Lincoln Scholars alumni - Shannon Miller

It’s been seven years since the College of LAS launched the Lincoln Scholars Initiative to support promising LAS students with financial need. Since that time, more than 90 students have graduated or are currently enrolled at Illinois with help from the initiative. We reached out to some of the Lincoln Scholars alumni to learn what they’ve done since graduating—and how the scholarships helped them in the early stages of their careers.

Shannon Miller

PhD candidate at Harvard University

Shannon MillerWhen Shannon Miller graduated with dual degrees in integrative biology honors and chemistry in 2016, she moved on to the Ivy League.

Miller is now in her fourth year at Harvard, studying chemical biology and working in David R. Liu’s lab studying protein evolution and genome editing. She also works in the company of Nobel laureates such as professors E.J. Corey and Jack Szostak.

Her experience at Illinois, however, where she focused on researching organometallic catalysis with chemistry professor Christina White, prepared her well for Harvard, she said.

“Illinois prepared me as well as it could, as well as any other Ivy League (school) did for my peers,” Miller said. “I'm very appreciative of (that). When I walked on campus, (I said) 'Okay, I'm actually sitting on Harvard's campus and I belong here.'”

Being named a Lincoln Scholar was a big boost for Miller, who was able to finance her studies without incurring any debt. But the benefits didn’t start and stop with just the scholarship money.

“Having this scholarship allowed me to leave college with no debt, which after college, was really fantastic,” she said. “It kind of allowed me to experience more from life.”

Miller was able to travel to China upon her graduation, a trip she said wouldn’t have been possible otherwise. She was able to take in what the world’s third biggest city (by population) has to offer.

“I went to a conference in Beijing, I was able to stay there for some extra time to kind of experience the culture there,” Miller said. “I don't think I would have had the money to do that if I would have had a ton of student debt leftover. I'm a little more free to explore things I'm interested in now.”

She plans to finish up at Harvard in the next year or two and then move on to a postdoctoral position. She plans to continue in her work with synthetic biology or genetics, but hasn’t locked in on the specifics just yet.

“I have a loose idea. I think, in general, I want to stay in the field of synthetic biology or genetics. In terms of where I want to go, I'm not really sure. You kind of just go where the jobs are. Hopefully, I continue in the route of academia,” Miller said. “And (then) one day become a professor myself.”

Read more Lincoln Scholar alumni stories.