Physicist Amber Miller Named Dean of USC Dornsife College

The LA native has focused on enhancing the basic sciences and building cross-disciplinary connections at Columbia, where she is dean of science.


Amber Miller, dean of science for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Columbia University, has been named the dean of the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, effective Aug. 16.

USC Provost Michael Quick announced the appointment today on behalf of USC President C. L. Max Nikias.

“Amber Miller is a dynamic leader who will draw on a broad range of experience and expertise in leading the USC Dornsife College,” Nikias said. “Her proven ability to bring people together across disciplines without losing the heart of the humanities holds extraordinary promise for USC, especially with new scientific advances. Her appointment will surely nurture a fresh spirit of excellence throughout the College as its interdisciplinary collaborations increase.”

A professor of physics and authority on the interface between science and policy, Miller has been a member of the Columbia faculty since 2002 and dean of science since 2011.  As dean, she has focused on enhancing the basic sciences at Columbia and building and strengthening ties between science, engineering, the medical center and other units in the university.

Miller, who has published more than 100 articles in the field of early universe cosmology, has also long held an interest in issues of science and policy.

Miller developed and piloted a seminar at Columbia titled “Science, Politics and Critical Thinking,” and has taught courses ranging from “Weapons of Mass Destruction” to “Physics for Poets.” She served as the chief science adviser to the New York Police Department Counterterrorism Bureau for two years, is an advisory board member for the Center for Science and Society, and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Columbia University Committee on Global Thought.

Miller, who at USC will also hold the Anna H. Bing Dean’s Chair, said she is excited about the opportunities the university presents.

“USC is on an incredible trajectory, and it has the potential to become a model for research institutions of the future,” she said. “I really want to be a part of that.”

She cited the university’s growth, entrepreneurial spirit and location in Los Angeles – with its booming tech industry and thriving arts and culture – as providing excellent opportunities for the USC Dornsife faculty, students and staff.

“It’s an incredible time for Dornsife to continue to build, expand and grow intellectually,” she said.

Miller received her BA from the University of California, Berkeley in 1995 and her PhD from Princeton University in 2000. Her honors and awards include a National Science Foundation Career Award, an Alfred. P. Sloan Fellowship and a Lenfest Distinguished Faculty Award. Before joining the faculty at Columbia, Miller was a Hubble Fellow at the University of Chicago. She is a fellow of the American Physical Society.

Quick said Miller has proven successful in academic leadership at Columbia and is pleased to welcome her to the Trojan Family.

“Professor Miller is highly qualified to lead the Dornsife College as it continues to advance its already outstanding reputation and influence,” Quick said.

Miller will relocate to Los Angeles with her husband, Jonathan T.D. Neil, director of Sotheby’s Institute of Art – Los Angeles, and their daughter Brienne. The move is somewhat of a homecoming for Miller, who grew up in Malibu and attended Santa Monica High School.

“California is absolutely home to me,” she said.

Miller will be the first female dean of the Dornsife College, academic home to one-third of USC’s undergraduate students and the largest, oldest and most academically diverse of the university’s schools. She is preceded by Dani Byrd, USC Dornsife’s first female interim dean.