BTI Celebrates Another Year of Successful Summer Internship Programs

by | Sep 23, 2022

A medium shot of Georg Jander, Iselle Barrios holding a trophy, and Megan Truesdail in the BTI atrium surrounded by interns.

BTI REU intern Iselle Barrios holds The Colonel’s Cup Challenge trophy, awarded for winning the Best Presentation at the George and Helen Kohut Symposium on August 4, 2022. She was presented the trophy by Georg Jander, BTI faculty member and co-PI of the PGRP internship program, and Megan Truesdail, BTI Education and Outreach Coordinator.

Boyce Thompson Institute celebrated its 22nd annual Plant Genome Research Program (PGRP) summer internship program with an award ceremony at the George and Helen Kohut Symposium, which was held at the Institute on August 4.

BTI also concluded the fourth year of its Workforce Advantage (WFA) internship program with a celebration on August 24.

The PGRP focuses on training and inspiring the next generation of scientists to help feed a growing population, while protecting the environment and enhancing human health. As part of the research internship program, BTI and Cornell University hosted 42 undergraduate interns for 10 weeks, and the Institute hosted 10 high school interns for six weeks.

WFA interns are paired with mentors to gain hands-on experience working in a world-class research institute while exploring the departments that make scientific discoveries possible, such as administration, finance, technology transfer, communications, development, information technology, facilities, computational biology and plant biotechnology. In 2022, BTI hosted 17 WFA interns.

“This summer’s research internship program was one of the largest, with 52 students gaining hands-on experience, including some from the new Center for Research on Programmable Plant Systems (CROPPS) project,” says Georg Jander, BTI faculty member and co-PI of the PGRP internship program. “It was very rewarding to see such a high quality of research and presentations from so many students.”

For the undergraduate intern awards, Iselle Barrios of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology won Best Presentation for a talk about her research on cellular growth patterns, and Eliza O’Donnell of St. Lawrence University won Best Poster for a poster about her research exploring social engagement in science.

In second place were Kobe Phillips of University of South Florida for his talk on the impacts of parasitism on insect herbivores, and Collin DeMan of William Paterson University for his poster presentation about a regulator of vegetative growth in Arababidopsis.

For the high school intern poster awards, Stephen Yang and Lily Yang of Ithaca High School tied for best posters. Stephen Yang’s poster was on his research exploring the role of ethylene in melons, and Lily Yang’s poster was on her research looking at transportation of cardiac glycosides in milkweed.

Text that says: “The collaboration and positive work environment at BTI has helped guide my interests, and inspired me to pursue science in college and in my future career.” – BTI high school summer intern“We have had incredible labs and mentors who have worked with the students over the past 10 weeks,” said Megan Truesdail, BTI’s Education and Outreach Coordinator who coordinated the research internship program. “The students’ hard work and dedication really shined through at the Symposium.”

You can watch video replays of the Symposium presentations here.

The 2022 WFA Celebration welcomed interns, mentors and family members to view posters and see presentations of what the students accomplished over the summer, including videos, a BTI coloring book, a guide to the plants in the atrium, installing LED lighting in a greenhouse, a project comparing how plants grow in different environments, helping find solutions to supply chain issues, and helping the Institute move toward a paperless environment.

“I am thrilled with how the WFA program has flourished. The energy and enthusiasm the students bring to our institute is incredibly contagious and invigorating,” said Sophia Darling, BTI’s COO who conceived the program. “We have seen our interns go on to attend prestigious institutions like Columbia University and Rochester Institute of Technology. We are incredibly proud of the students and the impact our program has had.”

This year’s internship programs are made possible thanks to the generous support of Carolyn W. Sampson, Tompkins Trust Company, Legacy Foundation of Tompkins County, Rheonix, Inc., John Ben Snow Foundation, Triad Foundation, National Science Foundation’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Program, United States Department of Agriculture, and many other generous individuals.

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