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Spotlight on the Class of 2020

 

 
Maximillian Mrozek-McCourt

Associate in Science Degree in Liberal Arts/Physical Science
with Highest Honors
 
Valedictorian
Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society
Honors Program
Class of 2020 Science Award
New Jersey Research and Development Council Merit Scholarship
National Science Foundation Research Internship
NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars

Transfers to Rutgers-Newark

 
His Vision is Fixed on the Stars 

 
Posted July 23, 2020 

 
Most college graduates are looking forward to their future.  Maximillian Mrozek-McCourt is looking upward.  A valedictorian in the Class of 2020, Max is an avid space enthusiast and envisions a career in astrophysics and research.

He graduates with a perfect 4.0 GPA and his Associate in Science Degree in Liberal Arts/Physical Science with highest honors. Max is also the recipient of the Class of 2020 Science Award. He transfers to Rutgers-Newark this fall to pursue his bachelor’s degree in physics.

“My family and I were excited and happy, because two years of hard work was being recognized,” said Max of being named a valedictorian. “I am thankful for the honor.”

Academia is a way of life and a family affair for Max. He attended Bishop Ahr High School in Edison, where his father is a teacher, and his mother works in the Office of Academic Affairs at PCCC.

A high achiever from the start, Max was in two honor societies in elementary school where he participated in science research competitions, received the science award at graduation, and took second place in a national mythology exam.  In high school Max was in the honors program, as well as the National Honor Society and honor societies for Italian and science. He received the English department award at graduation. Well rounded, Max  played basketball in elementary school and baseball and Lacrosse in high school, and was also active in his church.

Even so, Max made his own decision to attend PCCC. “I was worried about being thrown into a new, big environment at a four-year school right after high school, “ he explained. “I wanted to have smaller classes and better relationships with professors.”

A member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, Max was a participant in the Honors Program, the Graduate Writing Group, and the Astronomy Club at PCCC. He is also a 2019 recipient the New Jersey Research and Development Council Merit Scholarship.

Last year, Max was among three PCCC students selected to present their research at the Beacon Conference, an event for honors program students. His paper, "Spectroscopic Analysis for Understanding Galaxy-Black Hole Coevolution,” was selected for presentation in the General Science category.

Unfortunately, Max was unable to attend, but for a great reason: he was completing a two-month chemistry research internship at the University of North Texas, an opportunity he received through the National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program. 

“It was amazing,” said Max. “I gained real experience in a graduate lab, and have a much better idea of what to expect when I go to graduate school.” The internship also enabled Max to define his true calling. “I appreciated the experience, but learned I did not have the same passion for chemistry as I did for physics, specifically astrophysics.”

Selected for the competitive NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars Program, Max attended an on-site workshop in fall 2019 at the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia where he participated with students from other community colleges in a robotics competition and had the opportunity to tour the NASA facility.

Max’s interest in space began in childhood.  “My grandfather would cut out newspaper stories about new astronomy discoveries or events,” said Max who saved those historic clippings. Two years ago on a family trip to Arches National Park in Utah, Max took his first photos of the night sky, using his newly purchased DSLR camera. 

He set the camera up and sat with his family to watch as the sun set.  “Millions of stars slowly became visible,” said Max.  “It was so clear that the bend of the Milky Way could be seen in my images.”  With a growing interest in astrophotography, Max recently captured images of the Comet Neowise currently in the news.  (See photos below).

Max leaves PCCC with satisfaction and appreciation. “PCCC enabled me to focus, study, and discover what I want to do.” He especially values the help he received from his family and professors. “Whether they knew it or not, they were helping me discover my academic interests and passions.”

“PCCC will always have a special place in my heart,” said Max. “The people here really care about students’ success. I wish all the graduates the best of luck!”

 
Night Sky over Balanced Rock at Arches National Park, Utah; 2018

 

 
Comet Neowise, South Orange NJ; 2020

 

Photos by Maximillian Mrozek-McCourt, printed with permission

 
Written by Linda Telesco