Dr. Christine W. Miller
Dr. Miller is an Associate Professor in the Entomology and Nematology Department at the University of Florida, Gainesville. She earned a B.A. from Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT in 1998 and a Ph.D. in Organismal Biology and Ecology from the University of Montana in 2007. Dr. Miller works on the evolution of morphology and behavior, particularly in the field of sexual selection. She uses insects to understand the fundamentals of why animals do what they do and are shaped the way they are shaped. In the past several years, Dr. Miller has received the National Science Foundation CAREER Award, a HHMI Mentoring Award, the University of Florida Excellence Award for Assistant Professors, a National Excellence in College and University Teaching Award from the USDA, and she was recognized as an University of Florida Term Professor in 2016 and 2019.
Dr. Miller has for many years worked to foster mentoring excellence in her research laboratory. Twelve years ago when starting at UF/IFAS, Dr. Miller directly mentored a team of undergraduate researchers to accomplish her research objectives. As time passed and her laboratory team grew, Dr. Miller began focusing her direct mentoring efforts on postdoctoral researchers and graduate students. These members of her team then have each mentored their own teams of up to 12 undergraduate researchers each semester within Dr. Miller’s research group making for an invigorating and collaborative research experience.
Dr. Miller invests heavily in quality teaching. Her teaching efforts in the past twelve years have focused on Principles of Entomology, and introductory entomology course, and a series of Course-based Undergraduate Research Experience (CURE) courses, often taught alongside her graduate students and postdoctoral researchers. She has also been involved in a campus-wide initiative to bring more CURE courses to the University of Florida, with approximately twenty new courses started in just 2019 and 2020.
Diversity and Functional Performance of Animal Weapons
Most species possess some type of weapon, but the most extreme weapons found in the natural world are those used by males competing over access to females. These astonishing structures have fascinated people for centuries. In fact, the earliest known human paintings depict the horns of buffalo and rhinoceros, the antlers of stags, and the tusks of mastodons. In spite of the interest these structures have attracted, we still do not know why there is such amazing weapon diversity. Why do some species use tusks to fight over females, while others use their legs? Why do even closely-related species often have such striking differences in their weapons (consider the diversity of horn shapes of the African antelope)? We are fascinated by the striking diversity of weapons in the leaf-footed bugs and relatives (Superfamily Coreoidea). Dr. Miller and her students are currently investigating the effects of fighting style on the evolution of weapon shape, the role of environmental factors in modifying fighting style, the interactions of natural and sexual selection in the evolution of limb autotomy (dropping of a leg), and role of ecology in shaping allocation decisions between animal weapons and their testes.
Research: Context-Dependent Sexual Selection
We use multiple species of leaf-footed bugs to study the expression of morphology and behavior over time and as resources and social environments change. We have found that females change their mating decisions based on the quality of resources present, and these effects translate into differences in selection on male traits. We also are investigating the effect of social environments and community composition on the processes and outcomes of selection.
A major goal of my teaching is to provide a platform for learning that goes beyond the classroom. I encourage students to think and interact critically with the world around them.
I am very interested in developing Classroom-based Undergraduate Research Experience courses (CURE courses) to bring authentic research into the undergraduate classroom. I couple data collection with active content learning to create an exciting atmosphere where students are contributing to publishable research and the scientific body of knowledge.
I also teach the introductory entomology course, ENY 3005/5006 “Principles of Entomology.” Introductory science courses have traditionally relied on lectures and tests that reward memorization of copious facts, an approach that is well known to drive away many talented students. About 30 percent of entering first-year college students plan to pursue degrees in science, mathematics, or engineering, but only 15 percent of degrees are awarded in those fields. “Student centered” or “inquiry based” teaching approaches are known to simultaneously improve student learning and result in higher student retention rates, yet these approaches have been slow to catch on.
Whenever possible, I incorporate active learning in my classroom to ensure that the students grasp and synthesize the material. I make links between their lives and previous classroom experiences and the new material to enhance the learning process. I link small group exercises with lectures and classroom discussions to encourage students apply scientific principles and reasoning to real-world problems and cutting-edge questions. All the while, I encourage students to foster their innate fascination with how the natural world functions.
2101 Steinmetz Hall
Natural Area Dr.
Gainesville, FL 32611
- Ph.D., Organismal Biology and Ecology, University of Montana, 2007
- B.A., Biology, Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT, 1998
- Miller Laboratory Website:
- Google Scholar Research Publications
Recent Honors & Awards
Elected to serve as a national officer for the Division of Ecology and Evolution in the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, June 2019.
Visiting Fellow, University of Cambridge, Sidney Sussex College. April – July 2018.
University of Florida, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Undergraduate Teacher of the Year Award, 2018.
UF Term Professorship Award, Awarded twice, April 2017 & April 2020. $30,000 total. Awards recognizing UF faculty for outstanding recent accomplishments and promise for the future.
National Award, USDA Agriculture and Food Sciences Excellence in Teaching, “New Teacher” category. Awarded at a ceremony in Washington D.C., November 2017. (https://www.morningagclips.com/usda-honors-2-ufifas-faculty-with-awards/) (https://twitter.com/UFCALSDean/status/929713291219361792)
Learning Without Borders Award, UF International Center, 2017, $5000.
UF Interdisciplinary Research on Invasive Species Seed Grant, 2018-2019, $64,500.
National Science Foundation CAREER Award, Behavioral Systems Program, $822,000. Feb. 2016 – Jan. 2021. “CAREER: Fighting behavior, performance, and the evolution of shape” PI: Christine W. Miller (http://news.ufl.edu/articles/2016/01/a-dream-come-true-for-ufs-christine-miller.php)
United States Department of Agriculture, NIFA, Women and Minorities in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Fields Program (WAMS), $90,000. September 2016-August 2018. “Increasing student diversity in food and agriculture-related STEM disciplines through undergraduate classroom-based research experiences” PI: Adam Dale, Co-PIs: Christine Miller & Anne Donnelly.
National Institutes of Health, Maximizing Access to Research Careers (MARC) U-STAR Program, $2,350,594. September 2016-August 2021. “GatorSTAR: A New MARC U*STAR Program at the University of Florida.” PI: David Julian, Co-PIs: Christine Miller, Ryan Duffy, & David Miller.
UF International Center, Global Fellow Award 2016
UF Excellence Award for Assistant Professors 2014