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Julia Miller


  • Time Zone

  • Organization
    Cornell University

  • Role
    Scientist Mentor: I will mentor teams of students online

  • Research Interests (300 words)
    My thesis work for my PhD is focused on the regulation of an Arabidopsis thaliana (a model plant related to mustard) transporter protein called AtMATE. This protein transports citrate, an organic acid that has many functions in plants, which include acting as a chelator, or binder, of ions. Citrate released into the soil can chelate aluminum, preventing it from entering the plant. This is important as aluminum is toxic to plants and causes reduced root growth. High aluminum is found in acidic soils, which includes 30% of the land on Earth. Much of the tropical and subtropical regions have acidic soil and thus, high aluminum. These regions often have food insecurity problems, so acid soil limitations to food production have a significant global impact. I want to understand AtMATE, and AtMATE regulation, to increase aluminum resistance in crop plants. My current work focuses on how a CBL/CIPK cascade affects the regulation of AtMATE. The CBL/CIPK cascade is a regulation system that causes changes in plant cells when the cells are stressed. I use assays in frog eggs to understand how the addition of the regulating proteins can cause AtMATE to function or to stop functioning. I also look at interactions and localization of the proteins in tobacco and Arabidopsis thaliana leaves, to understand how these proteins physically interact. I introduce my proteins of interest, linked to fluorescent tags, into plant cells to see where in the cell they localize. This work will provide the basis for the identification of similar regulation pathways in other species, with the ultimate goal of increasing aluminum resistance in crop plants.

  • Profile Question 1
    When and why did you decide to go into a science career?

  • Answer the question you selected for profile question 1 here (300 words):
    When I was young, I loved animals and being outside. I knew I wanted to do something connected to nature. I really liked science class in middle school, so I thought a science career would be a good fit. In high school, I realized I didn’t like blood, so medicine and veterinary medicine no longer interested me. I was lucky to live near a university, so I was able to volunteer in a microbiology lab, and talk with microbiologists and food scientists. I realized that I did enjoy molecular biology and food, and so I wanted to find a field that connects those two. I had always loved plants and I realized I could do molecular biology with crop plants, with the long term goal of helping food production worldwide. I was able to connect all of my interests by studying plant biology. In my junior year of high school, I decided that I would study plant biology at Michigan State University and then do my PhD at Cornell University. I was able to join a plant biology lab early at Michigan State University and I learned how exciting it was to have a question, make a hypothesis, do an experiment and figure out an answer. That got me hooked on science. I am a little unusual that I knew back in high school that I wanted to become a scientist. I have friends who didn’t realize they wanted a career in science until college or even later. So you can decide to become a scientist at any point in your life.

  • Profile Question 2
    What is tough about being a scientist?

  • Answer the question you selected for profile question 2 here (300 words):
    Science can be difficult as you are trying to understand something that no one has ever understood before. There are mentors you can talk to, peers you can bounce ideas off of and papers you can read. But, you are still pushing against the limits of human knowledge, and that can be a hard and lonely task. Sometimes you can feel unsure what to do next as no one knows what to do next. So you think, and you read some papers, and you try some new experiments. And then you will learn a new piece of information, which will help you on your next experiment. And eventually you will have solved the question and publish a paper about it. And that paper can help someone else with their next problem. Another aspect is that you will become so specialized in your field, that it can be hard to discuss your research with others, let alone other scientists in your field. Biology is so complex, it is often hard to grasp the details of work not in your field. It might be difficult to find other scientist to give you advice, as their expertise may be in a different protein family or different species. So as you are learning more, make sure that you can discuss your work with others, and help other scientists with their problems even if it’s not in your field.

  • Profile Question 3
    What is your favorite plant? Why?

  • Answer the question you selected for profile question 3 here (300 words):
    My favorite plant isn’t a single plant but a family of plants. I love orchids, which are in the family called Orchidaceae. I am lucky to have a family who travels often and I always try to find a new orchid wherever I go. But, my favorite part of the Orchidaceae is the native orchids of the US. I grew up in Michigan, where there are 57 species of native orchids. I have seen 20 of them and one thing on my bucket list is to see all of them! I really enjoy orchids as they have very complex and beautiful flowers. Also, they are fun to hunt. Most native orchids live in unique habitats, such as bogs or fens. They are often small and only flower a few days out of the year. So the hunt to find them and photograph them is difficult and very exciting. Unfortunately, due to their habitat requirements, many orchids are endangered due to habitat loss. So these beautiful plants also need protecting. I hope to keep finding and photographing orchids, and I want to help protect their habitats.

  • Availability
    I am NOT available, please temporarily remove me from the available mentor list

  • Capacity: How many teams at a time are you comfortable working with?

Recent Posts

Group 7 Eden, Chloe, Jordan Julia Miller

Due to some unforeseen circumstances, the students were unable to finish their lab and are now done with the session. Thanks for your great work! 

Group 6 Hannah, Hunter, Megan Julia Miller

Due to some unforeseen circumstances, the students were unable to finish their lab and are now done with the session. Thanks for your great work! 

Group 5 Isaiah, Jade, Maci, Ire'asia Julia Miller

Due to some unforeseen circumstances, the students were unable to finish their lab and are now done with the session. Thanks for your great work! 

Skills & Endorsements

  • No skills have been endorsed yet.


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NSF_Logo.jpg This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant #2010556 and #1502892. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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