Amanda Miller didn’t have Texas Tech on her radar until her father brought her to Lubbock to see where he got his degree. Once she felt the good vibes, she says she knew the university was a great fit for her and her studies. Miller recently spent the summer at Harvard as an Amgen Scholar.
When she started at Texas Tech, Amanda Miller had her eye on pre-med with a double major – in biology and psychology. But the opportunity to do undergraduate research led her to what is now her goal: The 21-year-old senior will be pursuing a MD and PhD in a medical scientist training program after she graduates in May.
This past summer, Miller was one of 20 students from across country to be selected as an Amgen Scholar at Harvard. Amgen is one of the largest biotech companies around, and one of the most successful.
Two hundred students are selected as Amgen Scholars each year and most at taken from top research institutions like Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Miller was the only student from Texas to be selected this year.
One of the biggest takeaways for Miller from her time at Harvard was finding her calling.
“This is what I absolutely adore, more than anything else, and that I can have a real impact in the lives of others through not only practicing science but also putting it together with medicine. So getting to confirm that within myself was something that I’d achieved this summer,” she says.
Miller, who describes herself as an oddball in the family since she’s the first to go to graduate school, hopes to stay in Lubbock to do her medical scientist training program, which would allow her to eventually both see pediatric patients but also do research. She’s applied to stay here but also submitted applications to 16 other programs.
The articulate, somewhat reserved and humble young woman says she applauds Texas Tech strong interest in providing research opportunities to undergraduate students.
“I’m so thankful that I decided to come to Texas Tech for that reason, specifically. I really think every day that if I had attended another university, even another public university in the state, I would not have had the same undergraduate research experience, or opportunities. One of the reasons I say that is, my experience here at Texas Tech has made me realize that the school has a very open-door policy I feel, especially when it comes to undergraduates,” Miller says. “I’ve never been told no by a faculty member or an administrator when I have a new idea or something I want to look in to, something I’m passionate about. And that percolates through undergraduate research opportunities here.”
Miller also was one of 240 in the US selected this past spring for a Goldwater Scholarship, an award designed to encourage research careers in science, engineering and math. One of her Texas Tech professors, Dom Casadonte, says Miller has all the ingredients to be a standout researcher. And that she embodies the saying, ‘chance favors the prepared mind.”
“Her lab techniques are superb for example and she a certain intuition regarding experiments that I really don’t see very often except in senior graduate students quite frankly,” Casadonte says.
Miller will continue to work with Casadonte this year. She’s helping test the efficacy of magnetothermal therapy using superparamagnetic nanoparticles to eradicate harmful biofilms in a wound, which would benefit diabetic patients who have chronic wounds.
“She represents what is really the best at Texas Tech. Not only just because of her intelligence, but also, she’s one of the most caring individuals I know. She has a very strong sense of what’s right and what’s wrong,” Casadonte says. “She also has the ability to bounce back from difficulties and to see what is positive when thing are rough.”
Miller is keen to spend lots more time – probably as long as 10 years -- learning ---- and she is fine with that.