Reagan Miller and Isabelle Haser grew up in very different parts of the country, but the two best friends are now inseparable, whether traveling around Europe or running science clubs at the University of Dallas.
The two juniors are often mistaken for sisters, and they’ve been close since their participation in the UD O’Hara Chemical Sciences Institute before freshman year.
Despite Miller living in Keller, Texas, and Haser in Wilmette, Illinois, the pair often field questions about potential family resemblances. “We’ve been asked if we were sisters solely based on the fact that we both wear glasses, which is an interesting basis for relationships,” Haser quipped.
“Even our professors have asked us if we’re sisters,” Miller said.
In addition to the O’Hara program, Miller and Haser credit their ongoing friendship to their many shared experiences as biochemistry majors. “I didn’t really even think about it until afterwards, but through O’Hara, I already had friends at UD, and most people are some kind of science major, plus you already know your professors,” Haser said. “It really gave us a foot up in other ways besides just being ahead in classes.”
“We were the biggest O’Hara class UD ever had,” Miller explained. “There were 22 of us that summer and usually there are only like nine, so we have this really big community.”
Haser was originally drawn to UD because of its integration of sciences with the rest of the student body, but especially because of its opportunity to study abroad. “Because of the way other schools structure their departments, if you wanted to go into the sciences, there was no opportunity to do a study abroad program,” Haser said.
Miller and Haser made the most of their time together in Europe last spring, as they spent every travel break with one another during the semester. “We went to Budapest, Austria, Naples — worst city in the world, don’t go — to Paris,” Miller began. “For 10-day we did Paris, and then Brussels, and then Amsterdam,” Haser finished, completing Miller’s sentence effortlessly.
Haser and Miller had expected to be interviewed for Humans of UD in March after they participated in the American Chemical Society national meeting, but the conference was canceled due to COVID-19. Despite this setback, they were optimistic about their futures in the sciences.
“There are good and bad things from the cancellation. The bad — we didn’t get to go. But we both got distinction, we were accepted into the conference but also got an award called Sci-Mix, which put us in the top five percent of applicants in our division,” Miller explained. “Even though we weren’t able to present our research, we’re able to keep it on our resume for the future.”
Miller’s summer research at Texas Christian University has not been canceled yet, and she hopes to resubmit her project with new work for the American Chemical Society next year.
Haser has been unable to find an internship for the summer due to COVID-19 constraints, but fortunately, she already accomplished her research requirement for the biochemistry major last summer. “I did research at Northwestern with a new type of drug, developing methods for skin cancer and childhood brain cancer,” Haser explained.
Miller plans to become a professor in the organic chemistry field, while Haser plans to get her master’s degree in food science. Even during quarantine, Haser finds creative outlets for her passion for food science, primarily through cooking.
“It seems kind of counterintuitive, but a lot of people I know in the sciences are very creative people. I crochet and sew, and we both do bullet journals,” Haser said. “Everybody has this misconception that people in sciences are like, ‘Ah yes, and then for fun, I go home and read the dictionary.’”
Miller is a prime example of this meshing of arts and sciences, as she attended a performing arts high school and specialized in operatic vocals. She was an all-state singer and toured some colleges for music, before deciding to give up a possible music career in favor of her love of biochemistry.
They are both highly involved in UD’s science community through club leadership. Miller is the president of UD’s Women in STEM club, and Haser is the president of UD’s Student Members of the American Chemical Society (SMACS). They are each other’s vice presidents for the clubs as well.
Miller explained that Women in STEM has increased membership by 65% in the last year, and she particularly misses their Wednesday get-togethers. “We have weekly tea times when we bring women of the community together, we bring in women professors who talk to us about what it means to be a woman in STEM,” Miller said. “When you don’t have that regularity anymore, you just hope to do it next year and hope that membership stays up, hope that the community isn’t lost.”
She also emphasized that UD has an unusual female-centered community in the sciences.
“In the chemistry department, there’s three faculty and one is a woman. If you look at the statistics of professors in the chemistry field, that’s highly unlikely,” Miller said. “The fact that we have this very female-centered science is really important to cultivate, and we both made it a really big project to keep cultivating this community. I miss it so much.”
Haser particularly felt bad that underclassmen were missing opportunities provided by these clubs.
“For SMACS, we have these big events like Science Jeopardy, all these bonding and outreach opportunities for everyone in science. Not only are we missing out on it, but a lot of underclassmen are really missing out on that chance,” Haser said. “Not being able to provide those resources for other people in our community … you’re in charge of something that’s supposed to be a big resource for other people, and now the main parts of that have been taken.”
Haser and Miller will continue to support their UD community, especially through the sciences, upon their return for senior year. These two best friends are undoubtedly a power duo, bringing a sense of creativity and dedication to the lives of those around them.