Published 10/09/14

Ryan Miller '15: An undergrad research fellowship fueled passion for microbiology

Majors: Biology, Applied Psychology
Minor: Business Administration
Hometown: Smithfield, RI
Path: Summer Undergraduate Research Fellow; graduate school

As a kid, Ryan Miller loved science – whether it was watching "Bill Nye the Science Guy,” or adventuring outdoors. In between, he tried to read everything he could about how the world worked. “Today, I’m confident in saying that I have finally discovered my niche at Bryant – and in the world.”

Brain science is the field Miller hopes to work in, specifically as a professor of biological psychology. “The combination of biology and psychology, I believe, gives a unique insight into the human condition,” he says. “By understanding the transmission of brain chemicals between physiological structures in the brain, and the anatomical features of the body, we can come to know what makes us truly human – and work to better ourselves.”

“The type of work I was doing with the other fellows was graduate level."

Miller applied for a grant from the Summer Undergraduate Research Fund (SURF) after learning about the selective statewide program from Assistant Professor of Chemistry Christopher Reid. “Luckily for me, a biotechnology class I took with Professor Reid in the spring involved the very same types of proteins I would be working with over the summer,” says Miller. “My professor knew my work ethic and level of experience, which gave me an advantage when applying.”

Miller was required to work 35 hours a week but most days arrived early and left late. He loved being in the lab and was happy to find the work both interesting and challenging. “The type of work I was doing with the other fellows was graduate level,” he says. “Mine was similar to the work required for a Ph.D. or master’s project in microbiology – only miniaturized.” Miller’s project involved trying to figure out a way to purify a particular protein and how it works. “If we can figure out how this protein bonds to a cell wall, we can figure out how to stop it from working. That would kill the bacteria and potentially cure a disease!”

Professor Reid was very encouraging and explained all of the processes involved in the project in a way that truly engaged him, Miller says. “He supplied the tools and the knowledge in order to do my project on my own and actually pursue some of the coolest science that, before the project, I never imagined.”

In addition to working in the lab, Miller traveled to conferences and companies such as Pfizer, which provided opportunities to see and hear about interesting advances in science.

Soon, Miller and his classmates will see their names on papers published by Professor Reid.

“It would be an understatement to say it is incredible that I could be published in a science journal as an undergraduate,” he says.