Maxwell Teszler '23 Receives Marshall Scholarship

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The biology major will continue studying plant genetics and agricultural systems.

Maxwell Teszler
Maxwell Teszler ’23 will study next year at the University of East Anglia. (Photo courtesy of Maxwell Teszler)

Growing up in Newton, Mass., inspired by a green-thumbed grandfather, Max Teszler ’23 liked getting his hands dirty.

“I loved planting seeds and watching them grow or raising them indoors under lights and then transferring them to the garden when it was no longer frost season,” he says.

Squash, cucumbers, and corn, among other nourishing vegetables, flourished in his small suburban yard. In fourth grade, Teszler grew a 60-pound pumpkin that was as big as he was. And every Thanksgiving, he makes pumpkin pie from scratch.

Teszler tended seedlings of a different sort at a Dartmouth biology lab, where he worked with Mary Lou Guerinot, the Ronald and Deborah Harris Professor of Biological Sciences, to explore iron deficiency response in Arabidopsis, a small, cress-like flowering plant.

“Better understanding the genetics behind the way plants do—or don’t—absorb minerals has major implications for the global food supply and world health,” he says.

Teszler, who completed all his degree requirements this fall, also won a Goldwater Scholarship in 2022. 

Next year, Teszler will advance his studies at the University of East Anglia as one of 49 recipients of a Marshall Scholarship, which supports Americans pursuing degrees in the United Kingdom. The awards were announced on Monday.

Created by the British government in appreciation for the Marshall Plan, since 1953 Marshall Scholarships have brought more than 2,000 high-achieving recipients to universities in the United Kingdom.

“We are immensely proud of Max, both for the important research he has been doing here and for what he’s on track to achieve as he furthers his education through the Marshall program,” says Provost David Kotz ’86.

“It’s a natural opportunity to continue learning about the things that I care a lot about, like plant biology and research into food and agricultural systems,” says Teszler. “We need to grow crops that have more nutritional content. Two billion people worldwide suffer from iron deficiency anemia, so by understanding how plants take up iron, we hope to grow plants with more iron and hopefully solve that problem.”

But the obstacles, he says, are daunting,

“Currently, around 30% of potentially available cropland is iron-poor, so we can’t grow many crops on those soils. And we face challenges from climate change to our existing supply of cropland and adverse weather events.”

In the future, Teszler says, new land and new plants may need to be cultivated, and he views England as an ideal place in which to conduct such beneficial research.

“There are lot of plant biology research institutes, including one at the university where I’m going to study. They do the basic discovery, they discover the genetic networks and genetic pathways that are undergirding plant life and plant success and plant survival, and then also directly breed the plants and develop the crops that people are using in the field. Research goals include improving human nutrition with crops and growing plants with less resources and higher yield, which really aligns with what I’m interested in.”

When he’s not gardening, Teszler heads for rugged woodland trails. As vice president of the Dartmouth Outing Club, he helped to revamp the winter skills curriculum, and to publish the club’s quarterly newsletter, Solstice and Equinox.

“I also really like teaching and mentoring,” he says. “I’ve worked as a learning fellow in Bio 12 twice. Every time I return to the introductory biology material, I’m inspired to think in new ways about the basic mechanisms of cell division and cell growth and cellular energetics.”

Following his yearlong Marshall scholarship, Teszler plans to pursue a PhD in genetics or plant biology, and eventually, as a professor, establish his own research group.

For information about applying for Marshall and other programs, visit Dartmouth’s Fellowship Advising Office.