Maxwell Burtis of Brunswick, Maine is the 2022 Salutatorian for the University of Maine. Burtis is a Mechanical Engineering student with a minor in Neuroscience and an Honors College student. His many academic honors include the Thomas P. Hosmer Fellowship in Mechanical Engineering and the J&M Gorman Fellowship in Mechanical Engineering.

Since 2018, Burtis has been co-founder and chief technology officer of Ferda Farms LLC oyster farm on the New Meadows River. He started the company with the help of UMaine’s Foster Center for Innovation to experiment with techniques for farming emerging viable species and to create the machinery needed to make farmed seafood farming more effective and accessible. Burtis is responsible for much of the management of day-to-day farm operations and long-term development strategy. At the 2019 Maine Business Challenge, he won first place of $10,000 and the $5,000 Innovation Award for his work in building this cutting-edge business.

While on campus, Burtis served as a travel staff member of the Maine Bound Adventure Center and a member of the UMaine chapter of Engineers Without Borders. He is a member of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity and President of the UMaine Chapter of the Pi Tau Sigma Honor Society, and has held leadership positions on the Class of 2022 Council, Alumni Ambassadors, and Effective Altruism of Maine. In the summer of 2018, Burtis was a mechanical engineering intern at Starc Systems.

As a student researcher, he designed a small-scale solar-powered oyster upweller, and as part of the Juneau Icefield Research Program, an eight-week earth science field research expedition to the In the Alaskan backcountry, he studied the use of drones for Arctic research and examined the density and orientation of bedrock fractures using photogrammetry models. His research has received several funding awards, including two Center for Undergraduate Research (CUGR) grants, a College of Engineering research grant, and a Thomas E. Lynch Honors Thesis Fellowship. Burtis’ honors thesis is “Performance evaluation of a small lighter-than-air vehicle for Earth science remote sensing missions.”

In addition to running Ferda Farms, Burtis plans to pursue graduate school to study data science.

What difference has UMaine made in your life and in helping you achieve your goals?
My stay at UMaine taught me that my dreams can become my reality. UMaine has allowed me to explore the polar regions, start a business, develop artificial intelligence, fall in love with the outdoors, and hopefully publish my own research. At UMaine, I have cultivated my passions, found inspiration, and been supported by great mentors throughout.

Did you have an experience at UMaine that changed or shaped the way you see the world?
While participating in UMaine’s Juneau Icefield Research Program, I was disconnected from the rest of the world for six weeks as I conducted field research deep in the Alaskan backcountry. I was completely estranged from my family, my friends, my way of life and my old responsibilities. In this new environment, and without the familiar context of my life in Maine, I had the opportunity to clearly assess my identity. Despite the beauty of the Alaskan backcountry, I feel like I belong in coastal Maine and work to improve the community I grew up in.

Why UMaine?
I have found that UMaine fosters an environment where people care about their communities, appreciate hard work, value tradition, and uphold the integrity of character in students and faculty. UMaine supports world-class research, enabling all students to be at the forefront of several fields, from additive manufacturing to glaciology.

How would you define the opportunities for student success at UMaine? Is there a particular initiative, program, or set of resources that has helped you succeed?
UMaine has a place for everyone to succeed. Between research opportunities, clubs, organizations, intramural sports, and entrepreneurial support, most students can find a role in which to excel. the continued growth of the company.

Have you worked closely with a teacher or mentor who has enhanced your UMaine experience?
My specialist thesis supervisor, Professor Wilhelm Friess, constantly pushed me, enabling me to accomplish more than I thought I was capable of.

What advice would you give to incoming students to help them get off to the best start in school?
Talk to all the professors you can about their research and your interests. You never know who might be able to find a perfect role for you to advance academically. Also find upper-class students you admire through extracurricular activities and ask them how they got the most out of their time at UMaine. By the time many students reach their junior or senior year, they have found their niche and found a way to excel in it, and much can be learned from their successes and failures.

Contact: Margaret Nagle, [email protected]