Biology graduate Maria Berezin, ’13, tackled every opportunity to get involved in local fisheries research during her undergraduate years at Stockton. The depth of her involvement paid off as she reeled in an acceptance to her top choice school. She is spending the summer at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University as a research assistant and then starting her Ph.D. program in Environmental Science there in the fall.
“The day that I received my acceptance letter was the happiest day of my life to date. I now work for Dr. [Richard] Horwitz at the Academy of Natural Sciences,” the Vineland native said.
She credits her Stockton roots with helping her build a strong educational foundation for growth. “I could not have achieved any of this without the guidance and experiences that I was awarded at Stockton. My advisors, Tara Luke and Mark Sullivan, were always available to me whenever I had any questions and helped me grow and gain confidence in myself and my abilities,” she said.
Berezin split last summer between field work on a boat and research in the laboratory at the Rutgers University Marine Field Station (RUMFS) as a Stacy Moore Hagan memorial scholarship recipient. “My daily activities focused primarily on the identification of larval fish under a dissecting microscope, but I also helped out with field sampling events like otter trawling, off-shore Black Sea Bass trips, bridge netting—to collect larval fish—and gill netting,” she explained.
She was awarded $2,500 for the 8-week internship experience at RUMFS in memory of ’92 Marine Science graduate Stacy Moore Hagan. RUMFS Laboratory Researcher Roland Hagan, who studied at Stockton and met his future wife at freshmen orientation, established the scholarship in her memory.
Berezin accepted a seasonal technician position at RUMFS after her internship where she continued the work she started.
The experiences that made Berezin’s time at Stockton distinctive include spending time outdoors using cutting-edge marine technology, volunteering to salvage abandoned crabbing equipment from the bay floor and sharing her science knowledge with local students.
“I was able to go out in the marsh and into the bay and identify and handle fishes and plants, which is not something that all undergraduate students get to do. Stockton’s marine field station and the expertise of their staff and the courses that it allows is very unique and gave me an edge over students who did not have this type of facility at their disposal,” she said.
As a summer intensive research experience (SIRE), she piloted Stockton’s ROV (remotely operated vehicle) at artificial reef sites to analyze different fish populations that inhabit varying reef types.
She was involved in the NOAA-funded derelict crab pot removal project, which uses side scan sonar to detect commercial crab pots lost to the bay floor. The abandoned pots pose a threat to fish and crabs that are trapped in the “ghost pots” until their death. Recovered pots make for a safer bay and can be reused by crabbers if they are in acceptable condition.
In her junior and senior years, Berezin volunteered with the SeaPerch project, an initiative that teaches engineering, math and science concepts to students by guiding them through the process of constructing an underwater robot.
“We went to Atlantic City public schools and taught middle school children about marine science and technology and helped them build their own ROVs from a kit,” she explained.
Berezin’s research opportunities have inspired her to pursue a teaching career at the college level. “In addition to adding to the overall knowledge of my field, I hope to one day be able to mentor students the way that my advisors mentored me. I want to be able to give undergraduate students the opportunity to take part in research. To me, that is one of the most valuable things that came out of my Stockton education.”