Robert Millikan, PhD

A brilliant and beloved scientist left us too early. Dr. Robert Millikan, Barbara Sorenson Hulka Distinguished Professor of Cancer Epidemiology, died Sunday, October 7. He was 55.

Dr. Robert Millikan

A member of the epidemiology faculty at UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and of UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center since 1993, Dr. Millikan’s research in cancer epidemiology brought hope for better understanding and treatment of breast cancer, particularly for young African-American women who disproportionately die from the disease.

Data from UNC Lineberger’s Carolina Breast Cancer Study, which Dr. Millikan directed for more than fifteen years, demonstrated that black women under the age of 45 are more likely to be diagnosed with aggressive types of breast cancer than are women of European ancestry. The Phase III NCI program grant, which he led, will result in a better understanding of this significant health disparity by collecting information about more than 5,000 women to explore biological, environmental and epidemiologic reasons for the difference in cancer incidence.

Dr. Millikan was director of the integrative health sciences facility core at the UNC Center for Environmental Health and Susceptibility. He held an adjunct professorship in the College of Veterinary medicine at North Carolina State University.

He spent the 2005-2006 academic year at University College Dublin (Ireland) as a Fulbright Scholar. In 2008, the public health school awarded him the Hulka Distinguished Professorship.

Posthumous Honors

Bob Millikan will be awarded the 2013 Alumni Achievement Award, posthumously, on Friday, June 14, 2013 at UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.

Services & Celebrations

The Gillings School of Global Public Health and the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Research Center will co-host a celebration of Bob’s life on Thursday, October 25th at 6:30 pm at the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center at 250 East Franklin Street in Chapel Hill, NC. Please enter on the right (west) side of the Planetarium building. For more information contact: Jerry Salak, (919) 843-0661.

The funeral service for Bob Millikan, hosted by Bob’s family, will be at 2:00 on Friday, October, 26, at The Chapel of the Cross, 304 Franklin Street, Chapel Hill, NC.

We hope you can join us for one or both of these events to remember our good friend, Bob.

Additional information

Condolences can be sent to the family at:
Flavia Millikan
P.O. Box 535
Glen Ellen, CA 95442

If you have any photos of Bob, we’d appreciate it if you would share them with us as soon as possible for the Thursday evening celebration.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the National Breast Cancer Coalition’s Project LEAD® (Leadership, Education, Advocacy and Development), where Bob Millikan served for more than 15 years as a faculty member, teaching breast cancer advocates about the science of breast cancer epidemiology and genomics. Donations to Project LEAD® can be made at or by writing to: National Breast Cancer Coalition, Project LEAD® Fund in memory of Bob Millikan, 1101 17th Street NW, Suite 1300, Washington, DC 20036, or by calling 202-973-0571.

The family also suggests memorial gifts to support the Carolina Breast Cancer Study in honor of his pioneering leadership in breast cancer research. Gifts can be made payable to UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, CB #7295, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7295

Please direct photos, information and/or questions to Nancy Colvin.

Robert Millikan Tribute Fund

Dr. Robert Millikan’s former students, colleagues and friends have begun a fund in his honor, to be housed within his home department, the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health’s Department of Epidemiology.

You may contribute to the fund in one of three ways:

  1. Talk personally with one of  the School’s gift advisers by calling 919-966-0219.
  2. Make a gift online with our secure donation form. Enter “Robert Millikan Tribute Fund” in the search field on the right side of the screen.
  3. Mail your check, payable to the Public Health Foundation, to Public Health Foundation, P.O. Box 309, Chapel Hill, NC 27514-0309. Please reference “Robert Millikan Tribute Fund” in the memo line.

Here, we remember his legacy and invite you to do the same.