Chemistry Ph.D. Student and Army Reservist Finds His Way at UNCG

Posted on November 08, 2023

Garett Barto holds his Army uniform

Garett Barto is not your traditional college student. On top of managing the demanding schedule of a PhD student in UNCG’s Chemistry and Biochemistry Department, he also currently serves as a captain in the U.S. Army Reserves. 

So when he’s not in the lab researching the deadly bacteria Bacillus anthracis (Anthrax), Barto is responsible for 21 Army Reserve drill sergeants. He also trains cadets at military institutes throughout the year – among many other duties. 

“Balancing all of my responsibilities is a tough endeavor, but I’ve found this university to be overwhelmingly supportive of military members,” Barto says. 

When he graduates, Barto plans to use his doctorate as an Army biochemist. His dream assignment is to conduct chemical and biological weapons defense research. 

UNCG Is Military-Friendly 

Garett Barto sits with leg crossed, tree in background
In addition to serving as a captain in the Army Reserves, Barto conducts biochemistry research on the deadly bacteria Anthrax.

UNCG’s commitment to military students has earned the University a designation as a Military-Friendly School, ranking in the Top 10 nationally among Tier 2 research institutions.  

The Military-Affiliated Services office (MAS) certainly helps in this ranking, serving as a convenient, one-stop shop for UNCG’s active-duty and veteran students.  

Barto says that the MAS office has been instrumental in his transition from active duty. He is in a unique position, having gained an internship at UNCG through the Army’s Careers Skills Program, and then transitioning to conducting research as a PhD student – all while continuing to serve.  

Currently, Barto works in biochemistry professor Dr. Jason Reddick’s Lab, where he has been able to design his own bioinformatics project that uses coding and enzymology to analyze the genome of Bacillus anthracis (Anthrax).  

“I believe defense against harmful chemicals and diseases is extremely important for the betterment of our society,” Barto explains. “I want to be the person to step up and learn how to contribute to that cause.” 

A Support Network for Military-Affiliated Students 

Barto’s real-world military experience has been an asset in many ways: making it easier to relate to faculty and to effectively manage the demanding responsibilities of a PhD student. But, he says, it can also be lonely being the only military PhD student in his department.  

“Even though I am surrounded by people with the same passions as myself, my life experiences are different than most.” 

Those life experiences include joining the military at age 17 as a motor transport operator, being part of the ROTC during his undergraduate years, and serving in Active Duty Army for four years before joining UNCG’s chemistry PhD program. 

That’s where UNCG’s Military-Affiliated Services Office helps out, serving as a vital source of social support for the University’s estimated 1,500 military-affiliated students. Led by Chris Gregory, the office coordinates events throughout the year that bring military and veteran students together from across campus. 

“These events help remind me that I am not completely alone here.” 

Spartan Salute: UNCG is a Military-Friendly University

Military Students Find a Friendly Place at UNCG

UNCG is Military-Friendly: Top 5 Majors for Military-Affiliated Students

Story by Elizabeth KeriCollege of Arts & Sciences
Photography by Sean NoronaUniversity Communications

Hands reaching for Army uniform, folded next to Army boots


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