2022 IPREFER Undergraduate Research Experience

The 2022 Integrated Plant Systems – Undergraduate Research Experience intern class, completed their summer experience with a poster session at our Year 3 Annual Meeting at the Donald Danforth Center in St. Louis, MO. The students did an excellent job presenting their research. We are proud to have hosted this cohort of students and helped them towards their chosen career paths. We also want to thank their mentors for helping the students make the most of this experience.

We look forward to hosting our 2023 Undergraduate Research Experience. Please stay tuned to our Website and Twitter account for information on how to apply for the 2023 program. Our 2023 goal will remain the same: 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 (anne.kinzel@iprefercap.org).

Joseph Brandhorst

Claire Biel IPREFER Undergrad Intern

Joseph Brandhorst (Kent State University – Biotechnology) worked with WIU IPREFER mentors Win Phippen and Tad Wesley to identify pennycress lines with optimal performance across multiple states. This involved looking at heights, yields, weather conditions, and more to assess which are the strongest varieties. Learn more about Joe’s project from his research poster.

I applied for the IPREFER internship… First and foremost, I love plants. The reason I chose IPREFER, in particular, is because I am fascinated with the concept of taking an ordinary plant and domesticating it for food, fuel, and profit.

The most important thing I  learned during my internship … is the extreme care and precision required when working in plant research. Noticing small details can lead to new trait discoveries, so paying close attention to research plots and greenhouse experiments is very important.

Taylor Irvin

Isaac Goldman 2021 IPREFER Intern

Taylor Irvin (Illinois State University – Agriculture Teacher Education) is working with IPREFER collaborators Rebekka Darner and Matthew Hagaman to see if students develop a mental framework of cover crops through activities based on two lessons out of the 4-H Cover Crop Science project book that is aligned with the scientific consensus of cover crop concepts. I am using the iterative design process to evaluate and edit my lesson based on the significance of the data after each teaching iteration.

I applied for the IPREFER internship… to gain teaching experience that I can take into my future career as an agricultural educator.

The most important thing I  learned in my internship… is the importance of being confident in your work and developing a passion for your research. Having these two traits for any job or research will improve the experience as a whole.

Layla Jones

Layla Jones (Illinois State University – Biology Teacher Education) is working with IPREFER Education/Outreach/Extension collaborators Rebekka Darner and Matthew Hagaman to research what attitudes were fostered in students when doing a combined activity and if they had a fixed or growth mindset when faced with challenges.

I applied for the IPREFER internship… because my teacher recommended me for it, and I enjoyed learning a little bit about pennycress in class and wanted to further my education on this cover crop.

The most important thing I have learned in my internship is … how important it is for educators to make connections with their students so they can help them understand content better. Bridging their own knowledge with new knowledge helps with comprehension.

Tori Jones

Tori Jones (Auburn University – Ecology/Evolution/Behavior) is working with IPREFER collaborators Jim Anderson (Breeding & Genetics) and Julia Zhang (Breeding & Genetics) to phenotypically and genotypically characterize different experimental pennycress breeding lines for seed purification and advancement.

I applied for the IPREFER internship… to broaden my understanding and appreciation of the many different facets of agriculture. Being from Alabama, I have had a limited experience with the breadth of farming and agricultural lab techniques that are available; hearing about this opportunity, I immediately applied so that I could have the opportunity to further contextualize my perspective on agriculture in America, as well as enjoy the personal growth that comes with a summer abroad.

The most important thing that I learned during my internship … is how to work with a group of people and effectively communicate in a lab setting. Prior to this experience, I had not had the opportunity to work with such educated and professional individuals on a project of this caliber. Throughout my internship, I was routinely required to communicate findings and methods to my mentor and other lab personnel, which proved to be somewhat challenging at first. However, as I became more confident in my work, my reporting became professional and concise. These skills will surely serve me for a lifetime, along with countless other things I have gained from this opportunity.

Jack Kelly

Effect of Gibberellic Acid Treatment on Wild & Golden Seeded Pennycress (Thlaspi arvense L.)

Jack Kelly (Notre Dame – Biochemistry) spent the summer working with WIU mentors Win Phippen and Tad Wesley to analyze the effectiveness of different levels of GA treatment on germination time for golden coated and black coated pennycress. Learn more about Jack’s work from his research poster.

I applied for the IPREFER internship…… because the work this group is doing seems like it has enormous potential to provide a source of renewable aviation fuel, something that is needed as we work on weaning ourselves off of fossil fuels.

Ella Lyon

Ella Lyon (Colorado School of Mines – Quantitative Bioscience & Engineering) is working with IPREFER mentor Ratan Chopra (CoverCress), analyzing mutations in pennycress, and making a database of the gene mutations.

I applied for the IPREFER internship… because it gives me the opportunity to obtain hands-on lab experience and company experience. I am learning how to conduct research and work in a lab setting, and I am also learning how my findings can directly impact the commercialization of pennycress.

The most important thing I have learned in my internship … is the importance of collaboration in science. Utilizing different perspectives and ideas has been the best way to improve scientific processes over the course of this summer.

Karyn Rader

Karyn Rader (Illinois State University – Biology Teacher Education) worked with IPREFER mentors Matthew Hagaman and Rebecca Darner to research the levels of engagement between hands-on activities vs. minds-on activities.

I applied for the IPREFER internship… to further my knowledge as a future educator and gain some research experience.

The most important thing I  learned in my internship is the importance of data collection and how much work goes into ensuring that you have valid and reliable results. I also learned about the importance of working with a team and communicating how they can help as well as how I could have been helpful to them. You can learn more about my work in my research poster, which I presented at the Year 3 IPREFER Annual Meeting.

Hayley Reuter

Hayley Reuter (University of Wisconsin – Microbiology & Plant Pathology) is working on testing the shade tolerance of soybeans under pennycress with her IPREFER mentors Aaron Lorenz and Lucas Roberts.

I applied for the IPREFER internship… because I wanted to gain experience in field research and data analysis, and I wanted to work directly with experts in plant sciences.