A group photo of 38 undergraduate interns during orientation outside of BTI, with a tree in the background.

On June 5, Boyce Thompson Institute welcomed 39 undergraduate students from colleges across the country to experience the life of a researcher for 10 weeks.

Now in its 23rd year, BTI’s NSF funded Plant Genome Research Program (PGRP) and USDA funded Innovations in Digital Agriculture, Research Experience for Undergrads (REU) focuses on training and inspiring the next generation of scientists to help feed a growing population, while protecting the environment and enhancing human health.

Throughout the summer, student researchers will gain valuable research skills in BTI and Cornell University labs. They will also attend seminars and workshops to learn from leaders in plant science research, biological engineering, bioinformatics, and science communications. Because collaboration is a key aspect of modern science, every REU student will be partnered with a mentor in their respective research lab. Together, each mentor will lead the mentee in creating an independent project that best utilizes the student’s curiosity and drive while also contributing to the lab’s research goals. This project will be each mentee’s focus during the program, culminating with their end of summer presentation at our annual George and Helen Kohut Symposium.

Five of the REU students will be in labs that are part of the Center for Research on Programmable Plant Systems (CROPPS), which aims to integrate plant sciences, engineering and computer science to improve crops and the sustainability of agricultural management practices. 

For many of the students, this is their first immersive research experience outside their university. Learning the fundamentals of lab life from their mentors and developing their professional networks will be a crucial experience to kickstart their research careers.

When research REU students aren’t working on their projects, they will attend weekly seminars by BTI and Cornell faculty, participate in a five-week Bioinformatics course, and engage with faculty, graduate students, and communications and scientific professionals. Throughout the summer, they will have a chance to engage with the local public during their science communication program and explore the beautiful Ithaca region on the weekends.

The summer research experience programs culminate with the annual George and Helen Kohut Summer Research Symposium on Thursday, August 10, from 9am-4:30pm at BTI. The symposium will be livestreamed for the public.

Stay tuned to our website and social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) for more updates throughout the summer!

BTI is proud to welcome the following undergraduate  researchers:


Name Institution Faculty/Lab Mentor
Morgan Apolonio UC Berkeley Michael Gore Sam Herr
Cleo Baldoumas Middlebury College Jennifer Thaler Matt Barrett
Jillian Belluck Brown University Jim Giovannoni Anna Hermanns and Vincent
Tismark Boham Cornell University Joyce Van Eck Elise Tomaszewski
Dahlia Bolt NYU April Gu Yuan Yan and Mathew
Sam Cassity University of Arizona Andrew Nelson Kyle Palos and Xiaodan Zhang
Grace Coppinger University of South Alabama Zhangjun Fei Hongshe Sun
Alexis Ellis American University Abraham Stroock and
Margaret Frank
Vesna Bacheva
Quentin Funderburg Williams College Laura Gunn Zhen Guo Oh and Bryce Askey
Etsub Gezahagne College of New Jersey Andre Kessler Ethan Bass
Jack Greger University of Arizona Margaret Frank and Sijin Li Wei Wei Chen
Tori Guarino Florida Gulf Coast University Laura Gunn Zhen Guo Oh and Bryce Askey
Briana Hashim Eckerd College Maria Harrison Elizabeth Trost
Abby Irish Northern Michigan University Li Li Andy Lui
Tarif Islam Centenary College of Louisiana Andrew Nelson Rebecca Murphy
Andrea Jones University of Oklahoma Andrew Nelson Xiaodan Zhang and Kyle Palosn
Mike Lopez New Mexico State University Wojtek Pawlowski Ruth Epstein
Daniela Martin Lesmes Universidad de los Andes Georg Jander Georg Jander
Ana Mata-Acosta University of Florida Gaurav Moghe Mohammad Irfan
Jade Milton Kalamazoo College Magda Julkowska Magda Julkowska
Alison Norton Cornell University Georg Jander Honglin Feng
Owen O’Reilly Saint Joseph’s University Aleksandra Skirycz Pallavi Agarwal
Oge Okpala UC Berkeley Margaret Frank and Bruce Lewenstein Rebecca Harrison and Elise
Carter Oleckna Florida Gulf Coast University Katja Poveda Chloe Cho
Skellie Orantes Chun California State University, Los
Stephane Bentolila Stephane Bentolila
Van Par Kennesaw State University Anurag Agrawal Amy Hastings
Kohl Perry Tuskegee University Joyce Van Eck and Chris Alabi Ritesh Kumar, Jo Bui, and
Adithya Rangamani
Kyle Procopio Millersville University of
Adrienne Roeder Byron Rusnak
Lily Saar Lycoming College Li Li Abhijit Hazra
Brock Salvatore Slippery Rock University Olena Vatamaniuk Ju-Chen Chia
Justin Shade Binghamton University Katja Poveda Hayley Schroeder
Alexzandria Sheppards University of New Hampshire Miguel Pinero Alexandre Miaule
Isabel Smalley University of Minnesota Duluth Fay-Wei Li Peter Schafran
Renee Smith Connecticut College Gregory Martin Fan Xia
Evan Smith University of Notre Dame Fay-Wei Li Declan Lafferty
Nistar Steinerman Brandeis University Lukas Mueller Adrian Powell
Lydia Story Wilson College Georg Jander Hillary Fischer
Eric Villasenor Virginia Polytechnic University
and State University
Jian Hua Veronica Perez
Emily Wahlenmayer Houghton University Scott McArt Maureen Page