Alumni Spotlight: David Berry

Dr. David Berry (PhD ‘09) is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Microbiology and Ecosystem Science at the University of Vienna.

His research interests include gut microbiology, microbiology of engineered systems, and novel methods in microbial ecology. His education at U-M prepared him for his career, with one day standing out in particular:

“One spring day I was watching workers repairing drinking water pipelines. I told the workers about my research and asked if I could scrape a small sample from one of the pipes they were excavating into a test tube I had with me. They laughed and told me I could have more than a small scraping, I could have the whole pipe… I didn’t know if they were serious until they dropped a large piece of corroded cast iron pipe right into the trunk of my old little Honda! I was thankful for the ‘sampling opportunity’ but the car sagged under the weight and it was a lucky break that the suspension held out for the drive back to CEE. In the end it took three of us to haul the pipe down to the lab. An unexpected chance for a molecular microbiologist to get his hands dirty!”

Berry earned his PhD in environmental engineering under Professor Lutgarde Raskin, who he describes as his main motivator for coming to U-M and an “important mentor through the years.”

When asked what he enjoys most about his career, Berry said: “I get to work and collaborate with smart, wonderful people from all around the world to create knowledge. The process of discovery is a lot of fun and incredibly satisfying, particularly advising motivated students.”

In addition to the strengths of the university, the town of Vienna has a lot to offer.

“Vienna is a city of contrasts,” Berry says of his residence. “It has a long and rich history and is a crossroads for people from many countries and cultures. The city's offerings range from high art to creative graffiti. Opera houses are as popular as soccer stadiums, Austrian pastries enjoyed in equal measures as Turkish street food. Life in Vienna, at the crossroads of east and west, is many things but never boring!”

Berry’s favorite memories from Ann Arbor include “morning runs along the Huron River and meeting up with other students at the Ann Arbor Brewing Company.”

When asked why he chose to study environmental engineering, Berry said: “For me environmental engineering was the perfect fit - a chance to tackle complex and challenging problems and also do something useful for society. Does it get any better?”


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