and mentor.
His research ranges from increasing understanding of bacterial chemical signaling to developing novel technologies for biomedical applications. He explores chemical signaling in the human pathogen, Vibrio cholera, to define the role of these molecules in bacterial pathogenesis. By disrupting their chemical signaling pathways, Waters is developing new strategies to control bacterial disease.
Waters epitomizes the ideal role model and mentor, both as a classroom instructor and as a research mentor. He teaches one of the largest undergraduate microbial genetics courses in the world, with about 180 students annually.
Within his laboratory, he has provided research opportunities to approximately 50 undergraduate students; MSU named him its Undergraduate Research Mentor of the Year in 2014. He has also mentored four postdoctoral scientists, 10 Ph.D. (or D.O.-Ph.D.) students, and two master’s students since 2008.
Waters makes reaching out to the local community a priority. He led MSU’s Foldscope team in a local high school, the Microbial Magic station at the MSU science festival, and organized and led Microbiology Day at the Impression 5 Science Museum in Lansing, Michigan. Since 2012, Waters and his students have given presentations on bioluminescent bacteria and microbial life in ponds to elementary school students at school science nights.
Marjorie Weber in plant biology is an evolutionary ecologist who understands the social science theories of how people learn and applies them to the instruction and activities she creates in all her courses, creating classroom environments and student activities that foster interactive, inquiry-based learning and peer instruction.
Weber’s commitment to exemplary student instruction was central to the development of an excellent graduate curriculum in quantitative methods for the Ecology, Evolution and Behavior Program, in which she also teaches. Through this curriculum, students develop a robust quantitative and programing toolbox that empowers them as graduate students and in their careers.
Weber has a deep desire to enhance diversity, equity, and inclusion in STEM, leading her to develop Project Biodiversify, a worldwide project that houses teaching materials and methods aimed at enhancing human diversity and inclusivity in biology courses. For this work, Weber was awarded MSU’s Excellence in Diversity award and has developed an international following of instructors that utilize the project’s methods and workshops.
Weber’s research focuses on understanding the role of species interactions for the diversity of life on Earth. Weber has received the highest research honor in her field when named an Ecological Society of America Early Career Fellow for 2018-2023.
Weber leads a multi-institution NSF grant, “Improving Undergraduate STEM Education,” aimed at understanding the impact of scientist role models on student performance and interest in quantitative learning.
The MSU Awards Convocation for 2022 will be held from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. May 11 in the Big Ten Rooms at the Kellogg Center.
Read about all the awards in MSU Today