Student pursues passion for environmental chemistry after inspiring visit to …

by Zelalem

Danielle Berry fell in love on a mission trip she took with her church to Ethiopia when she was 15.

While there, she observed the struggles that the Ethiopian people dealt with due to their lack of resources, especially water.

The trip sparked her interest in water restoration and looking at the different contaminants in water. Berry said she realized she loved chemistry and wanted to study water so she decided to do environmental chemistry as it involves measuring toxins in water, identifying these different toxins and studying the effects they have on the environment and the people who are dealing with it.

Now a senior environmental chemistry major at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Berry stays involved on campus and recently finished in second place following the presentation of her research at the National Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Conference. The conference was held in Washington, D.C. from Feb. 19–21.

The poster that she presented was based off of work she did last summer in a research lab at SUNY-ESF under Jose Giner, a chemistry professor at SUNY-ESF.

While Berry identifies as an environmental chemist, the poster and research involved organic chemistry. She said she was not originally considering doing organic chemistry, but when she heard of a summer opportunity to work in a lab with a professor she decided to seize the opportunity.

“Once the summer work began, I loved what I was doing there,” said Berry.

Berry was homeschooled from pre-K to the age of 16 and said that some of the extracurricular activities her parents put her in, such as Girls Incorporated — which encourages girls to get involved in the scientific field — or robotics groups, may have been what pushed her toward science.

She was accepted to Onondaga Community College at 16 and transferred to SUNY-ESF two years later. She did not know that she wanted to study chemistry, but during her freshman year at OCC, she had an adviser who encouraged her to spend her summer doing research. She applied to different schools for research opportunities, including Syracuse University, and ended up spending her summer working in a lab doing research in chemistry.

“It was that summer that I fell in love with chemistry,” Berry said. “I was like, ‘Research is so cool. I want to be in a lab. I want do this. This is what I love.’”

Giner gave Berry the project for the conference, and he guided her through the research process. Giner said Berry was a fast learner and hard worker and did very well.

“I would be happy to have a whole army of people like her,” Giner said. “It’s seldom that I get students that are that productive.”

“He taught me about how procedures got done in his lab, how to keep my notebook, how to go about the synthesis themselves,” Berry said. “Basically he just kept me on track with the project and made sure I didn’t mess anything up.”

Although her passion lies in environmental chemistry, Berry is involved in very diverse activities on campus. She does African Dance through One World at SU. She enjoys “anything with music and dance” in her free time and Berry likes to sing and play guitar and piano.

After graduation Berry is applying to graduate school, as she wants to further her education and get her Ph.D. She also wants to do research in third-world countries, studying drinking water and contaminants.

Said Berry: “I would love to go back to Ethiopia and do research there. That’s my long-term dream.”

March 2, 2015 at 12:01 am

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