Summer 2022 IPREFER Undergraduate Internships

Integrated Pennycress Research Enabling Farm & Energy Resilience
Integrated Plant Systems – Undergraduate Research Experience

We are recruiting undergraduate students for our 2022 Integrated Plant Systems – Undergraduate Research Experience program, which runs from mid-May through August 1, 2022. Students will conduct research, travel to research sites in the Upper Midwest, and participate in online training and the annual project meeting in St. Louis, MO. Students will also receive a stipend ($5,000) and a travel allowance to relocate to their internship site. For questions about the program, contact internship@iprefercap.org.

You can learn more about our internship program on our 2020 and 2021 internship pages, where we provide descriptions of past student projects.

2022 Internship Opportunities

Click on each of the tabs to find out more information about the internship opportunities available. 

Keep checking! We are recruiting additional internship mentors and will be adding opportunities in the weeks ahead. To apply for an internship click here.

Name of Researcher(s)
Ratan Chopra, Chris Aulbach, and Krishan M. Rai

Name of Institution
CoverCress, Inc.

Goals of this IPREFER research objective
Development of additional pennycress genetic and genomic resources development additional genetic/genomic resources for long-term pennycress breeding programs success.

A project or question the intern might work on
1. Evaluating germplasm for important agronomic traits.
2. Creating a catalog of variation in the germplasm.
3. Characterizing seed longevity in improved CoverCress™ germplasm.

Knowledge, skills, or interests that students should have
Interest in working field and lab setup and be excited about plant biology/improvement. Optional but not required skills: Experience with collecting field data, recording data with complete details.

Knowledge, skills, or experiences the student will acquire
Interns will learn about phenotyping in the field, collection and curation of data, harvest, DNA extraction, genotyping, PCR, and data analysis.

Location of the work (field, greenhouse, lab; city)
CoverCress facilities in St. Louis, MO. Field and laboratory with likely travel a few days to off-campus research locations. Travel will be provided.

Name of Researcher
Dr. Win Phippen

Name of Institution
Western Illinois University

Goals of this IPREFER research objective
Improving stand establishment of pennycress in the fall.

A project or question the intern might work on
Do Gibberellic acid (GA) treatments improve stand establishment in the fall? What is the optimal length of time for seed treatment to improve stand establishment?

Knowledge, skills, or interests that students should have
Basic field/lab experience, writing, communication, and time management skills. Ability to work in a team. Beneficial but not required: chemistry and statistics (R) experience.

Knowledge, skills, or experiences the student will acquire
Small plot research, plant breeding evaluations, data collection, plot combine operation, seed cleaning and processing, optical seed sorting, non-destructive pulsed NMR for total oils, and gas chromatography.

Location of the work (field, greenhouse, lab; city)
Field, seed processing lab, and chemistry lab in Macomb, Illinois. Some travel to other IPREFER sites for harvesting. Travel will be provided.

Name of Researcher
Dr. Win Phippen

Name of Institution
Western Illinois University

Goals of this IPREFER research objective
Develop recommendations for fertilizer applications on pennycress in the fall.

A project or question the intern might work on
Does the application of nitrogen and phosphorus impact pennycress seed yield and oil characteristics?

Knowledge, skills, or interests that students should have
Basic field, greenhouse, and lab experience. Beneficial but not required: chemistry and statistics (R) experience.

Knowledge, skills, or experiences the student will acquire
Small plot research, plant breeding evaluations, data collection, plot combine operation, seed cleaning and processing, optical seed sorting, non-destructive pulsed NMR for total oils, and Gas chromatography.

Location of the work (field, greenhouse, lab; city)
Field, seed processing lab, and chemistry lab in Macomb, Illinois. Some travel to other IPREFER sites for harvesting.

Name of Researcher
Dr. Rebbekka Darner and Matthew Hagamen

Name of Institution
Illinois State University

Goals of this IPREFER research objective
Document learning that occurs while engaging with the Cover Crops Science project book. Inform evidence-based revisions of the project book. Evaluate additions to the project to inform their revision. Support national 4-H adoption of the project book.

A project or question the intern might work on
The intern will pursue research relevant to the use of the IPREFER/4-H Cover Crop Science Project Book, though the team will identify the precise research direction in the first week of the internship. The data collection will be qualitative (e.g., interviews of educators, students) and quantitative (e.g., Likert-scored surveys, student observation) in nature. The intern will use this data to revise and add to the project book.

Please note: IPREFER’s Education/Outreach/Extension Team recently published a Cover Crops Science Project Book in cooperation with Illinois 4-H. Due to pandemic-related restrictions, the published version has not undergone much pilot research. This research will pick up in the spring and summer of 2022 in conjunction with greater outreach with 4-H, FFA, and other youth-oriented organizations. The revised project book will be submitted for national 4-H adoption at the end of the summer.

Knowledge, skills, or interests that students should have
Intellectual curiosity and a love for learning. Interest in identifying evidence-based ways to improve STEM instruction and learning. Beneficial but not required: teaching, youth development, or curriculum-writing experience.

Knowledge, skills, or experiences the student will acquire
Knowledge and experience conducting clinical, semi-structured interviews. Qualitative data reduction and analysis methods. Knowledge and experience in survey design. Quantitative data reduction and statistical data analysis methods. Knowledge and experience creating, implementing, and evaluating inquiry-based instructional methods. Knowledge and experience creating inquiry-based, hands-on STEM curricula.

Location of the work (field, greenhouse, lab; city)
The intern will sometimes be working with youth in the field, which will likely include occasional events in the summer sun; sunblock and insect repellent will be made available. The intern will also be working in a shared office within Illinois State University’s Center for Mathematics, Science, & Technology (CeMaST) with other staff in a collegial and fun work environment. The intern will be co-mentored by Dr. Rebekka Darner and Mr. Matthew Hagaman, STEM Instructional Designer at CeMaST.

Name of Researcher
Dr. Jim Anderson

Name of Institution
University of Minnesota

Goals of this IPREFER research objective
Provide an undergraduate student with experience in

  • Utilizing marker-assisted selection to complete introgression of traits into elite breeding lines.
  • Performing field evaluations and seed increases of lines with commercial potential.
  • Developing additional genetic/genomic resources for long-term breeding program success.

A project or question the intern might work on
Possible projects:

  • Characterizing seed increase purification plots of four lines for their morphological differences/similarities. For two increases, confirm their allele status at critical EMS mutant loci that have been backcrossed into the lines.
  • We will also provide opportunities to characterize additional breeding program lines under field conditions.

Knowledge, skills, or interests that students should have
Interest in working field and lab setup and be excited about plant biology/improvement. Beneficial but not required: experience with collecting field data, attention to detail.

Knowledge, skills, or experiences the student will acquire
Interns will learn about phenotyping in the field, collection and curation of data, harvest, DNA extraction, genotyping, PCR, and data analysis.

Location of the work (field, greenhouse, lab; city)
Field and laboratory at the University of Minnesota, St. Paul campus, with likely travel (provided) a few days to off-campus research location (s).

Name of Researcher
Dr. Bill Perry

Name of Institution
Illinois State University

Goals of this IPREFER research objective

  1. Assess effects of pennycress cover crops on reducing nutrient flux, nitrogen and phosphorus losses, from subsurface drainage throughout the year relative to reference or fallow plots.
  2. Assess changes in soil fertility and soil pore water nutrients, as a result of pennycress cover cropping.
  3. Monitor pennycress and weed biomass relationships in treatment and fallow plots.
  4. Determine abundance and diversity of pollinating insects of pennycress which flowers earlier than most other plants.
  5. Measure pennycress forage resources (pollen and nectar) for pollinators and characterize the health of both individual honeybees and colonies near pennycress fields.

A project or question the intern might work on
Examining:

  1. Examining soil organic carbon and carbon sequestration in pennycress and fallow plots.
  2. Examining decomposition of pennycress, cereal and/or annual rye and release of C and N to subsequent cash crops over the growing season.
  3. Examining the effects of pennycress cover crops relative to cereal rye on soil pore water.
  4. Helping in studying subsurface drainage nutrient losses in response to pennycress.

Please note: we are open to other interests related to the ecosystem services of pennycress as a cash cover crop and will work with students to develop a project that can take place after the cover crop has been terminated.

Knowledge, skills or interests that students should have

  1. Use of computers – Windows or Mac and basic file organization.
  2. Use of Excel, Word, and PowerPoint.
  3. Background in general chemistry.
  4. Ability to work in outdoor conditions and a driver’s license.

Beneficial but not required:

  1. Basic water chemistry analysis using a Latchat QuickChem Flow Injection Analysis System.
  2. Basic soil sampling and analysis of soil organic carbon and other physichochemical parameters.
  3. Use of automated water samplers – ISCOS.
  4. Use of R – RStudio and tidyverse and GGPlot.
  5. Use of GitHub for sharing of data and code.
  6. Basic identification of common weeds in agricultural systems

Knowledge, skills or experiences the student will acquire

  1. Basic water chemistry analysis using a Latchat QuickChem Flow Injection Analysis System.
  2. Basic soil sampling and analysis of soil organic carbon and other physichochemical parameters.
  3. Use of automated water samplers – ISCOS.
  4. Use of R – RStudio and tidyverse and GGPlot.
  5. Use of GitHub for sharing of data and code
  6. Basic identification of common weeds in agricultural systems.

Location of the work (field, greenhouse, lab; city)
Illinois State University campus laboratory and Illinois State University Research Farm which is 20 miles north of campus, Lexington IL.