Student submits dissertation researching condition that killed her brother

A 22-year-old student who submitted a Masters dissertation researching the condition that killed her younger brother said she “would hope that he would be proud of what we’re doing”.

Molly Schiller, a University of Birmingham biochemistry student from Finchley in north London, shared a picture of herself holding her dissertation on Twitter on Wednesday.

“In 2015, my baby brother passed away at age 10 from a heart condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy,” she tweeted.

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“Six years later, I’ve just submitted my Masters dissertation researching the genetic causes of the same condition.

“I hope you’d be proud of me, Max.”

The post has since accrued more than 600,000 interactions including more than half a million likes.

Molly’s brother Max became ill in 2014, losing weight and getting tired – he underwent tests at Great Ormond Street Hospital, but nothing was found.

In January 2015 he died with undiagnosed hypertrophic cardiomyopathy at 10 years of age – the condition can be difficult to spot in young children due to the heart being underdeveloped.

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy sees the heart muscle cells get bigger and the walls of the heart chambers thicken.

The heart chambers are reduced in size, meaning they cannot hold much blood – the walls may stiffen, and the flow of blood through the heart may be obstructed.

Max Schiller, who died in 2015, holds a Usain Bolt pose
(Max’s Foundation)

“He was gorgeous. I know, you hear it all the time, ‘he was a ray of sunshine, and everyone loved him’, but it’s just true,” Ms Schiller told the PA news agency.

“He was always so caring. In his class, he always made sure that people had someone to talk to, and he would always make sure that his classmates were okay.

“When I decided I wanted to go into science, and when we set up the charity, it was to show that his legacy is there for people to see.

“I would hope that he would be proud of what we’re doing.”

Since Max’s death, his family have set up Max’s Foundation – a volunteer-run charity – which has raised hundreds of thousands of pounds.

That money has gone towards a research nurse, a sibling support group at Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospice, and Cardiomyopathy UK, the heart muscle charity.

The family has been unable to arrange the main fundraisers during the coronavirus pandemic, but since Ms Schiller’s post went viral there have been a number of donations and volunteers.

The student had to contend with GCSE exams just months after her brother died, and said that from the beginning of her degree she wanted to bring Max into her work.

“It was hard, of course, because it is so personal,” she said.

Molly Schiller holds her Masters dissertation researching the genetic causes of the condition that killed her brother
(Max’s Foundation)

“Working on a condition that’s affected my life so much and killed my brother is difficult, but I’m doing it for Max, to continue his legacy and to make sure his name and the condition gets the awareness it deserves.”

Ms Schiller said that while “it is very early stages for my research”, the work the foundation has funded has already made “a really big difference”.

And while she has designs on a possible PhD in the subject in the future, she said that she may go travelling beforehand.

“I feel like I still need time to figure it all out,” she said. “But I’m just proud of myself for what I’ve done so far.”

To find out more about Max’s Foundation, visit www.maxsfoundation.org.uk