Meet graduate student Courtney Millar

Courtney Millar
Courtney Millar

Whether it is developing complicated laboratory techniques or relaxing with cooking, Courtney Millar is a hands-on person. A Newton, Massachusetts resident, she just finished her doctorate and is continuing on to be a postdoctoral researcher in Boston. Here is what she said in an interview.

Where did you study as an undergraduate? What was your major?

I received a BS degree in biology from Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York.

Why did you decide to go to graduate school?

I like learning. I had a course in vertebrate physiology, which included the topic of nutrient metabolism. The idea of studying the fate of nutrients in the body and how that related to disease appealed to me. So, I looked for a graduate program where I could pursue this. I found Dr. Blesso and his research and chose UConn.

Who is your advisor? What is your field of research?

Department of Nutritional Sciences Assistant Professor Christopher Blesso is my advisor. I am researching biochemical nutrition. I look at bioactive compounds from the diet or microbes and how they affect physiology and disease pathology.

Name one aspect of your work that you like.

I have enjoyed the opportunity to mentor both undergraduate and new graduate students in the laboratory. I help develop their lab skills, encourage critical thinking and teach them how to troubleshoot issues in the lab. I would like similar mentoring to be part of my future career.

 In your opinion, what is your greatest accomplishment so far?

I helped develop our lab techniques for atherosclerosis. At first, I was trained by Assistant Research Professor Young-Ki Park, and then I worked independently. Perfecting the techniques with thin slices of tissue takes a lot of trial and error.

Courntey Millar with PowerPoint
Millar defended her dissertation on July 1.

When do you expect to get your degree? What then? 

I received my PhD on July 1. I just decided to take a trip to Greece as a celebration for finishing my program.

Starting September 1, I will be doing a postdoc with a Harvard Medical School affiliate called Hebrew SeniorLife in Boston. I will be conducting a nutritional human study in older adults with mild cognitive impairment. We will be investigating if we can improve cardiometabolic factors and cognition in a controlled dietary feeding study.

Is there anything else you would like us to know about you?

I like to do things with my hands. When I need a break from intellectual stimulation, I like to cook. In the past, I tried pottery and enjoyed that, too.    When I go to Greece, I will take a cooking class and a wine tour.

By Patsy Evans