Professor Efrain Azmitia: Contribution to Research

It was 1968 when I first joined Dr. Miller’s laboratory as a graduate student of Bruce McEwen. Dr. Miller’s laboratory was the first neuroscience laboratory I had encountered.  He had physiological psychologists (e.g., Ted Coons,  Jay Weiss, David Quartermain, George Wolff, John Winston, Leo DiCara, Bruce Pappas) and biological psychologist (e.g., Bruce McEwen, Eric Stone, Sara Leibowitz).  There were more researchers in his laboratory than in my college biology department. Every member seemed to have their own project but they were all influenced by the Dr. Miller, who strongly felt that the brain could be controlled when the behavior was understood.  No questions seemed too large to tackle, from conscious control of the autonomic system to quantifying the actions of LSD or dissecting the neuronal effects of stress.  This willingness to use science as a penetrating light into the unknown has remained with me through all the years of my research.  Dr Miller was not interested in testing someone else’s hypothesis, or following the latest trend, he saw the potential of neuroscience for understanding questions encountered in the real world.  This bold approach often met with failure as when the rats on LSD simply remained immobile and did not bar press to sounds or noises (expected to occur during hallucinations) as they had been conditioned to do so. But at least Dr Miller tried the interesting experiments and enjoyed when he succeeded, but was not discouraged when science was not ready to experimentally reveal one of its secrets.


I have three stories I love to tell about Dr. Miller.

(1) One friday evening I was in his office as he was preparing to go away for the weekend for a bit of a holiday.  He was packing his briefcase with papers, journals and books until it almost broke.  He said to me; “The more work I take with me, the less chance there is I will get to any of it.”

(2) He was notorious for not knowing names.  At his home he was having a fair-well party for his first graduate student at Rockefeller.  When it came time to give his speech, he looked around and admitted he did not remember his name! (3) Dr. Miller was completely bald. One day a postdoc, who had just shaved his head, came into his office while I was there, and asked Dr. Miller if he noticed anything different about him.  Dr. Miller looked up, and said, “Did you shave your beard?” I though it amusing since the post-doc never had a beard.

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