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Research isn’t a yawn for this Goldwater Scholar

For Michael Miller, a love of science and research began in high school when he took part in a program that examined the effect of kindergarten on child development.

“From an early age in high school, I was on the track for research,” he says.

That research track has taken Miller to Binghamton University and Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island, where his on- and off-campus work helped him win the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship. The scholarship, established in 1986, honors students who intend to enter math, science and engineering fields. Miller is the second Binghamton University to win the award in the past two years; Gregory Stoddard won in 2008.

“The Goldwater Scholarship shows that I’m on the right path and the research I am doing is good research,” says Miller, a senior from Plainview who majors in biochemistry and psychobiology.

At Binghamton, Miller is working with Anne Clark, associate professor of biological sciences and graduate student Andrew Gallup on yawning and thermoregulation in parakeets. The researchers determined that the birds yawned more in heated environments in order to cool the brain. The study received national attention late in 2008, appearing on the Discovery Channel’s news website and other outlets, including msnbc.com.

“I was surprised and happy it received so much attention,” Miller says. “It was very accessible, which is what makes me interested in the research.”

At Brookhaven, Miller examined gastric-electrical stimulation and its effect on central brain activity.  The study looks at the stomach-brain relationship as the subject receives an obesity treatment.

But Miller is more than a student researcher. He is working to educate the public on the brain as co-president of the Neuroscience Club. The group holds a Brain Awareness Week, in which members travel to two local elementary schools to give demonstrations of brain structure and function. The club also joined with another group Miller co-leads, the Fencing Club, to kick off some of the events.

Miller hopes to continue brain-science research and eventually teach neuroscience.

“A person’s university experience is based on what he or she makes of it,” he says. “I really enjoy what Binghamton University has offered me. It’s been beyond expectations, but I’m still excited about the next year. All around, Binghamton has prepared me for my career path.”

 

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Last Updated: 12/1/09