BTI Hosts 15th Annual Student Research Symposium

by | Aug 12, 2016

The 2016 class of summer interns at the Boyce Thompson Institute wrapped up their experience by giving talks and presenting posters at the 15th annual Student Symposium on August 11.

BTI’s Plant Genome Research Program hosted 29 undergraduate and high school students for a summer of hands-on lab work, bioinformatics training, and mentoring by scientists at BTI, Cornell University and the USDA Holley Center. The Student Symposium provides an opportunity for the interns to hone their presentation skills and exhibit the fruits of their summer research to the BTI community. A panel of BTI researchers and staff judged the presentations.

“For me, it has been an inspiring and energizing summer,” said Director of Education and Outreach Tiffany Fleming. “When the interns first arrive they are tasked with integrating into a new community within a fast-paced research environment and developing good working relationships with their lab members. This is all happening alongside the task of learning some pretty challenging science and doing research for some of them, for the very first time.  The bar is set very high for them, and it is just amazing to support them as they all rise to meet these challenges.  It’s a pleasure for all of us—mentors, faculty and staff—to work with and guide these very talented and promising young people from across our community and from across the country.  The interns come here with a strong drive to be successful, and they work at it every day. The symposium is exciting, because it showcases all of their hard work, dedication and learning and they all gain so much. We can’t wait to see where they go next!”

The 2016 winners for best scientific talks

Nathan Vega, Tiffany Fleming, Philip Engelgau and David Stern

Nathan Vega, Tiffany Fleming, Philip Engelgau and David Stern

First place: Philip Engelgau, Catalá lab, “Functional characterization of the tomato sugar transporter SWEET10.”

Runner up: Nathan Vega, Rose lab, “The relationship between water stress and tomato fruit softening: the cuticle as a key factor”

The 2016 winners for best poster presentations

Danielle Dixon, Tiffany Fleming, Lisa Yoo and David Stern

Danielle Dixon, Tiffany Fleming, Lisa Yoo and David Stern

First place: Lisa Yoo, Fei lab, “Identifying dynamically expressed genes during sweetpotato storage root development”

Runner up: Danielle Dixon, Mueller/Cilia labs, “Elucidating genetic variation in ‘Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus’ transmission between Asian citrus psyllid isofemale lines”

In his closing remarks, BTI President David Stern noted the high quality of the research projects and the large number of posters and talks describing research that used Big Data—large and complex data sets that require computer programs to fully analyze.

“You’re all in a place now where you can combine computational skills with biological questions,” said Stern. “This is the new science.”

Support for the undergraduate intern program comes from the National Science Foundation through the Plant Genome Research Program grant awarded to Professor Georg Jander of BTI and Professor Jian Hua of Cornell University. The high school internship program and the symposium are supported by donations from Rheonix, the Triad Foundation, the Ithaca Garden Club, local community member Carolyn Sampson and BTI Professor Greg Martin. The Tompkins Charitable Gift Fund made a special donation to sponsor the 2016 symposium.



Here’s what interns had to say about the experience, in their own words:

Caroline Taylor, Stern Lab

Caroline Taylor, Stern Lab

Carina Sandoval Hanson, Bentolila Lab

Carina Sandoval Hanson, Bentolila Lab

“I was already interested in genetics, so spending an entire summer doing research sounded like a great idea to me! I have really enjoyed getting to know both the faculty and other interns. It’s been such a valuable experience for me to be able to carry out the procedures that I’ve learned about in science class, and to work in an actual lab. This internship is definitely preparing me for a future career in a way that other summer jobs couldn’t. For me, this internship was an opportunity to see whether I liked research and really wanted to pursue a career in genetics. Now, I know for sure that I enjoy it.”

– 2016 BTI Intern Caroline Taylor, Lansing High School student


“During the past six weeks I have grown drastically as a plant scientist. I have gained indispensable knowledge and have met wonderful people that are humble and always willing to help. I am learning how to execute good science by acquiring skills that I will need in graduate school, for example how to write a proposal, present research and write an abstract. This internship solidified my aspirations to pursuit a career in the life sciences. During seminars, I was introduced to ongoing research in many BTI and Cornell labs that has given me insight into potential areas of study for my future career.” 

– 2016 BTI Intern Carina Sandoval, Senior at California State University Fullerton


Phillip Engelgau, Catala Lab

Phillip Engelgau, Catala Lab

I was attracted to BTI’s PGRP internship not only by BTI’s extensive influence in the field of genomic plant research but also by Cornell’s overarching dedication to the plant sciences. My experience so far has already gone beyond my expectations. What’s special about this internship is that I’ve had the pleasure to observe and experience what it takes to perform serious scientific endeavors. Because of this I can now make more informed decisions about my future education and career goals. Furthermore, this experience has helped to greatly expand my network of human resources which includes not only the individuals in my lab, but also my fellow interns and the strong friendships we have forged during our time here.”

– 2016 BTI Intern Philip Engelgau, Junior at California State University Monterey Bay


Boyce Thompson Institute Summer Intern Program featured in the Ithaca Journal.

Subscribe to BTI's LabNotes Newsletter!



Boyce Thompson Institute
533 Tower Rd.
Ithaca, NY 14853

Copyright © 2023 | Boyce Thompson Institute | All rights reserved | Privacy Policy | Cookie Policy