Who Is Right about Nuclear Energy?

Meet economics major Maxwell J.D. VanLandschoot.

September 22, 2022

Hometown: Denver, Colorado

Thesis adviser: Noelwah Netusil [economics]

Thesis: “Surveying Risk Perceptions of Nuclear Energy in the Pacific Northwest”

What it’s about: Seeking to understand, through a representative survey, the risk perceptions adults in the Pacific Northwest have about nuclear energy. I ask what, if any, characteristics and demographics influence or are correlated with risk perceptions in order to better understand our contemporary policy landscape.

What it’s really about: Which people are wrong about nuclear energy and why? (This was also an excuse to collect and play with survey data.)

In high school: I was the secretary general of our Model UN team, editor of our school paper, and stuttered my way through two Mock Trial state championships.

Influential class: Prof. Noelwah Netusil was my guiding light through Reed. She pushed me, showed me how to use economics for good, and helped me navigate too many catastrophes to count.

Influential book: Open by Prof. Kim Clausing.

Concept that blew my mind: Many of the most significant issues (climate change, war, incarceration, etc.) affecting the world might be resolved if we could capture and appropriately price-in externalities.

Cool stuff: I was a reactor operator and mentor at the Reed Research Reactor, president of the Finance and Investment Club, a disability advocate for people with speech impediments and stutters (like me!), started the Reed Chapter of the American Nuclear Society, captained the CFA Challenge team, and wrote for the Quest.

Challenges faced: Between the pandemic, 2020 election, fires, protests, global conflict, economic uncertainty, and a tree falling through my room, I am just happy I made it through in one piece.

How Reed changed me: Reed made me more curious, made me acknowledge and appreciate who I really am.

Awards: A data science fellowship to work with Prof. Kelly McConville at Harvard, economics research fellowship, summer internship award to study the economic impact of COVID-19 on a small Washington city, and Undergaduate Statistics Class Project winner.

What’s next: Working with international research groups and traveling, then heading off to grad school.