Congratulations to Professor Deborah Goldberg who was named an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor. The highly prestigious Thurnau Professorships honor tenured faculty whose commitment to and investment in undergraduate teaching has had a demonstrable impact on the intellectual development and lives of their students.

"I'm incredibly honored to be joining the Thurnau Professors," said Goldberg. "The ones I know, including John Vandermeer and Trisha Wittkopp in EEB, are incredibly inspiring teachers, and I am thrilled to find myself in their company." 

Over the past six years, Goldberg’s visionary leadership led to the establishment of two prescient, transformative programs that have had outsized and growing impacts on undergraduate STEM education: M-Sci (formerly M-Bio) and Authentic Research Connection, according to the nomination by Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Professor and Chair Diarmaid Ó Foighil.

Goldberg, also the Elzada U. Clover Collegiate Professor of EEB, served with distinction as chair of EEB from 2003-2013. In 2010, Goldberg started the Michigan Biology Academy Scholars program, M-Bio, a high school-to-college two-year transition program. M-Bio aimed to increase the number of College of Literature, Science, and the Arts’ undergraduates with degrees in biology by creating a support system for students with high ability and potential, but who might not otherwise be successful at a large, highly competitive research university. She also obtained a $600,000 scholarship grant from  National Science Foundation grant to support students in M-Bio.  In addition to EEB, the program included the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology. EEB and MCDB co-manage the University of Michigan undergraduate Program in Biology.

M-Bio was launched in 2011 with an enrollment of 20 students, nearly doubling by 2013 to 38 students. The early success of M-Bio encouraged Goldberg to contact fellow chairs in other LSA STEM departments to consider expanding the M-Bio model to include their undergraduate programs. Her vision involved adding all the natural sciences in LSA and a name change from M-Bio to M-Sci. Additionally, Goldberg reached out to colleagues in engineering to partner with their M-STEM Academy to craft a comprehensive, cross-college M-STEM Academies grant proposal, that would necessitate buy-in by the Colleges of LSA and Engineering, the Provost’s Office and Office for the Vice President of Research.   The M-Sci Academy in LSA and the M-Engin program in COE are now united under the M-STEM Academies umbrella, sharing much of their summer programming and leveraging staff expertise across colleges.

“I am deeply impressed by Dr. Goldberg’s ability to generate the deep reserves of energy, drive, focus and perseverance required to reach a successful outcome,” said Ó Foighil. As a result, Goldberg is the principal investigator of a $2 million, five-year National Science Foundation grant – “The M-STEM Academies at the University of Michigan: an integrated approach to increase the number and diversity of undergraduates in STEM disciplines” – awarded in 2013.

In 2014, M-Bio officially transformed into M-Sci. Its first year enrollment of 32 grew steadily to 55 in 2016. Goldberg continues as LSA’s faculty co-director, responsible for M-Sci.

To date, 210 LSA undergraduates have participated in M-Bio/M-Sci and, compared to LSA undergraduates as a whole, these students are more diverse, have lower incomes and, on average, are slightly less well-prepared academically on entering U-M. However, when compared to LSA undergraduates with similar backgrounds, M-Sci students are much more likely to be retained by the STEM programs and achieve better STEM educational outcomes, as measured by GPAs. “Although many people have been involved in this impressive programmatic success, Deborah Goldberg clearly deserves the lion’s share of credit,” said Ó Foighil.

“Within the past few years, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) issues have rightly attained first-rank prominence at the University of Michigan,” said Ó Foighil. “Goldberg not only realized its importance years ago, she acted on it, with truly ground-breaking results that are making a real difference in a substantial number of lives. She deserves great credit for her proactive leadership on this issue of great importance to LSA’s and to U-M’s undergraduate educational mission. This is not only my considered opinion; it is widely shared among campus educational leaders in promoting better DEI outcomes for our undergraduates.”

Deborah Goldberg, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor and Elzada U. Clover Collegiate Professor of EEB

“Deborah Goldberg is deeply committed and invested in diversifying STEM at the University of Michigan,” said Trachette Jackson, Professor of Mathematics. “She is the heart and soul of M-Sci, LSA’s component of the M-STEM Academies, which is the most comprehensive program at U-M focused on increasing retention in STEM.”

“Deborah Goldberg has distinguished herself as an outstanding, committed undergraduate educator,” said Claire Sandler, former director, Science Learning Center. “Her energy, compassion, vision and leadership of initiatives like the Michigan Science Academy Scholars Program (M-Sci) have enhanced the lives of so many undergraduates, rendering them far better prepared to succeed academically, professionally and personally.”

In addition, Goldberg is the principal investigator of a successful five-year $1.5 million Howard Hughes Medical Institute proposal called “Does authentic research in introductory courses increase persistence in STEM?” awarded in 2014. Through this innovative program, “authentic research” is being incorporated into special sections of the large enrollment introductory laboratory courses in chemistry (Chem 125/126) and biology (Bio 173). Students learn many of the same lab techniques encountered in the standard introductory lab sections, but in the more exciting context of faculty-led research projects.

To date, three Authentic Research Connection streams have been established that stand in for the normal introductory laboratory experience. The first research stream, developed by EEB faculty member Professor Thomas Schmidt in Biology 173, focuses on understanding the human microbiome, specifically the students’ own gut microbiome (the microbial organisms inhabiting their enteric systems) by genomically characterizing the bacteria, measuring their metabolic activity, and identifying how the composition of the microbiome can be changed. This research stream started with only two sections (approximately 40 students) in the first year and in the second year increased to four sections (approximately 80 students). EEB Professors George Zhang and Tim James have begun developing another research stream for Biology 173 on experimental evolution in yeast, to be offered starting winter 2018.

Two additional research streams began in the second year in the Chemistry Department with two sections each (approximately 30 students total). Solar cell technology, led by Professor Stephen Maldonado, focuses on novel materials to increase the efficiency of solar cell technology. Students in this lab fabricate perovskite solar cells and test why this material produces higher energy conversion rates. Professor Kerri Pratt leads a research stream on snow chemistry. Students measure the chemical composition of snow from the Arctic and also determine the environmental effect of road salting and vehicle composition on snow collected in Michigan.                      

Professor Donald Zak, who has a dry appointment in EEB, was also awarded a Thurnau Professorship. Read more on the School of Natural Resources and Environment website. Goldberg and Zak join two other EEB Thurnau Professors John Vandermeer and Patricia Wittkopp.

Compiled by Gail Kuhnlein