Ph.D. student Jonas Miller receives USM Student Excellence Scholarship

Published: May 1, 2024

Exterior of a large building; mostly glass windows with a concrete extrusion that says "IMET - Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology" and an overhang above revolving doors.
Jonas Miller conducts his research at the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology in Baltimore's Inner Harbor. (Marlayna Demond '11/UMBC)

Jonas Miller, Ph.D. candidate in the marine, estuarine, and environmental science graduate program, has received the 2024 University System of Maryland Board of Regents Student Excellence Scholarship for Academics, Scholarship, and Research. Only four graduate students across the system receive Student Excellence Scholarships—one each in four categories.

Miller has been conducting research under the mentorship of Yonathan Zohar, professor of marine biotechnology at UMBC, at the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology (IMET) since January 2022. Miller’s work is central to enhancing sustainable land-based aquaculture of Atlantic salmon, an area in which Zohar is a world leader. Specifically, Miller is searching for genetic biomarkers in female salmon that predict the timing of spawning and the quality of the spawned eggs.

The end goal is to promote a consistent supply of domestic salmon for consumers by generating populations of fish that spawn at staggered times throughout the year, triggered by different light and temperature conditions in land-based facilities. 

Jonas Miller stands wearing a safety yellow jacket, blue waterproof pants, and gloves next to a tray scale that holds a large fish. He is in a large research area with numerous tanks, bins, and pipes at IMET

“Receiving the Board of Regents scholarship has provided me with the motivation to propel my research to the next level on my quest to find new predictive biomarkers pertaining to Atlantic salmon reproductive endocrinology,” Miller says. 

“Jonas is a talented student able to formulate hypotheses and test them, methodically designing and carrying out experiments using the most advanced methods of genomics and endocrinology,” Zohar wrote in his letter recommending Miller for the scholarship. “His multi-year studies have already generated innovative findings, and his ongoing work will undoubtedly result in much more data and lead to scientific advances and, potentially, economic development opportunities.”

Left: Jonas Miller stands with a fish raised in the Aquaculture Research Center, the main laboratory for aquaculture research at IMET. (Courtesy of Miller)

Ongoing ripples of impact

Jonas Miller, foreground, in a traditional wet lab with three smiling students behind him
Jonas Miller mentors numerous students who participate in marine research. (Courtesy of Miller)

Miller’s contributions have gone far beyond the impact of his research. He served as IMET’s Graduate Student Association president for the 2022 – 2023 academic year, teaches weekly English classes to Chinese graduate students at IMET, and has mentored three high school students volunteering in Zohar’s research group. Miller also authored an 80-page white paper for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on the potential for tuna aquaculture in the United States. 

“His understanding of the aquaculture field and the relevant literature, as well as his personal experience working on bluefin tuna in Japan, is of great benefit to his colleagues,” Zohar adds. Those colleagues include not only researchers at IMET, but also collaborators at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, University of Maine, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, and University of Maryland, College Park. Researchers at these institutions and others are involved in various projects led by Zohar, including a $10 million effort funded by the USDA to address specific challenges in the aquaculture industry. 

When the personal propels the professional

Miller expressed gratitude to Zohar for the opportunity to work with him, and to his collaborators, “who have all made my experience as a Ph.D. student both fruitful and exciting.” 

Miller’s accomplishments have not come without adversity, however. “I’d like to dedicate this scholarship to my best friend David Pardo Hernandez, and to my mom, Sheila Mann Miller, both of whom tragically and unexpectedly passed away during my first year as a Ph.D. student at UMBC in 2022,” Miller shares. “Finally, thanks to my dad for encouraging me to study fish biology and for constantly motivating me to study harder.”

“I am grateful to all of my friends at IMET who have given me support,” Miller adds. “I wish my mom and best friend were here to experience this. They would both be really proud of this accomplishment. They motivated me to work hard and I hope that I made them proud.”

Tags: , , , ,

Scroll to Top