Scientific Method ... with a Twist: Video Transcript

Chris Makaroff [Dean of the College of Arts and Science; Professor of Chemistry]: Now it is my pleasure to introduce our Student Commencement Speaker.

Max Leveridge is a graduating senior from Dublin, Ohio majoring in Environmental Earth Science, along with co-majors in Environmental Science and Sustainability. Next year, as a student in the Combined Bachelor's-Master's Program in Environmental Science, he plans to get his master's as well as his graduate certificate in Geographic Information Sciences.

Max is a former Associated Student Government senator, a College of Arts and Science Student Ambassador, a member of the Dean's Student Advisory Council, and a member of the University Undergraduate Research Committee. He also founded a campus environmental appreciation club and won an Honorable Mention last year for the Goldwater Scholarship.

On top of all that, Max has been working with Professor Mike Brudzinski, since his first week at Miami, on a research project investigating the link between deep wastewater injection and human-induced earthquakes here in Ohio.

Max has already given over a dozen presentations on his work, both locally and nationally, and is co-author on a paper that was just published this past March in the Journal of Geophysical Research.

Max credits his mentor, Mike Brudzinski, for providing him with many of these experiences — and likewise, Mike has stated that Max's "research progress so early in his college career places him ahead of all other undergraduate researchers" he's known.

Max believes everyone should take at least one class in environmental science saying: "not only is it interdisciplinary — but it is also important when you hear news about climate change, species extinction, or algae blooms. It's one of the classes you need to understand what is happening in the world."

Max plans to earn his Ph.D., with the ultimate goal of doing research involving endangered species and identifying ways to protect them. Organizations like the International Union for Conservation of Nature or the United Nations Environment Programme are a couple of his potential career destinations.

Regardless of where he heads after concluding his work here at Miami, we know that Max will find tremendous success in helping enlighten the world about nurturing and protecting our environment.

Please join me in welcoming Max Leveridge.

Max Leveridge [Environmental Earth Science, senior]: Good evening. I just wanted to start off by saying thank you — the Dean's Office for inviting me here to speak tonight. Professors for pushing us each day to achieve our full potential. Staff for making Miami feel like home. Friends for always having our backs through thick and thin. And most importantly, families for giving us the support, without which, who knows how many of us would be here today?

When Ted first asked me to speak to you, I thought "this is great!" Then as it set in, I thought "oh crap, what did I just agree to?" Then as any person tasked with giving a speech would do, I immediately started googling ideas and watching YouTube videos of "the best speeches of all time." But don't worry, I eventually got sidetracked watching Good Mythical Morning, so you won't have to sit here for seven minutes listening to me go through countless clichés.

So what am I going to talk about? If you ask any of my friends, they can tell you that I've been doing research since I arrived on campus. So, I'm going to talk about something I'm familiar with, something all of you have probably learned at some point in your lives, whether it was for one of your captivating Miami Plan classes or if it was all the way back in elementary school — I'm going to talk about the scientific method … but with a little twist.

First, you start with a question — it's the basis for everything that follows. Think back several years. Out of nowhere, you were called into a small room for the dreaded talk. Now I'm not talking about the birds and the bees, I'm talking about when your guidance counselor asks you, "So Billy, where are you going to college after you graduate?" And if you were me, you had absolutely no idea.

So you start your background research. This could either be just googling the cheapest schools, seeing where you can get in with your ACT or SAT scores, or maybe you're feeling confident and looking for the best school in your subject!

Then you decide to go on college visits, where you learn Robert Frost once said that Miami is the "most beautiful campus that ever there was" or that "Miami is one of four schools that have graduated both a U.S. President and a Super Bowl winning quarterback." And who knows, this might've been what convinced you to come to Miami.

With that, you have made your hypothesis — "I think Miami is the best school for me." So, you apply, you wait to hear back, and I feel it's safe to assume you were all accepted. But then again, you know what they say about assumptions, and some of you might just be here because you like to get dressed up in red robes and sit on a converted basketball stadium floor with two thousand of your closest friends!

Now comes the fun part … the experiment. You come in freshman year, join every club, rush every fraternity and sorority, and even head Uptown on the occasional Saturday afternoon for some … coffee. You suffer through the all-nighters, where you and your friends order Insomnia at 2am, you accept the challenge laid down by the professor, who says "this isn't an assignment you can do the night before" by starting it the night before it's due, and you sit through all the lectures, or almost all of the lectures, where you end up paying more attention to the cute girl in front of you rather than how the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell.

Then you sit down and analyze the data. Unless you've transferred somewhere else, all of you are pretty happy here at Miami, or at least happy enough to be here today. Usually, the first time this comes up is when those senior surveys "we never got" ask you all these deep questions about your experience. But what did you really get out of Miami? Well, for starters, you have life-long friends — people you might stay in touch with long into that thing called adulthood, and stories to tell your children to make them jealous of how wild you were in college. On top of that, regardless of what your piece of paper says that says you're qualified to do something says, you've gained a liberal education. It's that thing where you tell your employers you have experience in something just because you've had one class in it, but it has also added countless tools to your toolbox to help you in your future endeavors. Above all else, you've gained the invaluable skill of critical thinking. You're able to think about complex issues and decide your own opinions on it. No more Wikipedia telling you to believe that the moon landing was just the movie-magic of some Miami alum!

Lastly comes the conclusion. You've made it, and congratulations! But in all honesty, whether we want to believe it or not, Miami has helped us grow into the independent and well-prepared adults sitting here today. If you had asked me two years ago to stand up in front of two thousand graduates and their families, or even a class of 20 people, I would have laughed and just walked away. But here I am. Whether or not you enjoyed the speech is beside the point. But because of the experiences I've had here, I'm doing things that I would have never imagined, and the journey only starts here. With any good study, you set yourself up for future studies — be it grad school, law school, med school, a career at your dream job, or the job that sets you up to become CEO of Chipotle or Speaker of the House.

But where do we stand on our hypothesis? Being here today, I feel it's safe to say your hypothesis holds true — that Miami turned out to be the best school for you. And whether or not you realize it, you now have to skills to go forth and succeed beyond your wildest dreams at whatever you put your mind to.

So with that, my fellow graduates, congratulations, and by no means for the last time — Love and Honor.

Dean Makaroff: Thank you, Max.  We wish you the very best.

[May 2018]