Miller Wins $20K Grand Prize for Undergraduate Research from University Co-Op

3 May 2012

News release provided by University Co-Op

The George H. Mitchell Awards for Academic Excellence are awarded each year to students who have made an uncommon contribution to their fields of study by way of research project, literary work, musical composition, humanitarian project or similar undertaking. Awards range from $2,000 to a top prize of $20,000. Students with exemplary academic records are nominated by UT faculty members and winners are chosen by a selection committee. These award-winning students have embraced the opportunities around them with a passion and intellectual creativity.

Winners of the undergraduate student awards were announced on Wednesday, May 2nd at the Thirteenth Annual George H. Mitchell Awards for Academic Excellence presented by the University Co-operative Society at the Four Seasons Hotel in Austin. Chairman of the University Co-op's Board of Directors and Ernst & Young Professor of Accounting, Dr. Michael Granof hosted the event. Attendees included the Provost, Deans, and Vice Presidents of the University, as well as past grand prize winners of the award.

The $20,000 Grand Prize winner of the Undergraduate Student Awards for Academic Excellence was George F. Miller, who was nominated by professor Don E. Winget, for his contribution to an article titled "The Discovery of Two Planets Orbiting the Post-Common Envelope Eclipsing Binary NN Serpentis." According to Dr. Winget, George stood out from the very beginning among an extraordinary group of Dean's Scholars and high achievers hand selected for the astronomy stream. As a freshman, he went to the McDonald Observatory and learned how to take his own data on the Otto Struve telescope and to analyze and interpret the data. This spring, George became the local University of Texas expert on the robotic MONET telescope. Several groups of teachers have actively started using MONET under George's tutelage.

George led participation with a group from the University of Goettingen in an exciting new series of observations on NN Serpentis, a close binary star with circumbinary planets. The discoveries of these long-period planets were the first of their kind, dynamically similar to outer planets in our solar system; they demonstrated that the process of planet formation is far more forgiving than previously realized. This work resulted in a world-wide press release, featuring George's contribution. George will be graduating this month, and will be starting his Ph.D. at Harvard in the fall.

Three other undergraduate students, Seth Whitsitt, a Physics major; Ramu Kharel, an Asian Studies major; and Ryan Truby, a Biomedical Engineering major, won the second prize and received $5,000 each.

The three winners of the $2,000 awards were James W. Salazar, a Biomedical Engineering major; Jillian Owens, a Religious Studies and Plan II major; and Jean Nava, a Sociology, Mathematics, and Economics major.


For more information, please contact Hulan Swain at (512) 322.7071 or