Marshall Arts and Sciences

Senior Paul Miller puts the exclamation point on his academic career with a prestigious Marshall Scholarship.

Paul Miller is leaving on top. The USC senior from Walnut Creek, Calif., recently nabbed one of the most coveted honors in America, the Marshall Scholarship. He is the fourth Trojan to receive the scholarship – the second since Jacob Chacko ’00 won it in 2000.

Marshalls are awarded to as many as 40 students nationally; recipients are chosen for leadership, community involvement and academic excellence. As part of the scholarship, Miller receives up to three years of schooling at the British university of his choice. He leaves in October to pursue a master’s in European history at Oxford University.

A political science and psychology double-major in the College of Letters, Arts and Sciences who graduates with a 3.88 GPA, Miller has never been satisfied with just studying social change; he’s intent on fomenting it.

His discovery that there was an “over-concentration” of liquor stores in South-Central Los Angeles, for example, led him to organize a grassroots public awareness campaign about the issue. Miller’s other projects included starting a youth mentoring program to reduce local delinquency rates and launching an effort to increase print journalists’ awareness about the prevalence of negative words used to describe Muslims.

In the long run, Miller plans to use his education to make a difference in society. With “just enough African to receive harassment from local law-enforcement officials and just enough of every other culture to be truly accepted by none,” Miller says, his mixed-race heritage made him more aware of “certain strains within society” that he wants to change.

Miller also scored a Truman Scholarship last spring and a George J. Mitchell Scholarship earlier this year. If you ask USC psychologist Brian Lickel, the profusion of accolades is justified. “Paul is a great person whose energy is contagious,” says his mentor. “He thinks both clearly and creatively about ideas, but what is so great about him is that he wants to connect the ideas to events and issues that matter in the world.”

The Marshall Scholarship was established in 1953 by the British to thank the American people for their assistance after WWII under the Marshall Plan. Past winners include U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer and Pulitzer Prize-winner Tom Friedman of the New York Times.

Photograph by Michele A.H. Smith

Mo the Merrier

When USA Today announced its annual All-USA College Academic First Team in March, Cecilia Mo made the cut. The USC senior is one of 20 academic standouts nationally who, in the words of USA Today editor Karen Jurgensen, “take their college education above and beyond ... [and] have already used their skills to improve society in original and wide-ranging ways.” A math and interdisciplinary studies double-major, Mo has a near-perfect 3.917 GPA. More important to the USA Today judges, however, was her human rights work in Nepal with women at risk of prostitution. As a summer intern with the International Institute of Human Rights, Environment and Development, Mo helped create an education program to shield women from the sex-trafficking trade. “My experience in Nepal was life-changing, to say the least,” says Mo, who plans a career consulting on international development. “My passions – human rights work, poverty-alleviation efforts – showed me that being a public servant was my path.”

– Gilien Silsby

Classroom Diplomat
Eur-OK, Steven Lamy

As graduate students, Steven Lamy and Condoleezza Rice both trained under former Czech diplomat Josef Korbel (father of Madeleine Albright). But they ended up on opposite ends of the political spectrum. A self-styled Wilsonian liberal internationalist and Europeanist, Lamy is “more in favor of multilateralism than unilateralism.” And while Rice makes foreign policy, Lamy teaches it – exuberantly and exceedingly well. At USC, he’s been named Professor of the Year four years in a row since 1998. He won the 1987 USC Associates Award for Excellence in Teaching. He can make a 300-person introductory course feel intimate, says freshman Krystle Meyer: “He cares about us all as individuals, and promises to learn all of our names by the end of the semester.” Now director of USC’s School of International Relations, Lamy had previously directed USC’s Center for Excellence in Teaching and its Center for Public Education in International Affairs; he still runs the Teaching International Relations Program he founded, which sends USC student volunteers into local high schools as IR trainers. Other people get depressed thinking about world affairs, but Lamy is a confirmed optimist. An expert in Western advanced industrial states, he’s keen on alternatives to the “realistic” view dating back to Machiavelli and Hobbes that deems humans fundamentally evil and forever in conflict. “Realism has been the dominant paradigm in U.S. foreign policy since World War II,” he says. “It’s a Cold-War approach.” Time to move on.

– Inga Kiderra

Illustration by Tim Bower

In the Mood

One little enzyme has handed Jean Shih a lifetime of scientific breakthroughs along with endless surprises.

Though Jean Chen Shih has studied monoamine oxidase (MAO) for most of her professional life, only recently did she get her first glimpse at the multitalented molecule. A vital brain enzyme specializing in the breakdown of the monoamine neurotransmitters, MAO affects mood, depression, the sleep-waking cycle, addiction, feelings of reward, blood pressure and Parkinson’s disease.

Shih’s team is the first to have modeled MAO’s three-dimensional structure and the first to have worked out the key amino acids involved in its active sites. The discovery, recently reported in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, is a major stride toward designing better antidepressants and finding treatments for Parkinson’s.

This is only the latest in a series of MAO-related coups achieved by Shih, who is a University Professor with appointments in USC’s School of Pharmacy and its Keck School of Medicine.

In 1988, her group was the first to find the full amino-acid sequence of MAO’s two forms, called A and B, and the first to identify its genomic structure and regulatory elements. Shih performed a series of experiments, creating “knockout” mice (animals lacking one or both MAO genes): While MAO A knockout mice were unusually aggressive, MAO A-B “double knockout” mice showed both aggression and pronounced anxiety. “This tells us that anxiety and aggression are regulated by similar neurotransmitter pathways,” Shih says – an insight that may have important ramifications for certain antidepressants.

Meanwhile MAO B knockout mice, she found, metabolize certain neurotoxins differently, resulting in protection from Parkinson’s disease.

“This enzyme has many different functions and acts on so many different pathways,” Shih says, noting it may even play a role in prostate cancer and cell death. “It’s interesting to think that one enzyme can take up many scientists’ whole lifetimes and still bring surprises.”

– Matthew Blakeslee

Photo by Michael Chaibaudo

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