Scientist Profile: Ken Paynter

Dr. Ken Paynter uses his curiosity about the world and how it works to drive his everyday work with the “Marine Estuarine Environmental Sciences (MEES)” graduate program at the University of Maryland. Leading a large research program requires him to be constantly questioning the world around him and how it works, which he loves.  Ken says that, “once you make one observation, it typically conjures up a bunch more questions,” which keeps his job interesting, because he’s always learning new things.

In addition to being the Director of MEES, Dr. Paynter is also an Associate Professor at University of Maryland in Environmental Science. Between the lab and his classes Dr. Paynter has the opportunity to take his students out on the Chesapeake Bay a few times a week during the summer and fall where they SCUBA dive to monitor the oyster reefs that he has helped to restore. Working as a researcher and professor allows Dr. Paynter to mentor students and help them begin their careers, while continuing to explore the world and further the ecological research that he loves.  For Dr. Paynter, one of the best parts about doing research is the challenge that comes with doing things that no one has ever done before and the thrill of discovering things that no one has discovered.

In his lab, Dr. Paynter conducts research projects of his own as well as overseeing research projects lead by high school, undergraduate, and graduate-level students. The research that he and his team conduct at the Paynter Lab focuses on the restoration success of oysters in the Chesapeake Bay, which will help to guide government policy regarding oyster harvesting. Having the opportunity to make a real impact with your research is one of the greatest parts of being a scientist.

Dr. Paynter earned a Bachelor’s degree from the College of William and Mary and a PhD from Iowa State University. His degrees have allowed him to pursue his true passion through his work within the Chesapeake Bay. Dr. Paynter’s advice for anyone who wants to pursue a science career is to “work hard… but have fun while you’re doing it.”