Meet our Graduate
Joseph Patrick Miller, 2008 Graduate
In fall 2006, 24 year-old Joseph Miller, a thoughtful young man who describes himself as a “mediocre high school student,” walked into a counselor’s office at MiraCosta College and said he wanted to be a physics major at UC Berkeley. Joseph, who faced tremendous adversity in his youth, was determined to “make his life matter.”
In the spring of 2011, four years after Joseph began attending MiraCosta College, he graduated from UC Berkeley with degrees in physics and economics. He originally thought his educational pathway would end at Berkeley. However, he had a dream of inventing something “genius” that the world had never known before.
Today, Joseph is close to making that dream happen. At age 28, he works in the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratories in the Nuclear Science Department and in the Medical Physics Research Department. He recently accepted a full scholarship to Cornell University’s Ph.D. program in biomedical physics and engineering, and will begin classes in summer or fall of 2011. In addition to his other exciting academic achievements, Joseph won the Sloan Research Fellowship, and submitted a paper on his cancer research to Nature magazine in March of 2011.
Native to San Diego County, Joseph Patrick Miller came from very humble Nicaraguan roots and grew up in Vista, California. When Joseph was a baby, his father died leaving behind a wife, two young children, and a modest $2800 from Social Security. Despite difficulties at home, Joseph was one of those extraordinary kids who was smart and became instinctively responsible. At age 11, his mother gave him the $2,800 and said, “I don’t care what you do… just do something.” Intuitively, he knew if he could become skilled at just one thing, he could help his struggling family. Despite his youth, he knew precisely what to do; he parlayed the small inheritance into the purchase of a personal computer, which became a life-changing tool and a ticket to success.
By the age 16, Joseph was a remarkably gifted, self-taught Web site designer and had started a Web site design and development business that became profitable within a year. At age 19, without any formal training, Joseph began working at the La Jolla Club Golf Company as a Web site graphics designer and IT director.
"I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with Joseph,” says Steve Cade, president of Seawind International. “Right out of high school he had amazing talent. Joseph told me that he didn’t need college because he knew more than the professors teaching. I told him that he might be right, but he would be more stimulated to do more with his intellect and abilities with college.” Joseph wasn’t ready for college at age 19, but the seeds of learning had been planted for a time in the future.
Five years later, as his IT job was slowing down, Joseph, then age 24, began to reflect on his accomplishments. He felt that he had achieved a huge amount of success but was no longer challenged and stimulated intellectually. He wanted to do something greater in life, but had no platform from which to start. His two best friends were studying at UCSD, and one of them was taking a calculus class at MiraCosta College. When Joseph became interested in math and expressed a desire to be involved in the projects that his friends were working on at UCSD, his friends encouraged him to go to school. Joseph then began to think seriously about his future.
Shortly thereafter, Joseph walked into the counselor’s office at MiraCosta College and started classes within two hours. He completed the transfer requirements in record time with a 4.0 GPA and was accepted to UC Berkeley, Columbia University, UCLA and UC Davis. The acceptance from UCLA included the UC Regents Scholarship, which he turned down in favor of UC Berkeley because his heroes were the "Nobel Prize-winning physics professors” at UC Berkeley.
"I was so excited when Joseph started on the pathway to education,” says his former boss, Steve. “He is such a great example for those that weren’t ready for college right out of high school. MiraCosta College is a great place to change or start a new direction in life.”
When asked about his educational journey and what contributed to his success, Joseph exclaims, “Berkeley was great but MiraCosta College was awesome. The math department is excellent, actually phenomenal. Lemee Nakamura and Mark Laurel were outstanding. All of the MiraCosta professors are amazing and very succinct. They are very committed and give special personal attention to their students. The campus is incredibly safe, versatile and convenient, and there is great ease in enrollment.”
Joseph is also grateful to the college foundation for the president’s scholarships he received every semester and sings praises to his mother. “My mother is so resilient. Her hope and belief in me was so strong…she is very special to me.”
What is Joseph’s sage advice to students at MiraCosta College? “Surround yourself with smart, ambitious people who want to learn—iron sharpens iron!”