Max Hill

By Malinn Loeung | Photo by Stan Lim


Max Hill
Inspired by his father and driven by a desire to prove himself, microbiology major Max Hill has plans to pursue a doctoral degree.


Not So ‘So-So’

Max Hill was a self-proclaimed “so-so” student for most of his time at Ayala High School in Chino Hills. But when the seriousness of his senior year set in, he took inspiration from the academic successes of his friends and kicked into high gear, opting to enroll in AP classes. After graduating in 2019, he was admitted to a nearby state school but changed his mind about enrolling, worried his parents wouldn’t be able to afford it without going into debt. He instead joined the Army National Guard, hoping the GI Bill would fund his degree. Currently a fourth-year microbiology student, the bill has covered much of the cost of his UCR education.

At Your Service

Hill completed one semester of community college before leaving for 10 weeks of boot camp in cold and windy Oklahoma. He went on to attend combat medical school, finish another semester of community college, and volunteer for a mission to assist patients during the COVID pandemic. The mission started in Long Beach and moved down to El Centro, a California city along the U.S.-Mexico border. Following a brief training period, Hill was stationed in tents outside the overrun hospital to care for patients without COVID, including elderly patients with conditions like scabies. Hill credits his time in the military with giving him a better sense of what he wanted in life and the discipline to follow through. For his service, Hill has been awarded Army Achievement and Airforce Achievement medals.

Rebuilding the Food Pyramid

Originally hoping to attend medical school, Hill turned his focus toward a career in research after a community college course made him realize he was more interested in the diseases that underlie the human condition. His current research at UCR explores gut microbiomes, which he compares to a college campus filled with new and current students. “When a person drinks probiotics, they are essentially introducing a whole bunch of new lively bacteria, or ‘first-years,’” he said. “Those bacteria are trying to establish themselves in a new and intimidating environment. And when those new microbes meet the current ones, your gut is forced to activate to make sure everyone survives and thrives.” Hill hopes his research will lead to the introduction of better probiotics, making for healthier and happier bellies and a reworking of the food pyramid; he would place fiber and natural fats way higher, while placing meats lower.

Forward March

Returning to civilian life and pursuing a college degree has presented Hill with some challenges, like being older than most students and having to learn how to loosen up from the military rigidness. But Hill attributes his positive experience to UCR’s Veterans Resource Center, or VRC, and its director Tami Thacker. “She’s been stellar, helping me navigate campus and motivating me to pursue unique experiences,” he said. “She is the driving force that encourages me to spread my research.” After graduation, he hopes to be accepted into a Ph.D. program. As for the next few months leading up to graduation, Hill wants to dedicate more of his time to the VRC to help fellow student vets discover specialized resources and opportunities, including eligibility for partial or full funding for doctoral degrees, and have the same positive campus experience he did.


Return to UCR Magazine: Winter 2024