Many young people are reading award-winning young adult nonfiction books about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). This encourages them to learn about such topics as film technologies, health science, natural science, environmental science, engineering, nuclear science, and space science, to name a few.
However, William Maillis is taking his interest in studying STEM, in particular space science, a step further. In 2019 at the age of 12, this child prodigy was already enrolled as a junior in an undergraduate astronomy degree program with the hopes of colonizing Mars someday. Read on to learn more about this remarkable boy and his chosen field of study.
About William Maillis
According to news reports, William Maillis was able to speak in complete sentences before he was a year old, do simple math at the age of 2, and complete algebra equations at the age of 4. Reports about him also note that he skipped from third grade directly to 12th grade and graduated from high school at the age of 9.
Later, he enrolled in community college, earning an associate’s degree from St. Petersburg College at age 11. Early reports had him transferring to the University of South Florida to pursue a bachelor’s degree, but the University of Arizona now lists him as an undergraduate student in its astronomy department.
One of the most unique characteristics of William Maillis is his desire to blend scientific study with religious belief. In a public talk at Hellenic College and Holy Cross School of Theology (HCHC), Maillis explained his theory that God exists and stated it stems from Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and refutes Stephen Hawking’s thinking about gravity’s role in the creation of the universe. Given he is the son of an Orthodox Christian priest, it is not surprising that one of his stated goals is to prove the existence of God through mathematical proof.
Hopes to Reach Mars
Another life goal held by Maillis is the colonization of Mars. The University of Arizona’s astronomy department seems a fitting place for him to explore not only his interest in theorizing about God and the universe but also his desire to step foot on Mars. This is because the University of Arizona’s astronomy department lists a wide range of specialty areas, including the construction of astrophysical theoretical models and the direct observation of galaxies, among others.
As an undergraduate student at the University of Arizona, the astronomy courses available to Maillis cover such theoretical topics as cosmology, astrophysics, stellar evolution, computational physics, general relativity, and the philosophy and history of astronomy. Courses also cover more practice-based topics such as observational astronomy, data mining, machine learning, astronomical optics, and radio astronomy, among others.
Furthermore, the University of Arizona is home to the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory (LPL). This facility has played a role in every space mission sponsored by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) since the Apollo missions.
Most notably for Maillis, the LPL has participated in several Mars-related NASA missions. These missions include NASA’s 2007 Phoenix Mars Mission, which studied the history of water on Mars and the potential of habitation on Mars. The LPL Mars-related missions also include the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which discovered water on Mars in 2015.
Earning a PhD
Maillis stated in his public lecture at HCHC that another of his goals is to earn his PhD by the time he is 18 years old. Although this is an age when many people are just finishing high school, given what Maillis has accomplished to date, this goal does not seem far-fetched. Should he decide to stay at the University of Arizona for his doctorate, Maillis has several options for earning a STEM-related PhD.
Maillis could decide to enroll in the LPL’s doctoral program in planetary sciences. Should he choose this path, he might specialize in an area such as planetary atmospheres, the interiors of planets and planetary satellites, asteroid or comet astronomy and physics, plasma physics, solar wind, solar physics, or the formation of the solar system, to name a few.
On the other hand, Maillis might choose to remain in the astronomy department at the University of Arizona to earn a PhD in astronomy and astrophysics. Should he choose this path, he might find himself working with cutting-edge telescopes and supercomputers optimized for processing astronomy-related data on such projects as stellar evolution observations, extragalactic cosmology, star formation, and exoplanet astrobiology, among others.
Of course, Maillis might decide to attend a different university for his doctoral work. Should that be the case, he has plenty of options. The American Astronomical Society lists 103 universities offering astronomy-related PhD programs across the United States. Globally, even more options exist for earning a PhD in this field. It seems the sky truly is the limit for William Maillis.