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July 7, 2017

Cornell Postdoc Found Dead in Adirondack Mountain River

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Matthew Miller, a postdoc in the Weill Institute for Cell and Molecular Biology, died Monday in the Ausable river in the Adirondack Mountains.

Police are looking into the death as a drowning. The river had been experiencing tall water levels, according to the Adirondack Daily Enterprise.

Miller earned his Ph.D. from SUNY Upstate Medical University. Miller then worked in the lab of Prof. Anthony Bretscher, molecular biology and genetics, for the past two years where “he was doing a cell biology project, trying to understand how cells are polarized,” Bretscher said.

“He just actually last week made a big breakthrough, which he told us about at group meeting, which we had last Wednesday,” Bretscher said. “He knocked out two genes out of cultured cells and saw a strong phenotype, which will tell us what those genes do.”

Outside the lab, Miller was someone who “lived life to the full[est],” Bretscher said, known for his passion for hiking.

“You never saw him in a sad mood,” he said. “He was always happy, and he spread happiness to everybody he met.”

Miller was also a 46er, meaning that he climbed all 46 peaks in the Adirondacks that are taller than 4,000 feet, Bretscher said.

“He had climbed most of them for a second time with his fiancé for her to also become a 46er,” he added.

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Photo Courtesy of Anthony Bretscher

Photo Courtesy of Anthony Bretscher

“He had lots of plants at home, he had pets at home,” Bretscher said. “He chose to live in a rural area as he loved nature and the outdoors.”

Rob Gingras, a graduate student in the Bretscher lab and friend of Miller, echoed Bretscher’s sentiments, characterizing Miller as a “fun guy.”

“Matt was an avid concert-goer, a professional fun-haver and an absolute destroyer of silence,” Gingras said. “He was great at the work he did, but more importantly he was a great friend to me and all who knew him.”

Cécile Sauvanet, a postdoc in the Bretscher lab, also spoke to Miller’s presence both in and out of the lab, describing that he “was talkative, joyful and always joking around.”

“[The lab is] kind of empty,” Sauvanet said. “He was kind of a presence. You couldn’t miss him.”

“He was someone who was filling the lab and the space, the whole floor, even the whole institute,” Sauvanet said.