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Max Paukner ’17

A PhD candidate at NYU, he credits the faculty and the senior project experience with shaping his path forward.

Majors: Biology and Chemistry

Originally from Brewster, NY

Max Paukner ’17 completed a year-long research assistant post in the biochemistry department at Albert Einstein Medical College in the Bronx, then earned an MS in Chemistry at NYU. He’s now a full-time chemistry researcher.

For his senior project at Purchase, he designed and built an automated, modular environmental control chamber, which he then used to conduct biological experiments using a flowering weed Arabidopsis thaliana, to prove the chamber’s viability as an inexpensive, open-source alternative to large and costly environmental control systems for use on smaller research projects or those with limited funding.

The project earned him the Student Science Entrepreneurship Award from the Westchester County Association in 2016.

While at Purchase, he electronically mapped and replicated a 20-year-old dissolved-oxygen controller—to replace a broken one—for use in biology professor Maryann McEnroe’s lab. The original had been built from a scientific paper no longer available.

He was also a teaching assistant and a tutor for Einstein’s Corner. Paukner was an active member of his hometown of Brewster, NY’s Fire Department as well as a CPR and First Aid instructor.

In his own words…Why Purchase?

I chose Purchase because of the chance to get to know my professors, their widely accepting student body, and an opportunity to avoid student debt. 

Starting as a pre-med student, I fell in love with the sciences quickly and changed course towards chemistry. 

Over the course of my studies, several faculty members made lasting differences in my life and career: including Monika Eckenberg, Lee Ehrman, Joseph Skrivanek, Norman Canfield, Jan Factor, Mark Jonas, Peggy De Cooke, and James Daly.

I made a point to learn how my professors found their field of study, what they loved about it, common pitfalls in the field, and how they balanced it with healthy home lives. I occasionally bounced terrible ideas off of them too, which taught me to organize my ideas better.

However, the senior research project may be the program’s greatest asset. 

Some projects are more straight-tracked and compatible with a full course load.  Others are comparatively uncertain and more time consuming. I was fortunate to design and plan a rigorous project which was all my own; this gave me an enormous personal investment in the outcome and genuinely switched my brain from prescribed laboratory course work to real problem solving. 

I worked on it harder than I anything in my life at that point, and really learned how to teach myself new subjects without instruction. The project taught me how to be a strategist with my time and hope.

My takeaway from this education is that: if you’re motivated and use the resources on hand, Purchase College will help you succeed.