Miller time

After three years my Miller Fellowship now came to an end. While this is a sad, sad fact, it is also a good time to recap.

I think it’s safe to say, that the Miller Fellowship is one of the best things that happened to me as a scientist. In the beginning I didn’t even fully realize what an outstanding opportunity it is to be a Miller fellow, so I want to outline a few things that explain why  this fellowship is so unique:

Independence: The Miller is not tied to a project, but a person. You can work with whoever you want to as long as your host is in Berkeley.

The Miller Fellows:  10 young scientists are selected each year to join the institute. At first I was intimidated to be amidst such supersmart individuals. But a warm welcome took away the insecurity and friendships developed.  We shared advice on experiments, grant writing or faculty search questions, but also discussed how to maintain a work-life balance, the pros and cons of marriage or the female imposter syndrome. These Fellows have contributed significantly to raising my confidence in my ability as a scientist, an invaluable experience in the life of a postdoc.

The Miller lunches: Every Tuesday, the Miller Fellows, Miller Professors and Miller Visiting Professors meet for lunch in the Faculty club. There is food, wine (yes, really!!), and a 30-minute talk by one of the members. And this was, believe it or not, really enjoyable. Since the Miller Institute is interdisciplinary, the talk topics range from cosmology and astronomy, to math, physics, and ecology to molecular cell biology, chemistry and bioengineering. Everyone tries to gauge the level of complexity such that anyone in the room can follow. It did not always work, some math talks were entirely over my head (sorry!), but it did the world for my appreciation of different fields and broadened my scientific horizon significantly. It gave me the confidence to ask very basic questions and bug someone over and over again to explain a foreign scientific concept to me.

The Symposium: Once a year we all meet in Point Reyes for a weekend of hiking, food, wine and science. The speakers are world class and the discussions are highly stimulating. I was lucky enough to be on the symposium committee and experienced such an amazing event being put together. Those short meetings are the best I’ve ever been to and will ever participate in.

The Money: It needs to be said  (even though we scientists do what we do because we love it and not for the money, blah blah blah): the salary is good and having a research fund you can use pretty freely, rocks.

There are many other great things I could write about the Miller such as social events like the happy hours, hikes and picnics. Furthermore, the Miller staff is extraordinarily competent and they deal with all administrative issues in an instant. For a European in the US there was a significant amount of bureaucracy to deal with and they made it simple.

Last but not least I have to say that one of the things I will remember the most, is the professional, but loving and caring management of the Miller institute by our one and only Kathy Day. Without her the Miller wouldn’t be the same. She is a never-ending source of information and support from Day 1, she has an open ear for all ‘her’ fellows at any time, and she runs this institute like no one else could.

Thank you!

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