GT-AE sophomore Sara Miller doesn’t speak loudly, but her ambitions are decidedly high-decibel.
In addition to pursuing a degree in aerospace engineering at Georgia Tech, the soft-spoken 20-year-old continues to do cognitive psychology research with an NYU professor with whom she began working while in high school.
She is currently working with AE Prof. Joseph H. Saleh on a project mapping the craters on near-earth objects. And next semester she will do an internship focusing on 3D modeling at the Marshall Space Center in Huntsville.
“I’ve always had NASA’s stars in my eyes,” she said. “That’s always been my dream.”
Georgia Tech and NASA are not alone in recognizing Miller’s drive. This fall, the Atlanta-based Womenetics organization chose Miller to receive one of just five 2014 Advancing Aspirations Global Scholarships. Miller and the other four awardees were flown to the group’s Global Women’s Initiative conference in Chicago on Nov. 12 to receive their $2,500 awards.
“It wasn’t a great time to get pulled away from my studies,” she said of her mid-semester trip to Chicago.
“But it was a great reason. Over the course of a little less than 48 hours, I got to know four different CEOs on a first name basis.”
It was Miller’s essay, “Confidence and Risk,” that caught the judges’ attention.
In it, Miller methodically reviewed literature that documents a persistent chasm between women’s personal aspirations and their publicly acknowledged achievements.
“We always talk about ‘the father or modern medicine’ or ‘the father of modern chemistry’ as thought women played no role at all,” she said of her research. “We know that women played a role – 100 years ago and today – but we don’t hear about it.”
Not regularly, anyway. In her essay, Miller points to GT-AE alumna Jenny Lentz Moore -- a Division 1 athlete, Navy Fighter Pilot, and mother -- as someone who should be recognized. Moore was profiled in a recent edition of the GT Alumni Magazine.
“I’m surprised it’s taken me this long to hear about her,” she said. “She’s someone who has done it all. We need to know more about women like Jennie. She’s not the only one.”
Most who know Miller would say they expect to hear more about her – in the coming months, years, and decades. What’s unclear is what direction she will pursue. Her collaboration with Stonybrook Professor Nancy Franklin on the effects of negative emotions on memory has already produced some preliminary results; the two are considering another, related vein of research.
Miller remains committed to her NASA dreams, but she isn’t crossing anything off her career ‘bucket list’ just yet.
“Eventually, I could see myself working on artificial intelligence, as a part of my work in space exploration,” she said. “And I hope it all includes a Ph.D. because I love doing the research.”
We hope so, too.