U-M biologist named to Science News magazine’s Scientists to Watch list

University of Michigan evolutionary ecologist Marjorie Weber has been named to Science News magazine’s annual Scientists to Watch list, which recognizes 10 young researchers "for their potential to shape the science of the future.”

Weber is an assistant professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. She is being recognized for "her passionate exploration of big biological mysteries, including her focus on how cooperation drives evolution and biodiversity,” according to Science News.

An article about Weber in Science News highlights her work on extrafloral nectaries and their role in attracting ants that fend off attacks, and how such features promoted plant diversification. Extrafloral nectaries are nectar-secreting glands separate from a plant’s flowers.

The Science News article also mentions Weber’s research into how well college biology textbooks represent a diverse set of scientists, and her work on Project Biodiversity, which aims to make biology education equitable and inclusive.

"I am thrilled that Marjorie is being recognized in this way,” said Patricia Wittkopp, chair of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. "She is a brilliant scholar advancing our understanding of both ecology and evolution while also working on changing the face(s) of science through her work on science education and outreach. She is absolutely a ’scientist to watch,’ and we are lucky to have her as a member of EEB at U-M.”

Weber joined the U-M faculty in 2022. She earned a doctorate in ecology and evolutionary biology from Cornell University in 2014 and was a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Population Biology from 2014 to 2016. She was an assistant professor in plant biology at Michigan State University from 2016 to 2022.

"I am absolutely thrilled to be on the 2023 SN 10 Scientists to Watch list,” Weber said. "Being recognized for my potential to shape the science of the future fills me with a profound sense of excitement and responsibility. I am deeply grateful for this recognition. It is both humbling and motivating to be included in such an exceptional group of talented individuals.”

In her research, Weber asks how the complex set of interactions plants have developed with animals has shaped the generation and maintenance of biodiversity on Earth.

"Ultimately, I seek to apply lessons from plant-animal interactions to longstanding biological mysteries, such as how closely related species can coexist with one another in time and space, and what ecological factors shape patterns of species persistence and extinction at the global scale,” she said.

Weber is also interested in equitable science education, especially inclusive and accurate methods for teaching biology.

"When I was a kid I would have never believed that I could be a scientist. Despite my early love of animals and plants, I had never seen or heard of an example of a woman with a scientific career,” she said. "My journey to becoming a scientist was made possible by support from dedicated educators and mentors who worked to break stereotypes about who belonged in science.

"Now, as a full time scientist and faculty member at University of Michigan, I want to impart to U of M students that anyone, regardless of their background, can be a scientist-and I am deeply dedicated to working to make science education equitable and accessible nationwide.”

For the eighth year, Science News is spotlighting 10 earlyand mid-career scientists "on their way to widespread acclaim.” Each scientist included in the SN 10 Scientists to Watch list was selected by a committee of Science News writers and editors-many of whom are experts in their fields-for their potential to influence science.

Science News is published by Society for Science and has reported on the latest discoveries in science, technology and medicine since 1921.

Related story: Marjorie Weber explores plant-protecting ants and other wonders of evolution