March 21, 2016
Chelsea Miller arrived to work on her first day at the university to find a somewhat bizarre, old contract waiting on her desk. The contract had been thoroughly reviewed by the Sponsored Projects Office (SPO), but was ultimately returned due to the type of contract. SPO advised processing it through the Office of Business Contracts and Brand Protection (BCBP).
Faced with a situation that would stump seasoned employees, Miller had to figure out how to navigate the BCBP Module and act as the liaison between the Contracting Officers here at Berkeley and those at the agency for a contract that differed greatly from what most CSS RAs see on a regular basis. Further, she needed to understand how to get the funding to her Principal Investigator (PI), Astronomy Professor James Graham. There was nothing cooler for Miller, a huge Star Trek fan with an undergraduate degree in Physics, who sees astronomers as explorers with incredible curiosity who are doing some of the most important research humans can do.
Professor Graham along with Professor Paul Kalas, whose research led to discovery of the first directly imaged extrasolar planet seen orbiting another star (Fomalhaut b), are the leads on the Gemini Planet Imager (GPI) project. Located at the Gemini South telescope in Chile, the GPI project is a three year science program that will survey 600 stars for the presence of young giant planets.
Miller had to become an explorer and use her own incredible curiosity in order to navigate the campus rules and regulations. She was then able to successfully work with the Office of Business Contracts and Brand Protection (BCBP) to get the contract signed after months of negotiation. Miller’s secret to success was to build trust and relationships with the faculty she serves. According to Miller, “It’s not always about being concerned with knowing the right answer, but being committed to finding it.”
For Professor Graham, Miller’s out of this world dedication and positive attitude are invaluable. Graham said, “It is a pleasure to work with Chelsea. . . She’s always responsive and willingly takes on new responsibilities.”
Growing up, Miller envisioned being the person wearing a vest with a slide rule in Mission Control at NASA. “At first,” Miller says, “I wanted to be an astronaut. But then I saw the movie Apollo 13 and thought, maybe I want to be on the ground.” She landed her dream job facilitating research in Astronomy and helping real people make discoveries. For Miller, the stars have aligned.
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