Duncan Miller: The Rising Star

Alden Reiss/Daily
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By Zach Bergson, Online Editor
Published March 20, 2012

Though he’s too modest to admit it, Engineering junior Duncan Miller is a rising star in the field of aerospace engineering.

Miller, who said he was “bitten by the space bug at an early age,” has a résumé that any aerospace engineer would appreciate.

In his three years at the University, Miller has interned for Lockheed Martin Space Systems, the NASA Langley Autonomous Vehicle Laboratory and earned a flawless 4.0 grade point average with 18 A-pluses.

Oh, and did we mention he’s one of the lead engineers for the Cubesat Investigating Atmospheric Density Response to Extreme Driving, a state of the art satellite, which will orbit around the Earth?

But the Dearborn, Mich. native plays all of this down when you speak to him. He says he’s gotten to where he is today through tireless work and a lot of help from his peers and mentors.

“I didn’t do all of this myself,” Miller said. “I get to work with some of the smartest (University students).”

Miller added that the CADRE project has been consuming most of his free time lately. He said the satellite project is one of the biggest student-led projects at the University.

“CADRE will study the thermosphere in low earth orbit by sampling the ion winds. Ultimately, this will improve orbital tracking of objects to help minimize collisions in orbit,” he said.

Though he downplays his level of importance to CADRE’s success, Miller is the only undergraduate leader of the project — the rest of the team leaders are graduate students.

Miller said it’s difficult to balance his CADRE work and his rigorous engineering curriculum — he spends more than 20 hours a week designing the satellite. He added that his peers are integral to his success juggling responsibilities.

“The great thing about being on a student project is that there are a bunch of other kids who have the same dream, who are really motivated to make it happen,” Miller said. “What usually happens is, if it’s my midterm week, it’s going to be someone else’s midterm week next week, so if they pick up the slack for me this week and I cover for them next week … we have each others’ back.”

This summer Miller will intern at SpaceX, a private aerospace company that develops space vehicles, and his long-term plans include attending graduate school for aerospace engineering.

Miller said he owes all of his successes — from the internships to his prestigious position on the CADRE project — to the lessons he’s learned from this University.

“All of my experiences at Michigan have shown me the merits of hard work and having strong morals and motivation, and that those things are the key to success,” Miller said. “You can’t pick the lock.”