Meet Maximino DiGiacomo-Castillo: Award-winning Student Researcher Bound for Stanford
When Maximino DiGiacomo-Castillo attended a research internship program at Stanford University last year, he saw his future. “It’s been awesome to be in such an intellectually rich environment,” Max reported at the time. “I love the campus, and I’m hoping to transfer here for the rest of my undergraduate education.”
This fall, Max transfers to the world-renowned research university to pursue his bachelor’s degree in computer science. He plans to attend classes remotely at first, but hopes to be on Stanford’s campus in California by next spring. His career goals are flexible, but venture capital or cryptography are possibilities.
Not long ago, attending such a prestigious university would have been out of reach for Max, who was not a particularly high achiever in high school, but at PCCC, he discovered his talent for research and transformed.
A valedictorian in the Class of 2020, Max receives his Associate in Science Degree in Liberal Arts/Mathematics with a 4.0 GPA and highest honors. A member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, he participated in the Honors Program, and is the recipient of the 2020 Philip Metz Award for Mathematics.
Named a 2019 SAP Engineering Scholar (SAP is a software company based in Germany), Max also received a New Jersey Research and Development Council Merit Scholarship last year and was a semi-finalist for the 2019 Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship, a highly competitive award.
For two consecutive years, Max received first-place awards from The Beacon Conference, an event open to honors program students from community colleges in the Mid-Atlantic region. In 2018, Max won for a research paper and presentation on blockchain theory. The following year, he took top prize again for a paper and presentation about cryptocurrencies.
His research at Stanford last year involved consensus protocols for blockchains. “It basically allows us to experimentally test the security of certain networks,” Max explained. He presented his research last July at the national symposium of the Leadership Alliance, a consortium of academia and private industry that provides leadership and research opportunities to young scholars.
He also co-authored a paper based on his research with two Stanford graduate students and his supervising professor. The paper was submitted this month for possible inclusion in the IEEE 2020 Blockchain Conference, a forum for researchers, engineers, and practitioners to present latest advances and innovations for the blockchain. The Conference will be held virtually in November.
Currently, Max is completing a remote internship with Montana State University where he is collaborating with another student intern to investigate blockchain applications.
Selected in 2018 for the NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars Program, Max completed an onsite workshop at the space agency’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. “It was a great overall experience,” he said.
Max balances the intense mental activity of his research projects with running, hiking, and reading novels, citing Crime and Punishment and the Game of Thrones series among his favorites.
“I try to practice digital minimalism,” he said of his effort to reduce “time spent on mindless internet surfing.” He experimented with using a flip phone for over a year and reading the print version of a newspaper every day.
“I feel like these things help me hone my concentration and do well in school and internships, said Max. “I also think my leisure time is more fulfilling doing things like reading or running.”
Looking back over the past two years, Max said the most valuable part of his experience at PCCC was “the opportunity to restart and apply myself to my studies. In the Fall, I will begin at a university I had zero chance of being admitted to out of high school, and that’s exciting.”
Written by Linda Telesco