When Rick Miller ’13C came to St. John's University, he was
certain he would eventually go to medical school. However, Miller's
professors encouraged him to explore all his options, and since
then, he has embraced academic research as a potential career.
Last summer, Miller, a
Biology major, achieved one of his most prized academic goals
when he was selected to assist Nobel Laureate
Eric Wieschaus, Ph.D., Professor of Molecular Biology at
Princeton University, in researching the embryonic development of
fruit flies, a field of study that has practical applications for
cancer and stem cell research.
"Genes in flies are homologues to genes in mammals,” Miller
said. “By studying them, we gain a better understanding of the way
those genes develop in humans.” Much of the work in Dr. Wieschaus'
lab focused on how embryonic cells connect and interact with each
other. “When it comes to cancer,” Miller explained, “cells lose
their ability to adhere to each other, and they break apart.
Understanding the mechanisms important to holding cells together
can help us to develop cancer treatments.”
Miller became interested in academic research while working with
Christopher Bazinet, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Biological
Sciences. “The background I got in Dr. Bazinet's lab made me
more excited about pursuing biological research,” Miller said.
“He's a great mentor and has a great philosophy of science.”
Miller, President of the
Biology Students Organization, networks and shares ideas with
fellow students and professors. The group hosts departmental
lecturers, providing faculty with opportunities to speak to a
cross-section of Biology majors — especially about new initiatives.
Members also participate in community service activities, which
include cleaning a park adjacent to Jamaica High School each
semester. "It’s a great way to bring students and faculty
together,” said Miller.
Originally from the Pittsburgh area, Miller received an e-mail
from the University inviting him to apply. He decided to
investigate further. “I always loved New York, so I looked into the
University. When I visited the Queens, NY, campus, it seemed like a
great fit.” Miller also appreciates the financial assistance the
Miller looks forward to obtaining a Ph.D. and pursuing research
either in the corporate sector or academia. His preference is for
academics. “I like the freedom,” he explained. “You get your own
lab. You control the direction [of the research]. The work you do
benefits the university, and, at the end of the day, if you
discover something, it's your discovery.”