Kerry Dykens

Oceanography M.S. '21
Kerry aboard UNH's R/V Gulf Challenger preparing the CTD rosette for sample collection.
Alumni Spotlight Q & A:

Where are you from, Kerry?

I am from Boston, Massachusetts.

What was your major at UNH and who was your adviser? 

I pursued a Master of Science degree in Oceanography with Kai Ziervogel as my advisor. I studied biogeochemical oceanography, and focused on the oceanic processes performed by marine microbes. I graduated May 2021 (virtually, at home).

Why did you choose UNH?  

I chose UNH because I had a great connection with my advisor, and I loved the NH Durham campus and the surrounding towns. 

What were your favorite courses and which professors had the greatest impact on you?

My favorite course was the first biogeochemistry course I took with Scott Ollinger and Steve Frolking. This was one of my first courses as a grad student, and it was energizing, enlightening, and genuinely fulfilling. Having never taken an intensive science curriculum before, I was learning most of these topics for the first time and I'm not ashamed to admit I was mindblown. Being in this class helped me feel like I was right where I needed to be. 

What was student life like and were you involved in any extracurricular activities?

Student life at UNH was welcoming and accepting. Campus was easy to navigate, and very pretty to see throughout the seasons. Before I knew it, I got involved in the Graduate Student Senate (something I never had considered doing before). It was a great way to connect with other grad students, stay in-the-know about important topics and decisions, and plan fun events. 

I also joined the Irish dance club, Fia-Chait, and had a blast dancing with this group. We even went on a trip to compete in the Villanova Intercollegiate Festival where we placed in four different events! I have to mention the related music scene as well. I caught some great local shows and open mic nights at the Freedom Cafe (Durham), the Stone Church (Newmarket), and the Press Room (Portsmouth) ((shoutout Sneaky Miles)), and made some unforgettable friends in the music community in this area. 

Photos of Kerry working on a ship and presenting her poster.

What was the biggest transitional issue you faced when you started at UNH?

Interestingly, coming from undergrad in Boston at Wentworth Institute of Technology, the transition to UNH felt like a breath of fresh air. Coming to UNH made me realize how tiring it was to live in the city as a college student. Of course, starting over in a new state at a new school was intimidating, and I was most worried about finding a place to live and making friends. Luckily, the graduate student community was so supportive and helpful. I was able to connect with an oceanography student group chat and Facebook page which helped me rent a sublease for my first apartment from a fellow UNH graduate student who was going on a research trip. I did end up moving around Durham and Newmarket quite a bit due to short and temporary rental periods, but I got good at packing and ended up loving living in both towns. 

What is your current position and why is your work important?  

I am currently a Macroalgal Curator at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in Boothbay Harbor, Maine. My day-to-day responsibilities include the maintenance and monitoring of the Macroalgal strains in the NCMA (National Center for Marine Algae). In other words, I am sort of a seaweed gardener, but the seaweed grows in incubators in our lab. The NCMA is a bioresource facility, providing living cultures of marine and freshwater algae for academic researchers, corporations, and commercial ventures. 

My favorite part of this position is getting to look at seaweed all day, and I have the freedom to follow my curiosity and apply my scientific knowledge and methodology to investigate research questions. I find this work especially important in the current state of the climate because seaweed aquaculture is up-and-coming as a viable solution for a sustainable and regenerative food source. Seaweed aquaculture has come leaps and bound in the last decade or so, and it is time for it to really shine. Atlantic Sea Farms, for example (I worked there as a Nursery Technician for one kelp season), is making locally sourced kelp products, diversifying local coastal economies, and spreading sustainability across the nation.

The macroalgae I maintain at the NCMA has endless potential: from helping to heal our oceans, to scientific, medical, and academic research, to sustainable food production. I am grateful to be in a position where my love for the ocean meets my passion for making a positive impact.

What are your future career plans? 

In the future, I hope to become an expert in my field, and eventually grow to a place where I can be a distinguished science communicator and advocate. 

How did UNH contribute to your career and where you are now?

UNH provided me with a strong and focused education in the ocean sciences. It also provided me with a network of colleagues that eventually helped me navigate to my current position. I am also so grateful that UNH provided me the opportunity to attend multiple research conferences in my field. I distinctly remember “discovering” what I wanted to do with my career during one particularly enlightening presentation at the Ocean Sciences Meeting (fun fact: it was related to seaweed aquaculture). 

"The macroalgae I maintain at the NCMA has endless potential: from helping to heal our oceans, to scientific, medical, and academic research, to sustainable food production. I am grateful to be in a position where my love for the ocean meets my passion for making a positive impact."

Any advice for undergrads/grad students who are conducting research?

Start writing pieces of your thesis right away – don’t just wait for a writing class to start writing. It doesn't have to be “good” the first try, but having something in the works is very helpful down the road. At the very least, take extra detailed notes while you are conducting your research – you will need this info later. 

This is for the workaholics: Remember to take care of yourself throughout this process! It can be easy to let the lines blur between work/school/life/research, and sometimes it all ends up consuming you. Your work will wait for you to come back to it, it is okay to take a break for yourself and come back rejuvenated and excited to keep going. 

Additionally, when it comes to imposter syndrome: Remember that you are here for a reason – you were selected for this role on purpose! You are capable, adaptable, and knowledgeable. Don’t be afraid to ask a million questions, you are here to learn after all. 

And finally, dive into as many clubs/groups/organizations as you can! I am an introvert at heart, and I certainly wouldn't typically want to join a group of any kind, but I was brave enough to try some at UNH and suddenly I was in two clubs and an extracurricular sports team. 

What was something you would have changed about your graduate research experience? What can be improved so that other students conducting research have an improved experience? 

I am not sure if there is anything I would change about my graduate research experience. I got to experience being an RA, and a TA. I had great courses, opportunities to travel for research, a good relationship with my advisor, and a good grad student community of support. 

What makes you proud to be affiliated with UNH?

I had a great experience at UNH, and I am proud to be affiliated with an excellent research university. 



Are you or is someone you know an alum who conducted research with us? Do YOU want to be featured in an upcoming Alumni Spotlight? We'd love to connect! Please email with details.