Thomas A. Miller, ESA Fellow (2010)

Dr. Thomas A. Miller, a Jefferson Science Fellow Laureate and professional consultant, was elected as Fellow in 2010. He is nationally and internationally known for his innovative work in insect physiology, toxicology, and genetics. He supports the use of biotechnology in agriculture to address plant pest and disease problems that plague food production.

Miller was born in Sharon, PA, on 5 January 1940, moving with his family to California in 1945. He earned a B.A. in physics in 1962 and a Ph.D. in entomology in 1967, both from the University of California, Riverside (UCR). Miller's graduate dissertation concluded that the cockroach heart was myogenic instead of neurogenic, shocking the field of comparative physiology. He discovered the function of cockroach cardiac neurons during postdoctoral studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (1967–1968) and while a NATO postdoctoral fellow at the University of Glasgow, Scotland (1968–1969). He then became professor of entomology at UCR from 1969–2013. He has been consultant to dozens of agrochemical companies and government agencies during his career and served in Eastern European Exchange Fellowships in the Czech Republic and Hungary for the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.

Physics and his inventions in electronics have helped shape the trajectory of Miller's long and varied career. Among his many accomplishments, he pioneered neurophysiological methods using house flies, which led to discoveries of the modes of action of pyrethroid, DDT, and cyclodiene insecticides. He revolutionized the measurement of resistance to insecticides in pink bollworm, Pectinophora gossypiella in California cotton fields; developed antibody methods for measuring pink bollworm diapause; invented automated pheromone traps to record entry of males in cotton fields in Blythe, CA; genetically transformed pink bollworm to improve the sterile insect technique for eradication efforts; and pioneered symbiotic control of pests and diseases in agriculture. His first scientific publication, with Frances Gunther, described the development of an automated device to detect chlorinated hydrocarbon insecticide residues in food. He published more than 260 research articles, edited 27 books and monographs, and authored 43 book chapters and reviews. Miller started three book series in experimental entomology, including Contemporary Topics in Entomology. Throughout his career, he attracted outstanding graduate and postgraduate students who have gone on to very successful careers.

Miller won the prestigious Gregor Mendel Award from the Czech Academy of Sciences in 2003 for research in the biological sciences. He is also a Fellow of American Association for the Advancement of Science; Fellow of Royal Entomological Society (RES) and was named Verrall Lecturer by RES. He has a permanent room in the County Insect Museum dedicated to his research and writing in Uljin, South Korea.

Today, Miller is advisor to the Global Knowledge Initiative in Washington, DC, reviewer for research proposals for the National Academy of Sciences and works on the microbiology of coffee taste. 

(updated May, 2015)