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566th musician awarded for community outreach

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Jesse A. Miller Jr, an instrumentalist with the 566th Air Force Band, is seen in his official portrait at the 182nd Airlift Wing, Peoria, Ill., Sept. 8, 2012. The University of Illinois awarded him with the Campus Awards for Excellence in Public Engagement for applying his knowledge and expertise to social issues for the public good. Miller works as a teaching laboratory specialist in the university’s chemistry department. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by TSgt Todd A. Pendleton/Released)

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Jesse A. Miller Jr, an instrumentalist with the 566th Air Force Band, is seen in his official portrait at the 182nd Airlift Wing, Peoria, Ill., Sept. 8, 2012. The University of Illinois awarded him with the Campus Awards for Excellence in Public Engagement for applying his knowledge and expertise to social issues for the public good. Miller works as a teaching laboratory specialist in the university’s chemistry department. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by TSgt Todd A. Pendleton/Released)

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Jesse A. Miller Jr, an instrumentalist with the 566th Air Force Band, plays the alto saxophone during the Air National Guard Band of the Midwest summer tour June 30, 2013. The University of Illinois awarded him with the Campus Awards for Excellence in Public Engagement for applying his knowledge and expertise to social issues for the public good. Miller works as a teaching laboratory specialist in the university’s chemistry department. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by TSgt Todd A. Pendleton/Released)

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Jesse A. Miller Jr, an instrumentalist with the 566th Air Force Band, plays the alto saxophone during the Air National Guard Band of the Midwest summer tour June 30, 2013. The University of Illinois awarded him with the Campus Awards for Excellence in Public Engagement for applying his knowledge and expertise to social issues for the public good. Miller works as a teaching laboratory specialist in the university’s chemistry department. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by TSgt Todd A. Pendleton/Released)

PEORIA, Ill. -- An instrumentalist with the Illinois Air National Guard's 566th Air Force Band received an award from the University of Illinois earlier this month for volunteer work in his community.

Master Sgt. Jesse A. Miller Jr. works as a teaching laboratory specialist in the university's chemistry department. The college recognized him with the Campus Awards for Excellence in Public Engagement for applying his knowledge and expertise to social issues for the public good.

"I've always enjoyed science in general and chemistry specifically, so getting to teach at a major research university is very rewarding," Miller said. "Running our outreach program allows me to combine my love of science, teaching, and entertaining all together."

Miller has been involved with the Reaching and Educating America's Chemists of Tomorrow program, also known as REACT, for 10 years. The program uses student volunteers to do hands-on chemistry experiments with more than 3,000 elementary school students annually.

Part of Miller's community outreach uses entertainment to teach chemistry, from making ice cream with liquid nitrogen to doing magic shows. He also hosts "Chemistry Corner," a weekly television spot that explores elements of science.

"The goal of my segments is to explain to the public the science behind every day phenomena in an entertaining way that non-scientists can understand," he said.

Miller has worked for the University of Illinois for 15 years. He said he uses his military experience and leadership skills to guide his students and staff in order to make sure the university's academic program is successful. He served as a nuclear engineer on Navy submarines before joining the Air Force, and brings with him 24 years of military service.

"I learned these leadership skills in the military and they are an invaluable asset to me," he said. The Air Force core values are not just slogans to him, he said, but are important parts of his military and civilian jobs, as well as his family life.

"Master Sgt. Miller is one of our hardest working members of the band," said Senior Master Sgt. Greg Koger, the band's superintendent. "He's always volunteering for performance requests that come our way throughout the year on non-drill days, allowing us to do our mission and best represent the 182nd Airlift Wing."

Miller has served with Peoria's 566th Air Force Band for 14 years. He plays the alto saxophone and is the unit's deployment manager. His "Chemist Corner" television segment is featured Wednesdays during The Morning Show on Champaign's WCIX Channel 9 and WCIA Channel 3.

(Information was used from the University of Illinois' news bureau.)