Dr. Miller is co-director of Foundations of Health Research Center and the Louis W. Menk Professor at Northwestern University, where he has appointments in Department of Psychology, Institute for Policy Research, and Department of Medical Social Sciences. After receiving a Ph.D. in clinical psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles, he completed a clinical internship at Western Psychiatric Institute & Clinic, followed by a post-doctoral fellowship in health psychology at Carnegie Mellon University. Before joining Northwestern in 2012, he was a faculty member at Washington University in St. Louis from 2000 to 2003 and at the University of British Columbia from 2003 to 2012.
Dr. Miller’s research examines the behavioral and biological mechanisms through which stress affects health. More on his specific projects can be found in the current research section below. His current research is supported by grants from the the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Previous studies have been supported by the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation (NARSAD), the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Michael Smith Foundation, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, and the American Heart Association.
Dr. Miller has received a number of honors for his research, including the Young Investigator Award from the Society of Behavioral Medicine (2003), the Early Career Award from the American Psychosomatic Society (2005), and the Distinguished Scientific Award for Early Career Contributions from the American Psychological Association (2004). In 2016, he was named a Highly Cited Researcher in psychology/psychiatry by Thomson Reuters, based on having multiple papers in the top 1% of citations in those fields. Miller served as President of the Academy of Behavioral Medicine Research in 2015/2016, and was Associate Editor of the journals Psychological Bulletin (2010-2014) and Psychosomatic Medicine (2008-2011). He is presently a Consulting Editor at both of these journals, and the journals, Brain, Behavior, & Immunity, and Clinical Psychological Science.
Dr. Miller is conducting two major studies here in Evanston.
Stress and Health During Pregnancy: This is a collaborative study with Dr. Ann Borders of NorthShore University Hospital. Research shows that poverty increases the risk for numerous medical problems across the lifespan, and these deleterious influences begin in the earliest stages of the lifecourse. The offspring of low-income families have disproportionately high rates of growth restriction, preterm birth, and neonatal mortality, among other adverse outcomes. The goal of this project is to begin identifying some of the contextual, psychosocial, and biological pathways that underlie these disparities. We focus in particular on stressors that low-income families experience, and how they affect inflammatory activity at the maternal-fetal interface.
Childhood Origins of Cardiovascular Risk: In recent decades there has been a marked decline in morbidity and mortality from coronary heart disease (CHD) in the US. But the strength of this trend varies across demographic groups. Those of low socioeconomic status (SES) continue to develop, and die from, CHD at rates more typical of the 1970’s. Most research on the origins of these disparities focuses on middle stages of the lifespan, when CHD manifests clinically. While this research has been fruitful, shifting the focus towards earlier life stages could yield valuable insights. Many pathogenic mechanisms that give rise to CHD begin in childhood, and by adolescence increasing numbers of American youth display risk factors for and preclinical signs of CHD, which themselves pattern by SES. Despite these findings, relatively little attention has been directed towards early CHD disparities. We know little about why they emerge and how they unfold developmentally.
In this NHLBI-funded study, we attempt to fill these gaps in knowledge by studying youth over a two-year period, as they transition into high school. First, we ask whether SES relates to maturation patterns in the immune system, with a focus on inflammatory processes that underlie CHD. Second, we ask whether SES relates to maturation patterns in the brain’s corticolimbic and corticostriatal circuitries, and thereby give rise to behavioral proclivities that heighten CHD risk. Finally, noting that many low-SES youth have positive health outcomes, we explore characteristics and experiences that “bend” the normative demographic curve. Along with Dr. Miller, the team involves Northwestern faculty Edith Chen, Lei Wang, Joel Voss, and Dan Mroczek, plus Elizabeth Goodman (MassachusettsIn General Hospital) and Steve Cole (UCLA).
Other Collaborations: Dr. Miller also collaborates on several other research projects, including the Family Asthma Study (Edith Chen, PI), the Montreal Health and Aging Study (Carsten Wrosch, PI), the Early Environments and Pregnancy Study (Thomas McDade, PI), and methodological studies of field-friendly methods for assessment of gene expression (with Thomas McDade, PI and Steve Cole). He also works closely with Gene Brody, at the University of Georgia, on studies of health among rural African-American youth. These studies include the SAAF Health Adults Project and The Center for Translational Prevention Science.
Honors and Awards
2016 – Highly Cited Researcher, Thomson Reuters (Designation for authors whose citation rates are in top 1% of their field between 2004-14)
2016 – Distinguished Fellow, Sage Center for Study of the Mind, UC Santa Barbara
2015 – George A. Miller Award (Awarded for outstanding article in general psychology – Miller, Chen, & Parker, 2011, Psychological Bulletin
2015 – President, Academy of Behavioral Medicine Research
2015 – Co-Chair, Working Group on Biology and Social Science, Russell Sage Foundation
2014 – President Elect, Academy of Behavioral Medicine Research
2010 – Killam Research Prize, University of British Columbia
2009 – Killam Sabbatical Award, UBC
2009 – Fellow, Society of Behavioral Medicine Research
2008 – Fellow, Academy of Behavioral Medicine
2005 – McDonald Scholarship, Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
2005 – Herbert Weiner Early Career Award, American Psychosomatic Society
2004 – Distinguished Scientific Award for Early Career Contributions to Health Psychology, American Psychological Association
2003 – Young Investigator Award, Society of Behavioral Medicine
2003 – Network Associate, MacArthur Foundation Research Network on SES and Health
The Wall Street Journal
- Article (December 2018): “Resilient Teens in a Dangerous World”
The New York Times
- Opinion Editorial (December 2018): “How to Be More Resilient”
- Opinion Editorial (January 2014): “Can Upward Mobility Cost You Your Health?”
- Annual “Year in Ideas” (2007): “70 of the Ideas that helped make 2007 what it was”
- Article (July 2015): “The Paradox of Effort”
- Article (July 2009): “The Seductive Allure of Behavioral Epigenetics”
- Article (July 2009): “The Evolutionary Origin of Depression: Mild and Bitter”
O, the Oprah Magazine
- Article (January 2008):“Know When to Fold ‘Em”
The Scientific American Mind
- Article: “Who Said Quitters Never Win”