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Sarah Miller, Rhodes Scholar

Sarah Miller, Rhodes Scholar

sarah millerSarah Miller didn’t find out that she was going to be a Rhodes Scholar in the mail, or on the phone. She was standing shoulder to shoulder with the 20 or so other finalists in the Texas/Louisiana region, many of whom she’d gotten to know and like over the course of an intense weekend of interviews.

“It was very reality-show style,” says Miller, an astronomy and physics major from Dallas. “We were actually lined up in a jury box, and they let us know right there. We had just spent a long weekend together bonding, so it was actually kind of a bittersweet moment in that respect.”

Miller, along with 31 other Rhodes Scholars from across America, will head to Oxford University in the fall to study and live for two to three years. The value of the award, which depends on the students' academic interests and requirements, and includes stipends for travel, averages roughly $45,000 per year.

Oxford, for Miller, is actually familiar territory. She’s gone to a theology summer program there for the last four years, and looks forward to returning to a place she already loves. But the real prize, she says, is the chance to continue her study of astronomy.

“It’s the scientific study of everything in the universe,” she says. “It’s all the big questions that philosophy and religion are also trying to answer, but it’s approaching them through science. How did we get here? How old is the universe? How did it evolve? Are we the only life in the universe? I just think it’s the most exciting thing happening in academics.”

At Oxford, Miller plans to pursue a doctorate in astrophysics. In particular, she’s going to do observational extra-galactic cosmology (looking at galaxies beyond the Milky Way). It’s the same field in which she’s done research as an undergraduate at The University of Texas at Austin, working with astronomy professor Shardha Jogee, and in which she’s already co-authored published papers.

“I like theory,” says Miller, “and you’re never without it. But I find I’m liking much more the challenge of actually exploring and discovering things. I like going to telescopes, and being up all night, and looking at the galaxies, and figuring out what’s out there.”

Eventually, Miller would like to return to the United States as an astronomy professor, but she’s not in a hurry to get back here. “If I do a post-doctoral fellowship in Germany or spend some time in France after I finish at Oxford, I wouldn’t mind that.”

This article also appeared in the Spring 2008 issue of Focus magazine. Photo by Brett Buchanan.

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Friday, 17 September 2021

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