In his final year of university, Maximillian once again witnessed the complex realities of real life through a community-engaged learning course. He was assigned to a group that worked with a local organization on providing community housing for low-income families. Together, they created a business plan to form a community land trust that helps keep housing prices low. This experience opened his eyes to the major poverty and housing crisis in London, a reality he would have never encountered had he not stepped out of his comfortable university bubble. The discomfort that comes with the unfamiliar is why many resist trying anything new. But for Maximillian, traversing into the discomforting worlds, seeing the real world’s messiness, is the only way to encounter and endure the growing pains necessary to learning.
Maximillian’s willingness to step out of his comfort zone rewarded him with rich learning and research experiences that ultimately earned him his golden ticket of admission to Harvard University. There, Maximillian will be starting his direct-entry PhD program in Biological and Biomedical Sciences this fall. “A lot of those experiences I had are going to translate extremely well in my next stage in my PhD,” Maximillian remarked gratefully.
Maximillian’s willingness to step out of his comfort zone earned him his golden ticket of admission to Harvard University.
One of Maximillian’s latest projects is SciFeye, an attempt to combat sensational news reporting on science. The media often sacrifices knowledge for attention with clickbait headlines. When the news reports these misleading or spurious scientific claims, the public forms faulty beliefs and negative opinions. In an effort to help people critically assess what they read in the media, Maximillian started SciFeye.
Unlike the London Volunteer Task Force, SciFeye took him months to launch. Maximillian gathered science students from different schools and countries to form a reviewing team that fact-checks and evaluates the accuracy of news stories on scientific progress and publications. “We’re reviewing how well these news outlets are reporting on the science itself,” he summarized. The reviewing team of 50 follows a rubric called the SciFeye Index to guide their assessments. This index is made publicly available for people to use.
“The whole point of SciFeye is to encourage people to be active readers and not just take the headlines at face value. If you’re a more active reader, there is less chance for misinformation and more chance you are able to see through the fake news,” Maximillian said.
Behind this mission lies a deeper calling for readers to rise up to the challenge of protecting the state of our public knowledge. It asks people to get uncomfortable in order to see more, a vocation Maximillian has undertaken himself. At the end of our chat, Maximillan reflected on how his experiences have gifted him a fair share of uncomfortable situations. But he enjoys the rare learning experience that emerges from these productive struggles. “You have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable,” Maximillian concluded, “that’s how you learn.”
To learn more about Maximillian and his projects, visit https://www.maximillian.ca/.