Avery Bikerman grew up surrounded by a family involved in art, science and agriculture. His interest in economics, the environment and renewable energy brought him to the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, where he could meld his interests together. A dream career might include working in the field of maritime law. When asked about the COVID pandemic and the issues pressing his generation, he said that during this period of shut down, people have had more time to think and process, and this has sparked change in the country. He sees the focus on technology and the immersion in gadgets as a pressing issue that prevents young people from being outdoors and having a sense of exploration. Read more about his experiences at UConn.
What attracted you to the UConn College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources?
Growing up just a few miles from Millstone Nuclear Power Plant, I have always been aware of the implications of energy production. In elementary school I recall lectures on emergency procedures. The town supplied each house with potassium iodide, and I had an evacuation plan laid out with my mom. This fascination with nuclear energy grew as I studied physics and discovered the key role of natural resources in relations between governments and people. While exploring each of the avenues, I found myself to be more interested in the socioeconomic, scientific, legislative and historical implications of energy overuse and overproduction. One course in particular that attracted me to CAHNR was The Politics of Oil, which had an intense focus on research, argumentation and writing, all centered around the history of petroleum. As a pre-law student, I have been very interested in learning the in-depth history of corporate development and sources of conflict between national interests.
Why did you choose your particular major?
I chose applied and resource economics as a major due to its versatility of applications in conjunction with law, political science, history and engineering. Additionally, I am part of the Special Program in Law through the Honors Program, which has been a strong passion of mine since joining mock trial in high school. During high school, I was deeply involved in FIRST Robotics, where I had the opportunity to learn a lot about CAD design, manufacturing and programming. We placed as finalists in our division at the international championship in St. Louis in 2015. Having many interests, it took a lot of trial and error to determine my path for a major.
I began UConn as a digital media and design major, focusing on 3D computer modeling for engineering. During my freshman year, while enrolled in a full computer science and engineering curriculum, I took a course on Byzantine history simply to fill a requirement. However, this class transformed the way that I viewed the college experience. Unlike many of the computer science or engineering classes I took, the professor engaged with each of the students and enticed new perspectives.
The following summer, I interned in the physical settlement division of an energy trading firm in New York City, where I had the opportunity to make new connections and learn from colleagues. This experience allowed me to develop a much better understanding of the inner workings of the industry and issues at hand today. In addition to the coastal law of exhaust gas cleaning systems used in response to the International Maritime Organization’s 2020 requirements for vessels, I have been fascinated with offshore wind projects beginning on the East Coast, which have the potential to entirely offset nuclear energy usage in Connecticut.
Which one of your UConn activities, internships or jobs was the most memorable? Why?
Most recently, I have had the great opportunity to work with Professor Rigoberto Lopez in ARE, as well as Chris Laughton, director of knowledge exchange at Farm Credit East. We researched the economic impacts of COVID-19 on various sectors of Connecticut and the Northeast, focusing primarily on the dairy farm sector, which has experienced the greatest quantifiable impacts since the pandemic began. During this difficult time, there have been many noticeable changes to society and economic functioning. Aside from consumer trends, it has been fascinating to conduct in-depth research on COVID-19 and learn more of the science behind projection models.
Name two other experiences that have enriched your studies.
Prior to my freshman year, I filmed an independent documentary, United or Un-tied, addressing the values of Americans by attending the inauguration of President Trump, as well as the Million Woman March and other protests across DC and NYC to conduct interviews. My sophomore year in college I began taking photos for The Daily Campus newspaper and was immediately intrigued with the process of producing news and conducting photojournalism. As I worked more with the organization, I was assigned as a digital producer for the website, as well as new positions of staff videographer and a member of the board of directors. Each of these experiences covering events, conducting interviews and working with teams has taught me great deal of interpersonal skills and an ability to adopt professionalism in new aspects of life.
The second organization that I devote a great amount of my time to is TEDxUConn, of which I am currently vice president. I was previously been curation chair. As an entirely student-run organization licensed by TED, we had great liberties and obligations for organizing our fall 2019 conference, Crushing the Comfort Zone. Our team works year-round to facilitate a full-day event, and it is extremely rewarding to collaborate personally with the professional and student speakers and audience members and see results when they are published through the TED YouTube Channel. In addition to coordinating logistics with speakers and guests, I also filmed a behind-the-scenes documentary of the conference with The Daily Campus.
What has been the biggest challenge in your UConn career?
The biggest challenge at UConn was to coalesce my interests into a career path and lifestyle that was achievable. Additionally, it took a great amount of effort to balance my personal life with academic goals and find the right organizations and people that share common passions and values.
When do you expect to graduate? What then?
I expect to graduate in May 2021 and will be applying to law school, including UConn Law.
Has the COVID pandemic affected your studies or research?
I have been fortunate that none of my family has been impacted severely from the pandemic. The transition into, and now back out of, online academic classes, however, has been very difficult for students and professors without direct means of communication, and there’s a large amount of uncertainty about the COVID-19 growth rate.
I was very interested in conducting a semester abroad in Israel through UConn prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, I have had the opportunity to work with several professors on the impacts to various sectors of the economy. I visited Israel for two weeks on Birthright before beginning freshman year and had an opportunity to view a current conflict that has arisen related to water resource constraints.
Is there anything else you would like us to know about you?
I greatly enjoy playing guitar, listening to music, taking pictures and hiking.