Undergraduate Researcher Joins Elite Group

Barret Wessel is One of Eight Undergraduate Researchers of the Year

Dr. Andrew Baldwin and Donna Hamilton present Barret Wessel with a plaque commemorating his award.

Image Credit: Maryland Center for Undergraduate Research

May 29, 2014

A life-long goal for Barret Wessel, environmental science and technology major, has been to become a scientist. Raised on Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, the Boy Scouts and a desire to make a difference, Wessel found his calling in the soil.

Maryland Center for Undergraduate Research named Wessel one of the top undergraduate researchers in the university for 2014 for his work with Dr. Ray Weil’s soil science team. As one of only eight Undergraduate Researchers of the Year, Wessel becomes part of an elite group on campus.

This award recognizes Wessel’s initiative, creativity, problem solving, and leadership in his research. His research is focused on how sulfur levels affect crop production, especially how low sulfur levels affect the protein in soybeans and grains. His main motivation for studying soil was to be able to work with Weil, but Wessel’s ability to achieve success came from taking advantage of all that the college has to offer. “From the labs, to the chances to speak to and work with respected faculty in different fields, to the libraries...I wouldn't have been able to develop into who I am without the resources available.” he said.

Wessel’s real-world experience has helped foster this mindset as he served his country in the Navy as a fireman. Later, as the manager of a sports park, he helped the park convert from dangerous to more environmentally conscientious chemicals. He also installed rain barrels to save water and developed a water treatment wetland so that water would not have to be bleached and dyed.

A stellar student, Wessel has maintained a 4.0 GPA since coming to Maryland after graduating from Howard Community College. Once he graduates from the Department of Environmental Science and Technology (ENST), Wessel hopes to continue his education in graduate school where he wants to prepare to become an research professor. “I love research, field work, and time spent in the library or in the field,” he said. “ It's hard to imagine doing anything else.”

For his work, the university awarded Wessel 1000 dollars and a plaque to commemorate the occasion. While winning the award felt incredible, Wessel made sure to acknowledge that he could not get complacent. “I'm not about to rest on my laurels. My career is just getting started and I intend to make many scientific contributions to society during my life,” he said.

The awards took place on Undergraduate Research Day, a day when, according to the Maryland Center for Undergraduate Research, nearly 400 undergraduates showed off more than 100 projects to faculty and their peers. The showcase included research, scholarship and artistic endeavors.