Wheeling Park graduate Malia Miller

Wheeling Park High School graduate Malia Miller recently earned a distinguished honor from West Virginia University. 

Miller, a 2014 Patriot alum, was recently named as a recipient of WVU’s “2023 Awards of Distinction in Mentoring Undergraduates in Research.” The award recognizes and rewards faculty and graduate students who encourage and support undergraduates in making an original intellectual or creative contribution to their discipline. This year’s awards were presented to four WVU faculty members and Miller, the lone graduate student to earn the honor. 

Sponsored by the Office of Undergraduate Research and the Office of the Provost, awards have been presented to faculty in four categories since 2016: behavioral and social sciences, biosciences and health sciences, humanities and the arts, and physical sciences and technology. In 2022 a new category for graduate students was created to recognize the important role graduate students play in mentoring undergraduates in research and creative work. 

In her five years as a graduate student, Miller has mentored several undergraduates in research, most of them starting in their freshmen year with no previous experience in research. 

“Malia goes above and beyond the level of care, compassion, clear communication of expectation and overall effort to mentor than one would see from a graduate student,” Kevin Daly, professor of biology and Miller’s mentor, said.  

Miller is a PhD student in the Department of Biology. She said she has always been an ambitious student with a tremendous desire to learn. Miller plans to one day become a university professor and work with students who love learning as she does.

“I want to inspire students to learn,” Miller said. “I currently mentor undergraduates in my mentor’s lab, and it has been a joy to help them grow as people and as scientists. I am passionate about breaking down the barriers to science and making it less intimidating for new students. I know from my experience at Park how a great teacher can make a world of difference.” 

Miller is a proud product of Ohio County Schools. She attended Elm Grove Elementary School and Bridge Street Middle School prior to attending Wheeling Park. She said she is grateful for the curriculum at Park that prepared her well for WVU.

“I took a lot of AP classes at Park,” Miller said. “I came to college with 35 college credits. It allowed me to fit in my majors - biology and psychology, along with an area of emphasis in neuroscience and a variety of extracurriculars. My AP classes gave me the space and time to explore and expand my interests in college.” 

Miller said she looks back fondly at Elm Grove, Bridge Street and Park.

“I thought it was incredible,” she said. “School was always one of my favorite places to be. I would love to go back.”

Miller had a record number of nominations for her recent award with many of her mentees praising her mentorship style as well as the care and support she showed each of them.

“When I presented at the WVU Fall 2022 Research Symposium, Malia was there on a Saturday afternoon to see my poster, hear me give my speech. She did not have an obligation to be there, but she came because she supports her undergraduates in the projects they do,” Samantha Bostic, a biology major, said.

According to Cinthia Pacheco, assistant director for the Office of Undergraduate Research, the feedback shared by students and colleagues is an important part of the nomination process.  

“We know that participation in undergraduate research increases the retention of students in college, but beyond that, it helps students to be more successful in their majors and more prepared for the challenges of a constantly changing world,” she said.