Stanford senior awarded 2015-16 Churchill Scholarship

Sophie E. Miller, a chemical engineering major at Stanford, is one of 14 Americans "of exceptional ability and outstanding achievement" who have been awarded Churchill Scholarships to study at the University of Cambridge in England for one year.

A Stanford senior who would like to investigate nanoporous materials that have shown promise in the treatment of cancer has been awarded a 2015-16 Churchill Scholarship to pursue her research at the University of Cambridge in England.

Courtesy Sophie MillerSophie E. Miller

Senior Sophie Miller said she is thrilled to be able to pursue her passion for research at Cambridge and to travel around the United Kingdom and Europe.

Sophie E. Miller, a 21-year-old chemical engineering major from Greenwich, Connecticut, was one of 14 Americans "of exceptional ability and outstanding achievement" awarded Churchill Scholarships for the coming academic year by The Winston Churchill Foundation of the United States.

The foundation announced the winners today.

She plans to pursue a master's degree (by research) in chemical engineering and biotechnology at Cambridge, where she hopes to test the in vivo and in vitro performance of selected metal-organic frameworks – a novel family of nanoporous materials – as drug delivery agents for cancer therapeutics.

The scholarship, which is valued at about $60,000, pays for up to one year of graduate study, and covers all university and college fees at Cambridge. Churchill Scholars also receive living and travel allowances. In addition, the foundation offers special research grants to cover travel for presentations at international conferences, short stays at another university or institute, and other activities.

Miller said she is thrilled to have the opportunity to pursue her passion for cutting-edge research at Cambridge, to meet fellow Churchill Scholars, new students and professors, and to travel around the United Kingdom and Europe.

"From my experiences over the past few years, I have come to realize how great of a role collaboration plays in research, and the importance of building international bridges to promote the exchange of scientific ideas," she said.

"The Churchill Scholarship will help me build more of these bridges and hopefully make exciting new discoveries. I would not be where I am without the support of my family, friends, professors and mentors who inspire me every day, and I am incredibly grateful for them."

In her scholarship application, Miller said she was inspired by the potential impact of lab research, from saving the environment to saving lives.

As a sophomore, Miller joined the Bao Research Group as a research assistant. The lab, run by Zhenan Bao, a professor of chemical engineering, specializes in organic electronic materials with applications in low-cost, stretchable solar cells, artificial skin prostheses and wearable blood pressure monitors.

During the summer of 2013, Miller conducted research at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, funded by Caltech's Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship Program. There, she fabricated nanoparticle-decorated porous materials that show promise as next-generation membranes for the production of hydrogen fuel via water splitting. She presented and received awards for this work at various national and regional conferences.

In 2014, Miller won a Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, which was established by the U.S. Congress in 1986 and is given to outstanding sophomores and juniors who intend to pursue basic research careers in mathematics, the natural sciences or engineering.

Also in 2014, Stanford gave Miller an Undergraduate Advising and Research Major Grant to conduct an independent research project in the Bao lab for her honors thesis. She is employing the same method she used to fabricate the honeycomb-structured polymer films at Caltech to mold the compressible component for ultra-sensitive pressure sensors for artificial skin applications.

"Over the past year, through my biochemistry courses and the research presentations and conferences I have attended, I became interested in the biomedical applications of chemical engineering," she wrote in her scholarship application.

"Since my undergraduate research has been focused on polymer science, the Churchill Scholarship would allow me to explore this other area before committing to my PhD research topic."

Miller, who was inducted into Tau Beta Pi, the national engineering society, as a junior, plans to pursue a PhD in the United States after her year at Cambridge.

Currently, Miller is leading peer mentorship efforts through Tau Beta Pi. Earlier, as an officer of Stanford's chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, she planned similar peer advising events specifically for students interested or majoring in chemical engineering.

Her talents aren't limited to science.

Miller, who plays the baritone and alto saxophones, has been a member of the Stanford Jazz Orchestra for four years. The student music ensemble, which is dedicated to keeping the tradition of big band jazz alive at Stanford, performs once a quarter at Bing Concert Hall. Since 2012, Miller has served its president, responsible for approving finances for concerts and tours and for serving as the student liaison with the orchestra's director, Fredrick Berry, a lecturer in jazz studies.