Student Spotlight – Scott Miller
Five Questions with:
Name: Scott Miller
Advisor: Kara Nelson
Department: Civil and Environmental Engineering
1. WHERE DID YOU DO YOUR UNDERGRAD/MASTERS AND WHY DID YOU CHOOSE UC BERKELEY?
I did my undergrad at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities in Civil Engineering and my Masters’s degree at UC Berkeley. When I came to Berkeley for my visit day, I felt that there was a really strong sense of community and fulfillment from the students I met. I was so impressed with how students came out to welcome the admitted students and how they really cared about their projects, their labs, and their community — it felt like it was all more than just people trying to get their degrees and then get out. Since I’ve been a student here, I really have valued this. People care about the environment and tackle it from all perspectives. We’re all in this together.
2. WHAT KIND OF RESEARCH GETS YOU UP IN THE MORNING?
A lot of things! It really depends on the day. Right now, I really love teaching class on natural treatment systems of wastewater and stormwater and looking at new bents on topics. This morning I woke up really interested in current stormwater infrastructure and how it’s being used and new potential treatment methods. What I like about what I’m doing at Berkeley is it’s something different each week, we’re doing really exciting research that touches on so many different areas, like policy, physical science, and social science.
3. IF YOU COULD MAKE A GROUNDBREAKING DISCOVERY OR CHANGE A SYSTEM IN THE WORLD OF WATER RESEARCH, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
Desalination! I know that we’re a long way off, but it would be really interesting to solve that problem. I’d also like to make a breakthrough in direct potable reuse — treating wastewater and putting it back into distribution. Places like California have limited freshwater supplies and if we could clean and return used water streams to our drinking supply by removing pathogens, nitrates, etc. that would be amazing.
4. WHAT’S THE MOST EXCITING CHALLENGE YOU’VE TACKLED WHILE STUDYING AT UC BERKELEY?
How do you effectively and accurately simulate anything in the lab? We routinely take the idea of full-scale distribution systems, hundreds of meters long, and scale it down to something we can fit in a lab. We also are looking at pipes that are 100 years old in the original system and our lab pipes are new, so it’s hard to replicate conditions, especially in the limited time we have in our labs (typically less than 2 years of research time). So, when we’re dealing with large or old systems in the field, it’s really tough to feel confident when you are trying to reach a conclusion with the resources in your lab — with new pipes and turning full-scale onto mini-systems; it’s just not perfect.
5. WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN 10 YEARS?
I see myself moving to San Diego. I wanted to teach for so long, but my new inclination is to be a practitioner and get involved in large-scale solutions. I want to be a part of changing what’s being built. I definitely want to be working on water reuse and security in California.