3-Minute Thesis Winner Weber’s Journey from Student to CEO

By Michael Parker

ALBANY, N.Y. (April 25, 2024) —Alexis Weber has earned many titles during her time at UAlbany. The fifth-year PhD student from Jacksonville, Fla., recently added 3-Minute Thesis winner to her list of accolades, which also includes being selected for the 2024 Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence and earning one of the two $25,000 prizes for her presentation at the SUNY Startup Summer School in 2022

But the title she has most grown accustomed to is that of student.

“I like to describe myself as a 25th grader. I have been in some form of education for almost all my life,” said Weber, who is studying analytical chemistry with Distinguished Professor Igor Lednev. “I have seen my friends join the work force for years while I was a student and the differences that happen because of that.”

In March, Weber was the winner of UAlbany’s 3-Minute Thesis competition, an event organized by the Graduate School that challenges students to relay the significance of their research in just three minutes with the aid of a just one slide. The competition was originally established by the University of Queensland in 2008 and is now contested at hundreds of institutions worldwide.

As Weber puts the finishing touches on her UAlbany journey, she is already preparing for her next title, CEO of Lednev’s startup SupreMEtric LLC, a materials authentication company founded in 2019. Lednev brought Weber on board as COO in 2021 to help develop novel methods for forensic applications based on laser spectroscopy and advanced statistics.

“Working with Dr. Lednev, both in school and in the company, has been an amazing experience,” said Weber. “I don’t know if I would be as secure in my future as I am today if I had joined a different lab. From the beginning he believed in me and constantly helped me work towards my goals. He is a big believer in self-motivation in research and this mindset allowed me to flourish as a researcher during my time at UAlbany.”

Joining SupreMEtric created new challenges for Weber that come with running a startup, including honing her time management skills. This ended up aiding her as she competed in the 3MT competition.

“In scientific talks we are given between 15-30 minutes to discuss our research. But in reality, no one will sit and listen that long,” said Weber. “As I work with SupreMEtric, it is nice to be developing the transferable skill of how to discuss my research in the best way possible to make the most impact.”

Despite her numerous roles and titles, Weber also found the time to take on leadership roles within several student organizations.

“I am heavily involved with the Society for Applied Spectroscopy (SAS) and the student chapter for the New York Capital Region (NYCR),” continued Weber, who will graduate in May after successfully defending her dissertation on April 19. “I put a lot of time and effort into this organization. I was the secretary and president of the organization over the years. Now I’m the student representative for all of SAS, where I try and be the voice of students interested in spectroscopy.”

She’s also a member of STEM NOW (Nourishing Opportunities for Women), where she is the chemistry representative for the organization that was founded by one of her friends at UAlbany, Mónica Ventura.

For Lednev, when it was time to identify a manager who would be knowledgeable in his company's technology, he knew Weber was an ideal choice, even though it would pose an additional challenge on top of her normal doctoral student activities.

"She exceeded all my expectations, as she very quickly became a nationally recognized young entrepreneur," said Lednev. "Under her management, SupreMEtric received a $1M grant for developing a working prototype of the first universal method for the identification of body fluid traces for forensic purposes. Her excellent communication skills, including both in-person conversations and presentations played a significant role in this Alexis’s success."

In fact, Weber's publications and presentations to date have resulted in six national student awards. 

"The sky is the limit for Alexis and I wish her every success in her career development," continued Lednev. "Her success is a true testimony to great opportunities that UAlbany provides to talented and hardworking students."

Somehow, she also has found the time to mentor her fellow graduate students, especially those who are just starting their journeys toward an advanced degree.

“One piece of advice that I constantly give new graduate students is: it is okay to ask for help from your support system — financially and mentally, if possible,” said Weber. “Being a graduate student in America is hard and the cost of living is not getting any lower. It is okay to be in your mid-twenties and still needing help every now and then. Do not compare yourself to your friends who decided to work, you made a different choice for yourself and that is okay.”

Weber continues to maintain contact with her support system, her family in Jacksonville. 

“While working on my degree was a huge priority, I always felt like I had the possibility and freedom to see my family if I was struggling,” continued Weber.

Her final piece of advice?

“Remember to take a break, all you are working towards will not happen if you do not take care of your own mental and physical health,” said Weber.

Weber was one of six finalists in UAlbany’s 3MT competition for 2024. 

Other students include: 

  • Jina Byeon, doctoral student in curriculum and instruction, advisor: Julie E. Learned

  • Charlotte Huang, doctoral student in Public Health, advisor: Melissa Tracy

  • Manuela Montoya-Giraldo, doctoral student in biological sciences, advisor: Cheryl Andam

  • Alexander Perry, doctoral student in sociology, advisor: Kate Averett

  • Rubab Ume, doctoral student in nanoscale engineering, advisor: Serge Oktyabrsky

“All the students who presented at the 3-Minute Thesis finals did a magnificent job. Their exciting research speaks to their individual talents and hard work as well as the outstanding mentoring they have received from their faculty advisors," said Interim Vice Provost and Dean of the Graduate School Christine K. Wagner. "We wish Alexis Weber the very best as she advances to the Northeast Regional 3-Minute Thesis competition, representing UAlbany.”