Spotlight on OCASCR Scientist
Benjamin F. Miller, Ph.D.
Member, Aging and Metabolism Research Program
Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation (OMRF)
Oklahoma Nathan Shock Center
Oklahoma Center for Geroscience-Harold Hamm Diabetes Center
1. What is your lab’s long-term/big-picture research goal?
Our long-term goal is to extend the period of time people spend in good health (I.e. the healthspan). We particularly focus on maintaining the function of muscle to keep people mobile and independent. We tackle these goals by trying to keep proteins in the body in a young-like state.
2. What is your training/scientific background?
I got an undergraduate degree and masters degree from the University of Wisconsin. I did my PhD training at UC-Berkeley. I did my post-doctoral training in Copenhagen, Denmark, at a famous center for muscle biology. Prior to arriving at OMRF, I was a faculty member at Colorado State University for 12 years.
3. What is the goal of your OCASCR project?
My OCASCR project challenged a dogma that muscle cells cannot replicate DNA and thus rely on other cell types to help with growth. This project led to a high-risk high-reward (R21) grant from the NIH. The NIH project is going well, and we will try to apply for longer-term funding in the next year.
4. How might your research impact diseases related to obesity or smoking?
The biggest potential impact of this project is that it would create new avenues for how to maintain muscle function with obesity, chronic diseases, or aging.
5. What’s your most critical piece of research equipment in your lab? Why?
We rely on Mass Spectroscopy in many forms. This reliance is primarily because of my expertise in using stable isotopes as metabolic tracers. Other labs from around the world collaborate with us for this expertise.
6. What’s your favorite scientific meeting to attend? Why?
I really enjoy small specialty meetings. I have been to meetings where it was 20-30 hand-picked individuals to discuss a specific topic. At these small meetings you can really cover some ground and come up with new ideas. Also, you get to spend a concentrated amount of time with old friends and meet new ones.
7. What is something else that is important about your research?
I think one additional point worth adding is that funding from these projects also goes towards training future scientists. We have students of all levels rotating through our lab, and I have 4 postdoctoral trainees that are small steps away from running their own lab. Giving that spark to someone young or helping a senior trainee find their way to their own independence is incredibly important and gratifying.