Member Spotlight: Meet Matt Miller

Member Spotlight is a regular INFORM magazine column that features members who play critical roles in AOCS.

Matt Miller
Fast Facts
Name Matt Miller
Joined AOCS 2004
Education Ph.D. from the University of Tasmania
Job title Research scientist
Employer Cawthorn Institute, Nelson, New Zealand
Current AOCS involvement President of the Australasian Section and vice chair of the Health and Nutrition Division


What’s a typical day like for you?

I spend the majority of my time now writing and spend less time in the lab. Reports, proposals, papers, annual reviews, Zane Grey fan fiction—only kidding. For me, communication and collaboration have become very important because I work in a very dynamic space in a small team. Cawthron is an accredited commercial testing facility and we also conduct novel fundamental research. I run large multiyear, multi-provider nutritional/biotechnology research projects at the same time as I develop validated analytical methods for industry.

My favorite part of my job is…

Discovery. I love it when a plan comes together, as well as that moment, however short it is, that it all makes sense. We develop novel methods for new matrices and there is a lot of walking—well, stumbling around—in the dark. Then a light bulb goes off, everything is illuminated, and it all makes sense...well, until the next lot of data comes in.

Flash back to when you were 10 years old. What did you want to be when you grew up?

At 10, I would have wanted to play Australian rules football for the Melbourne Demons or cricket for Australia. After I finished honors in chemistry (but not as a 10 year old—I’m no child prodigy), I travelled the world for four years, trying to figure out what I wanted to do…and, more importantly, what I didn’t want to do. I have always liked problem solving, and science was a way I could do that.

Why did you decide to do the work you are doing now?

About eight years ago I was really struggling to figure out what I wanted to do. In New Zealand we have a unique marine bivalve (Greenshell Mussels or Perna canaliculus) that has shown some really interesting nutritional results around inflammation and mobility. I decided I wanted to explore this further and help shape the industry into higher-value spaces. It is very challenging work but recently we are gaining some real insight and hope that through the three human clinical trials we are conducting we can elucidate the efficacy of eating this novel omega-3/unique lipid source.

Is there an achievement or contribution of which you are most proud? Why?

Throughout the work on my Ph.D. I was looking at alternative sources of lipid for salmon aquaculture. I looked at sources, including SDA-rich plant oils and DHA-rich microalgal oils. I further explored the biosynthetic capability of Atlantic salmon to produce long-chain omega-3 fatty acids. I hope this research will add to the greater scientific knowledge that will lead to more environmentally sound practices in aquaculture and more sustainable feeds while retaining salmon/cultured fish as a great source of EPA and DHA.


How do you relax after a hard day of work?

In an ideal world I would love to spend my weekends up the rivers of New Zealand fly fishing or on my sea kayak targeting large snapper. I have a drum kit that has been dusted off during COVID lockdown. But mostly I chase my 4- and 6-year olds (Hazel and George) around while playing LEGOs or ponies.

Matt Miller and son posing in front of the Wakamarina and Doom Tracks sign at a trailhead
Matt Miller and son George heading off into the New Zealand bush.

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