Meet the YCC: Chris Miller

Meet Dr. Chris Miller, an avid soccer fan currently based in San Francisco and member of the National Younger Chemists Committee. Chris is chair of the YCC’s Governance Interface and Outreach subcommittee and the Division of Professional Relations (PROF) Younger Chemists Subdivision. Chris’s profile is part of “Meet the YCC”, a new series of blog posts highlighting YCC members and associates and what they do both in and outside of ACS.

Chris Miller (he/him/his)

YCC Member

YCC subcommittee: Governance Interface and Outreach (GIO)

Other ACS Involvement:

Younger Chemists Subdivision Chair, Division of Professional Relations (PROF)


B.S., Chemistry, Colorado State University

Ph.D., Chemistry, University of California, San Diego


LinkedIn, Twitter/X: @leftymiller

When and why did you join the YCC?

I grew up around chemistry and the ACS. My mom was very involved in the ACS, and so before I even knew I wanted to study chemistry, I had already seen how much the ACS can help chemical professionals get connected, find resources, and empower members to use chemistry for the greater good of society. In undergrad, I became an ACS member during my first semester and eventually started volunteering by hosting a Program-in-a-Box event on campus. I followed that up by working to convince my undergraduate friends to submit abstracts to present at—or, at the very least, register and go to—the ACS Spring 2015 meeting in Denver. It was the first research conference most of my friends attended, and they   were all a little overwhelmed by the number of different programs happening.  I helped my friends navigate the conference by pointing them in the direction of places they wanted to go and highlighting networking events and socials they could attend. This made their conference better and was a rewarding experience for me. Then, at the ACS Spring 2016 meeting in San Diego, I went to a YCC Social and saw a familiar face: my Organic Chemistry TA! She was a member of the YCC, and we talked about getting involved, the goals of the YCC, and our experiences of helping younger chemists navigate the ACS. This motivated me to join the YCC to continue on the path of making the ACS a place where younger chemists can thrive and find their own way.

What projects are you currently working on?

One project I am excited to be working on is a new award for younger international chemists. Currently, our Younger Chemist Leadership Institute Award has a turnaround that makes it difficult for international awardees, particularly from countries in Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia   to get a visa in time to attend the Leadership Institute held every year in January. So, I am putting together plans to make a new award aimed explicitly at chemists from these parts of the world. The application for this award will open and close much earlier in the year, thus allowing for the time needed to not only apply and hear back about the award but then to file the necessary visa paperwork so the awardees can attend the Leadership Institute.

Additionally, as chair of the Governance Interface and Outreach (GIO) subcommittee, one of my projects is internal to the YCC itself. At every national ACS meeting, the ACS Council (the governing body of the ACS which includes the Presidential succession, ACS Board, and the Councilors from Local Sections and Divisions) will meet to discuss petitions, i.e., changes to how the ACS is run. These petitions range from simple committee name changes to extensive rewrites of the governing documents to streamline the ACS and its processes. Since the YCC does not directly have a vote in Council, our way to make our voice heard on Council matters is by providing a statement of support or opposition, including comments, for a petition before it is voted on. My role as GIO chair is to read and understand these petitions and then present them, first to my subcommittee for debate and then to the whole National YCC, while providing guidance and answering questions. As a committee, we spend time discussing these actions, ensuring we understand these petitions, and providing our feedback as a group so that the voices of younger chemists are heard.

What is your favorite project you have been a part of with the YCC?

The awards are always my favorite. Being able to organize a review process that ends with the YCC giving an award to younger chemists—whether as a scholarship (Priscilla Carney Jones Award), as a travel award (CIBA/YCC Travel Award), to provide them with leadership courses (Younger Chemist Leadership Institute Award), or to reward the spectacular work of the local section YCCs (ChemLuminary)—is one of the most rewarding things I have ever done, let alone on the YCC.

With my wife, Hayley, attending a San Diego Loyal soccer game. Outside of lab, I have a passion for soccer. I love playing it, watching it on TV, and even traveling to attend live games. I am always wearing a soccer jersey when I can, as I have over 40 different ones from around the globe. Like chemistry, I love the global aspect of soccer and how it brings so many people together. Also, because I have built a reputation for wearing soccer jerseys, I have had four different professors gift me a soccer jersey for one reason or another. Credit: Jacob Barrett

What is your favorite part about being on the YCC?

The people. The members, past and present, are always a joy to work with. I look forward to national meetings and have built some great friendships while on the committee. But the people don’t just end with the committee. As members of YCC, we get to work with so many great committees, divisions, volunteers, and ACS staff to see our visions realized, and it has been such a pleasure meeting so many people who want to continue the work of improving chemistry and making it a better, safer place for everyone. And it is always such a great experience to meet chemists who are just learning about the YCC, or the ACS in general, and being able to help them. Overall, the best part about being on the YCC is the people.

What do you think are the biggest challenges facing younger chemists today?

The biggest challenge facing younger chemists is the lack of commitment to, or the lack of action toward, diversity, equity, inclusion, and respect. While there has been a strong push to center this challenge, we are still a long way away from meeting the goals set forth by these initiatives of making chemistry, and science in general, a safe place for everyone. It is crucial we put all our effort into addressing this challenge to truly advance chemistry.  How are we, as chemical professionals, supposed to address the problems presented by the myriad challenges facing younger chemists—our (lack of) career opportunities and the implementation of automation, climate change and environmental concerns, mental health and well-being (including work-life balance), and the polarization of science and our social responsibility as scientists and engineers—if we cannot be heard or are leaving the field due to discrimination, toxic work culture, or lack of financial resources? It is only when we create an environment in which all voices are heard, opportunities are accessible to all, and people are valued for their contributions that we can effectively address the other challenges facing younger chemists.

Meeting my Senior Chemist co-mentor, Dr. Joshua Obaleye, for the first time at ACS Fall 2023 in San Francisco. The YCC and the Senior Chemist Committee (SCC) partner on many different initiatives and programs, including the Networking with Chemistry Professionals Ice Cream Socials at the Spring Meetings. Due to the close collaboration between the two committees, we have set up a co-mentoring program. The SCC members will mentor us (the YCC) on our career and journey in the ACS, and provide advice based on our career goals. In return, the YCC members will mentor the SCC members on the challenges facing younger chemists and how the SCC members might use their knowledge, contacts, and resources to connect with and reach other younger chemists and students to help them on their career path. Credit: Graham Tiller

What is something you want every younger chemist to know?

There is no “correct” career path for everyone, and there is so much out there that you can do with a degree in chemistry. Chemistry is a tool with which we can learn about the world. You can use this tool to inform your decisions and to help you in all sorts of different careers, from the “obvious” such as working as a chemistry professor or teacher or as a bench chemist at a big chemical company or national laboratory, to careers in different fields such as law, marketing, sales, writing, consulting, and politics. And the ACS is a resource that can help you along the way and put you on those career paths by helping you network and meet people, offering scholarships and fellowships, and providing many other resources.

Article by Olivia Wilkins, Ph.D.

Olivia Wilkins is an astrochemist and NASA Postdoctoral Program (NPP) Fellow at NASA Goddard. She holds a PhD in Chemistry from Caltech and a BS in Chemistry and Mathematics from Dickinson College.