2021 IPREFER Undergraduate Research Experience

We have completed our selection for our 2021 Integrated Plant Systems – Undergraduate Research Experience. We want to congratulate our new class and thank all the students who took the time to apply. We were extremely impressed by the size and quality of the applicant pool. We encourage everyone who applied in 2021 to try again next year. We anticipate taking applications early in 2022. Please follow our website and our Twitter account (@IPREFER_CAP) for news on the 2022 Undergraduate Research Opportunity.

These 2021 Integrated Plant Systems – Undergraduate Research Experience (IPS-URE) students will work throughout the summer of 2021 with IPREFER research team members to develop pennycress (Thlaspi arvense) as an eco-friendly biofuel crop for agroecosystems in the Midwest. IPREFER researchers will provide mentoring and research training opportunities and activities for these undergraduates. We look forward to our students interacting with scientists from diverse fields, including individuals with commercial interests in plant-based biofuel development. 

The IPS-URE goal is to help students gain technical skills and interdisciplinary competencies, which will equip them for work on bio-based solutions to food, energy, and environmental challenges. For additional information, contact Anne Kinzel, IPREFER Program Manager (anne.kinzel@iprefercap.org)

Claire Biel

Claire Biel IPREFER Undergrad Intern

Claire Biel (University of Minnesota/Plant Science) worked with IPREFER collaborator Ratan Chopra to use gene-editing technologies for new trait development in pennycress. Specifically, Claire’s work focused on:

  • Identifying candidate genes that affect the important agronomic or quality traits in pennycress.
  • Screening for agronomic traits such as seed size, flowering, height, branching, etc.

The most important thing I have learned in my internship… is insight as to how research is conducted.  I learned that it takes collaboration between different institutions and disciplines. The larger goal of IPREFER to launch a commercially available pennycress line will require knowledge from many different areas of research. These areas include plant breeding, supply chain development, and agronomy. I learned that it is important for these different groups to communicate with each other in order to learn what does and does not work, and allows the collaborators to adapt their plans of action based on the findings and needs of other groups. This makes the process of developing a new crop in the targeted time frame seem possible. The pooling of knowledge and resources makes it proceed more efficiently.

Learn more about Claire’s internship in her Research Abstract and presentation Exploring Performance of Individual Plants with the Combination of Genes in MN106 Genetic Background, which Claire prepared for the August 2021 IPREFER annual meeting.

Issac Goldman

Isaac Goldman 2021 IPREFER Intern

Isaac Goldman (University of Minnesota / Supply Chain & Operations Management) spent his internship working on developing commercial supply chains for winter oilseed cash cover crops. His mentors were IPREFER Collaborators Connie Carlson & Colin Cureton (UMN).

The most important thing I have learned in my internship… is the value of collaboration and reaching out to others for help. The conversations I had with other IPREFER collaborators and people in the food industry had an enormous impact on my project. People are almost always willing to connect.

Learn more about Isaac’s internship in his Isaac’s Research Abstract  and the presentation Developing Basic Stakeholder Communication Tools for Pennycress, which Isaac prepared for the August 2021 IPREFER annual meeting.

Juan Gonzalez

Juan Gonzalez 2021 IPREFER Intern

Juan Gonzalez (Virginia Tech / Environmental Horticulture & Crop/Soil Sciences ) was part of the IPREFER the 2021 Integrated Plant Systems – Undergraduate Research Experience. He worked with our partner CoverCress, Inc. to develop a trait that will provide CoverCressTM seed to grow and thrive on farm land where there is excessive residual herbicide left over from managing weeds during corn cultivation.

The most important thing I have learned in my internship… was experiment development. I was given the task to perform a GUS assay and it required lots of reading to develop a testing question, several repeats to obtain a result, and persistence to keep experimenting after several no results. Research has its trial and errors and I am glad I was given the opportunity to improve my experimental methodology. I will definitely transfer the learned skills to my future endeavor in research.

Lear more about Juan’s summer research in his Research Abstract and his presentation HPPD Herbicide Carryover Resistance which Juan prepared for the August 2021 IPREFER annual meeting.

Alex Hafner

Alex Hafner (Illinois State University / Molecular & Cellular Biology) is working with IPREFER collaborator Bill Perry (EcoSystem Services) to:

  • Assess pennycress impacts on reducing nutrient flux, nitrogen, and phosphorus, from subsurface drainage throughout the year.
  • Determine abundance and diversity of pollinating insects of pennycress, which flowers earlier than most other plants.
  • Measure pennycress forage resources (pollen & nectar) for pollinators and characterize the health of both individual honey bees and colonies near pennycress fields.

The most important thing I have learned in my internship… was the importance of collaborative science. By understanding a research question from the perspective of multiple disciplines and working with researchers in other fields I was able to consider things that I might not have otherwise. I had so many opportunities to learn skills that aren’t common in my field of study that have helped me improve my abilities as a scientist. Because of this, I also gained experience doing research in academic and industry settings which provided new perspectives and helped me shape my career goals.

Learn more about Alex’s in his  Research Abstract and the presentation Quantifying the Decomposition of Pennycress, which Alex prepared for the August 2021 IPREFER annual meeting.

Terryn Hutchings

Terryn Hutchings 2021 IPREFER Intern

Terryn Hutchings (Univ. of California, Davis / Environmental Plant Science) worked at our research partner CoverCress, Inc. where her advisor as Rahul Patharkar. Terry’s project focused on stacking herbicide tolerance into elite germplasm.

The most important thing I have learned in my internship… Being involved in the IPREFER Project taught me the importance of collaboration and communication in the agricultural research field. I realized just how interconnected the work being done in both the lab and field is, and how a broad range of disciplines must come together to meet a common goal. After coming into this internship with no prior lab experience and successfully completing an independent research project, I feel I have a better grasp on just what exactly plant genetic research looks like. Having hands on experience in both the lab and green house also taught me skills and techniques I will no doubt utilize in future research and my career.

Learn more about Terryn’ project in her Research Abstract and presentation Stacking and Evaluation of Key Compositional Traits in Pennycress, which Terryn prepared for the August 2021 IPREFER annual meeting.

Marshah Menos

Marshah Menos 2021 IPREFER Intern

Marshah Menos (University of Florida / Plant Science) worked with IPREFER collaborator Ratan Chopra to use gene-editing technologies for new trait development in pennycress. Specifically, her internship project focused on:

  • Identifying candidate genes that affect the important agronomic or quality traits in pennycress.
  • Screening for agronomic traits such as seed size, flowering, height, branching, etc.

The most important thing I have learned in my internship… was the power of collaboration. I feel as though in sciences and in society in general there is a sense of individualism in order to gain the best results. Me and the other interns in my program bonded quickly over the course of my internship and I gained so much knowledge that was not only transferable to the internship but to my current graduate studies. Collaboration is important, especially in the sciences, and this internship was the purest example of how teamwork truly prevails. Finding solutions to joint problems requires proper communication skills and these are skills I obtained from this internship.

Learn more about Marsah’s internship in her  Research Abstract and the presentation Validation of Seed Size Variants Identified in the Univ. of Minnesota Pennycress Genetics Program, which Marshah prepared for the August 2021 IPREFER annual meeting.

Caleb Mesick

Caleb Mesick 2021 IPREFER Summer Intern

Caleb Mesick (University of Minnesota / Marketing (Food Science) and his IPREFER Internship partner Isaac GoldmanDeveloping communication guidelines and marketing materials to help promote the adoption of pennycress, a winter oilseed cover crop. His mentors were IPREFER Collaborators Colin Cureton, Director, Scaling & Adoption, Forever Green Initiative and Connie Carlson, Co-Director, Statewide Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems, UMN-Extension: RDSP.

The most important thing I have learned in my internship: was how to plan my own project and schedule a goal timeline. This allowed me to stay accountable and timely with my work, this accountability helped me complete all my marketing guideline and materials on time. This internship also taught me the different perspective around food production and agriculture, as it can look completely different for manufacturers, growers, or consumers. This discovery has got me excited to stay up to date with food and agriculture news as it helps me understand how it affects different sectors of the food system.

Learn more about Caleb’s internship project in this Research Abstract and his presentation Developing Communications Media for Pennycress, which he prepared for the August 2021 IPREFER Annual Meeting.

William Rice

William Rice 2021 IPREFER Intern

William Rice (University of Minnesota / Plant Science – Plant Breeding) will be working with IPREFER collaborator Cody Hoerning (UMN). The research’s main goal is to determine the plant-pest interactions with the pathogen soybean cyst nematode (SCN) and emerging winter oilseed pennycress. William will also be involved in actively screening and breeding for genetic resistance in pennycress.

The most important thing I  learned in my internship … is the huge importance of creating and maintaining connections across disciplines. It was quickly realized while working on my project that science can rarely be done alone. I found myself reaching out to experts in various fields different from mine for expertise while designing my project. Moreover, I learned that science doesn’t always need to be formal. I was encouraged by my mentor to run mini experiments on the side, which was a simple and low stress way to observe specific scenarios I was curious about.

Learn more about Williams’s internship project in his Research Abstract and the the presentation Evaluation of Infection and Attraction of Soybean Cyst Nematode in Pennycress, which he prepared for the 2021 IPREFER Annual Meeting held in August 2021.

Ross Sousa

Ross Sousa 2021 IPREFER Intern

Ross Sousa (University of Maine / Botany) worked on improving stand establishment of pennycress in the fall with IPREFER Project Director Win Phippen.

The most important thing I have learned in my internship… is the importance of collaboration across disciplines. Research in agriculture can range from breeding, pathology, supply chains, education, and many other disciplines, but research can only succeed by connecting each discipline’s strengths toward a larger goal. Going forward this has provided me a greater perspective in the research I partake in as I realize how influential and beneficial each discipline can be to one another.

Learn more about Ross’s Summer internship experience in his  Research Abstract and his presentation How can we improve field pennycress fall stand establishment with a commercially viable method?, which Ross prepared for the August 2021 IPREFER annual meeting.

Kyle Verhoff

Kyle Verhoff IPREFER 2021 Intern

Kyle Verhoff (The Ohio State University / Sustainable Plant Systems) worked with IPREFER collaborator Alex Lindsey to characterize pennycress growth and development and identify phenotypic stage progression.

The most important thing I have learned in my internship…is how to professionally conduct research and to problem solve actual issues.  Throughout the project I was presented problems that had real-world impact and was allowed to develop the solutions personally.  This internship allowed me to take my experiences and develop scientific material that can make a difference in a farmer’s life.

Learn more about Kyle’s internship in his Research Abstract and his presentation A Pennycress Growth Staging Guide, which Kyle gave at the August 2021 IPREFER annual meeting.

Raymond Wilmes

Raymond Wilmes 2021 IPREFER Intern

Raymond Wilmes (Iowa State University / Agronomy & Horticulture (Research) will be working with CoverCress’ Chris Aulbach investigating how fertilizers such as Milorgante, urea, and ammonium sulfate impact the germination of GA treated CoverCress.

The most important thing I have learned in my internship…  is hand-on experience with something outside of traditional corn and soybeans. Being in the Midwest, it can be hard to be exposed to something other than what we grow best, corn and beans. It was a great experience to understand the different aspects of pennycress, both from the research side, but also on the commercialization side with CoverCress, Inc.. This internship also significantly helped me learn how to collect, analyze, and relay data in a more professional way.

Raymond’s Research Abstract and research presentation Does Fertilizer Inhibit Germination? And Does GA Increase Germination?, which Raymond prepared for the August 2021 IPREFER annual meeting.

Tommy Wood

Tommy Wood 2021 IPREFER Intern

Tommy Wood (Western Illinois University / Agricultural Science) worked with IPREFER Project Director Win Phippen to improve the quality and seed yield of pennycress in the spring with minimal nitrogen application.

The most important thing I have learned in my internship… is that the expected outcome is not always the actual outcome. During my project I would often take an expected outcome for granted, but would later be proven wrong by statistical analysis. As a researcher you have to be able to separate your own personal biases from the actual data.

Learn more about Tommy’s internship in his Research Abstract and his presentation, Timed Nitrogen Application, which he made for the 2021 IPREFER Annual Meeting.