‘I think I’ve found my lifelong career’: Grad student publishes research as lead author

Justin T. Berg, a graduate student in the Master of Science in Biology program, has achieved a personal first and, in the process, solidified the direction he wants to go with his career. As of February, he became a published lead author of scientific research. 

It was a study, which was funded by the university’s National Science Foundation EPSCoR grant, on the effects of shade on corals’ recovery time from heat stress, or coral bleaching, events. The researchers found that both light and temperature work together in coral bleaching events and that shading them greatly assists their recovery time. The paper is published in the peer-reviewed Marine Biology Research journal.

“I think I’ve found my lifelong career, which is extremely exciting,” Berg said. “I don’t think I’ll ever look back.”

This was the first time Berg had ever gone through the full process of writing a scientific paper to getting a project peer reviewed and published. He received support along the way and credits the Guam NSF EPSCoR program as well as Assistant Professor Bastian Bentlage, who supervised and also co-authored the study.

“Being first author is huge, especially when you’re looking into applying for a Ph.D. program,” Berg said. “I want to be able to be a professor one day and teach students and give them the opportunities I had.” 

Bentlage said a team of undergraduate and high school interns brought in by the Guam EPSCoR and NSF INCLUDES programs were also crucial in helping with the project’s experimental design and data collection. 

“It wouldn’t have been possible without all these students who were so keen on learning something new and helping my lab develop new approaches to study corals for us to use and add to our portfolio of tools,” Bentlage said. “We really went on this journey together.” 

Berg is expected to receive his master’s in biology at the end of this semester. He earned his bachelor’s from the University of Delaware, double majoring in biology and pre-veterinary medicine and animal biosciences with a minor in chemistry.

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