BTI’s 2019 undergraduate interns traveled from universities all over the U.S., from Hawaii to Puerto Rico.

On June 3, Boyce Thompson Institute welcomed 35 of the country’s brightest undergraduate students from universities around the country to experience the life of a researcher for 10 weeks. Eight more interns from area high schools will join the Institute for seven weeks beginning June 24.

Now in its nineteenth year, BTI’s Plant Genome Research Program (PGRP) summer internship program 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, students will learn valuable research skills in BTI and Cornell University labs, attend seminars and workshops to learn from leaders in plant science research, bioinformatics, science communications and — for the first time — technology transfer.

Because collaboration is a key aspect of modern science, each intern 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 intern’s focus during the program, culminating with a poster or a presentation at a public symposium.

For many of the students, this is their first immersive research experience outside their college or university. Learning the fundamentals of lab life from their mentors will be a crucial experience to kickstart their research career.

When interns aren’t working on their projects, they will attend weekly seminars by BTI and Cornell faculty, participate in a Bioinformatics course, and engage with graduate students, communication professionals, and faculty at workshops. Throughout the summer, they will have a chance to explore Ithaca and take group trips to Niagara Falls and New York City.

For the first time, the PGRP interns have a technology transfer colleague among them, who will learn all about patents and licenses, with a goal of bringing scientific discoveries to the marketplace.

This summer’s interns also will enjoy a two-day science communications workshop coordinated through the Cornell Alliance for Science, to help equip the students with tools to communicate effectively about science to broad ranges of audiences. During this workshop, students will develop a plan to engage local community members about their summer science projects.

The summer internship program will culminate in the annual Kohut Summer Research Symposium on August 8, 2019 from 9am-4:30 pm at BTI. The symposium is open to the public and will be livestreamed.

This year’s internship program is made possible thanks to the generous support of Carolyn W. Sampson, the Ithaca Garden Club, the Legacy Foundation of Tompkins County, Rheonix Inc., Cargill Deicing Technology, the National Science Foundation’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Program, and the United States Department of Agriculture.

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

Interns: Who They Are

BTI is proud to welcome the following undergraduate and high school interns:


Undergraduate Students

Name Institution Lab
Femi Adegbayi The College of New Jersey Jander
Marty Alani Cornell University Jander
David Alvarez Humboldt University Agrawal
Mari Anderssohn Washington University Giovannoni
Victor Cai Duke University Li
Siobhan Calhoun University of Pennsylvania Van Wijk
Jason Chobirko University of Pittsburgh Moghe
Maya Cothran Howard University Vatamaniuk
Ruth Epstein San Diego State University Pawlowski
Madeleine Garza University of Texas at San Antonio Rose
Vanesa Getseva Ramapo College of New Jersey Genomic Open-source Breeding informatics initiative (GOBii)
Nicole Hempel Cornell University Frank
Arianna Kazemi University of Massachusetts Amherst Mueller
Seldon Kwafo Drew University Hua
Connor Lane University of Oregon Boyce Thompson Computational Biology Center (BCBC)
Kaitlyn Mahnke Doane University Bogdanove
Ryan Miller Indiana University Van Eck
Mayra Miranda Cornell University Thaler
Sophia Monroe University of Scranton Frank
Christopher Morales-Farfan Hamline University Roeder
Oluwatosin Olayinka University of North Carolina Mueller
Ariel Patterson Reed College Li
Madison Plunkert University of Maryland Catalá
Jasmyne Prophet New College of Florida Nelson
Caylyn Railey University of Kentucky Pawlowski
Heidi Salihovic Florida State University Hanson
Erica Sawyer St. Lawrence University Pineros
Kendal Schmidt Clemson University Giovannoni
Zachariah Spurrier Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Technology Transfer
Katie Stahlhut University of Central Florida Harrison
Stefanos Stravoravdis Eastern CT State University Fei
Alondra Torres University of Puerto Rico McArt
Lizzie Trost Dickinson College Martin
Fabio von Schelling Goldman Davidson College GOBii
Elise Withers Emory University Gore

2019 BTI High School Interns

High School Students

Name School Lab
Tony Kinchen Ithaca High School BCBC
Sunny Chen Ithaca High School Jander
Lillyan McCormick Groton High School McArt
Andrew Tan West Brook Senior High School Giovannoni
Diva Shrivastava Ithaca High School Jander
Patrick Yuan Ithaca High School Fei
Charles Wang Action-Boxborough Regional High School Fei
Katrina Jander Ithaca High School Schroeder