August 20, 2020

Former Hank and Billye Suber Aaron Young Scholars Summer Research Institute alumni and UMES junior Teemer Barry remembers exactly when he realized science might be a good career fit.

Being fitted in elementary school with glasses instantly gave him a clearer view of nature.

“I could see the detail in leaves,” Barry said. He quickly concluded “the sciences are where I need to be.”

Barry soon pivoted to peering through microscopes at the kind of minute creatures that would become the focus of his summer 2020 internship with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

From his home in Durham, N.C., his “virtual” assignment involved “visualizing bulk environmental datasets … to help better understand how certain environmental characteristics influence phytoplankton class compositions in highly productive areas.”

Barry utilized “open-source software to analyze phytoplankton communities within the United States’ (northeastern) Continental Shelf” as part of NOAA’s ongoing Joint Polar Satellite Systems study.

His contribution, he says, should help scientists who monitor the world’s oceans track the health of their respective ecosystems reliant on the stability of micro-organisms.

“I think I gained a greater appreciation of how micro-organisms’ role serves to preserve the observable environment,” he said.

Barry was born with sickle cell anemia, an inherited blood disorder that can cause infections, pain and fatigue.  In Barry’s case, his eyesight was compromised until being fitted with glasses and he has struggled much of his life with leg pain and walking.

People with sickle cell disease have a heightened vulnerability to the novel coronavirus, so when NOAA offered a virtual way to participate in its coveted college internship programs, Barry sidestepped an obstacle in his journey to become a research scientist.

While he missed out on boarding a research vessel this summer, Barry said the 10-week opportunity nonetheless enabled him to refine his bulk-data collection and analytical skills that he’s confident will be beneficial down the road.

Barry chose to enroll in the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, in part, because it provided a summer science program opportunity to give him jump-start on undergraduate studies.