Undergraduate Research Internships

While BTI & Cornell offer various projects and opportunities for undergraduates, all selected students will be considered apart of one cohort and participate in joint activities during the 10-week program. The following areas represent the general types of research offered and are all a part of the same BTI Undergraduate Application Form. We encourage applicants with multiple interests to select projects across each area.

(NSF Funded REU)

At BTI, molecular biologists and computer scientists are working together at the forefront of biological discovery to solve real world problems. With novel technologies, researchers can now access entire genome sequences, and the details of the proteome, transcriptome, and metabolome of many organisms, to better understand biological systems and interactions. Though information-rich, the size and complexity of these data sets pose new challenges for scientists and society. The growing field of bioinformatics addresses these challenges.

Bioinformatics undergraduate researchers will focus on data analysis and developing computational tools and resources to store, analyze, and integrate large-scale “omics” data sets. Students applying with interests in bioinformatics projects should have some prior experience with computer programming, and an interest in the subject. Interested undergraduate students should apply through the BTI application form and select projects within the “Bioinformatics” section.

Plant Genome Research Program
(NSF & USDA Funded REU)

Undergraduate students participate in the Plant Genome Research Program (PGRP) summer internship program and learn how basic plant research can be applied to protect the environment, enhance human health, and improve agriculture. PGRP undergraduate researchers gain knowledge of plant genomics and scientific research by working closely with their mentors, postdoctoral fellows, and graduate students in a laboratory setting. Undergraduate researchers will learn the latest molecular biology techniques and bioinformatics tools while working on a supervised, independent research project within the framework of the assigned laboratory’s research program. Interested undergraduate students should apply through the BTI application form.

Programmable Plant Systems
(NSF Funded REU with CROPPS Science and Technology Center)

The Center for Research on Programmable Plant Systems (CROPPS) unites plant scientists, engineers, computer scientists, and social scientists to develop technologies that will enable seamless, bidirectional communication between humans and plants. The relevant technologies fuse synthetic biology, nanotechnology, optics, and computing to gain access to the internal biological processes of plants and their associated organisms such as, for example, soil microbes. The Center aims for these technologies to give new access to the biological processes that connect genes to traits, to guide the process of plant selection, engineering, and editing for improved crops, and to enable sophisticated management of crops in the field for improved sustainability and productivity. Summer undergraduates in this program will be hosted and mentored by interdisciplinary teams that include expertise in both plant science and technology development. Undergraduate applicants with backgrounds in biology, engineering, or computing are encouraged to apply and should select projects from the “CROPPS” section within in the BTI application form.

Internship Spotlights

Read the stories of former Boyce Thompson Institute (BTI) interns!

Emily Humphreys poses with a plant

Emily Humphreys

An Oberlin University undergraduate majoring in Biology and minoring in Rhetoric and Composition, Emily Humphreys joined BTI’s Plant Genome Research Program summer intern program in 2020. In addition to utilizing the program’s primary purpose of gaining research experience and learning about scientific careers, Emily approached the communications team to gain additional scientific writing experience on top of her regular workload. Emily wrote two press releases as well as four blog posts, deftly weaving scientific internship topics with her personal thoughts and experiences during the pandemic.

Brandon Williams stands with a plant in a growth chamber

Brandon Williams

Originally from Elmira, NY, Brandon was an undergraduate REU intern in Maria Harrison’s lab in 2017, when he studied transcription factors involved in the symbiosis between arbuscular mycorrhizae and the barrelclover plant with Penelope Lindsay as his mentor. After obtaining his bachelor’s degree in biology from SUNY Cortland, he entered the Ph.D. program at Cornell, where he is working to use synthetic biology to create plants that act as biotic sensors. Brandon also spent time in the Van Eck lab in 2018-2019, during which he mentored a PGRP intern in goji berry transformation.

“Working at BTI has solidified in me a passion in conducting research driven towards helping people.”

Emmanuel Gonzalez working in a lab

Emmanuel Gonzalez

Emmanuel spent his summer in the Giovannoni Lab researching cold tolerance in tomato hybrids. Emmanuel has a strong interest in botany that intersects with his love of photography outside of the lab.

“I wanted to gain the skills to become a scientist and eventually use them to bring about good to human and plant life. My passion for plant science has greatly evolved and strengthened; this is my chosen career path.”

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Internships are funded by the National Science Foundation, Research Experiences for Undergraduates Award #1358843, individual faculty grants, and the generosity of donors including the Emerson Foundation , Ithaca Garden Club, John Ben Snow, the Legacy Foundation of Tompkins County, Rheonix, Triad Foundation Inc, Yunis Realty , and many individual donors.

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Boyce Thompson Institute
533 Tower Rd.
Ithaca, NY 14853