Summer 2023 IPREFER Undergraduate Internships (PAID)

Integrated Pennycress Research Enabling Farm & Energy Resilience

May 17 – August 2, 2023

We are recruiting undergraduate students from all majors to join a multidisciplinary team of researchers working to develop pennycress (Thlaspi arvense) as a cash cover crop that can diversify farmers’ economic opportunities and provide environmental benefits including a reduction in soil erosion and nutrient runoff, protection of water sources, suppression weeds and support for pollinator health and biodiversity. We are looking for students interested in gaining new skills or perfecting already-acquired skills from our broad array of opportunities.

As IPREFER interns, students will gain:

  • Technical skill in disciplinary research related to crop growth and production practices, education/communication, plant breeding, plant genetics, pollinator communities, post-harvest processing and storage, or water quality
  • Interdisciplinary competencies needed for collaborative work on bio-based solutions to food, energy, and environmental challenges
  • Increased proficiency in science communication
  • …and other skills specific to the discipline of choice, such as phenotyping, DNA extraction, PCR, gas chromatography, and other lab techniques.
As IPREFER interns, students will receive:
  • Compensation of $8,000 includes a stipend of $6,000 and $2,000 to assist with travel and housing expenses
  • Round-trip travel from the research site to program orientation, Mpls/St. Paul, plus lodging and food during program orientation
  • Travel allowance ($500) to participate in the IPREFER annual meeting, Mpls/St. Paul

Intern Eligibility Requirements

  • Be enrolled in an undergraduate degree program and working toward a bachelor’s or associate’s degree
  • Be a sophomore or more advanced level (as of fall 2023). Students are not eligible if they will receive their degree before the beginning of the 2023 fall semester
  • Have not previously participated in the IPREFER internship program
  • Be a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident of the U.S.

Program dates and activities (subject to minor changes)

Dates Activities
Nov 1, 2022 Online application period begins
Feb 4, 2023 Deadline for application submission
Feb 18 Internship offers extended
May 17 – 19 Program orientation in Minneapolis/St. Paul (Overview of IPREFER project, introduction to research teams, responsible conduct of research, working with data, setting internship goals, social activities).
May 22 – July 28 Mentored research and online meetings with 2023 IPREFER intern cohort
July 31 – August 2 IPREFER annual meeting, Minneapolis/St. Paul

Program Requirements

  • Participate in the entire program (May 17 – August 2)
  • Work full-time (40 hours per week). Time off must be approved by the interns’ research mentor
  • Participate in all program activities including orientation, research, online meetings and the IPREFER annual meeting
  • Prepare an abstract and make a presentation (poster or talk) during the IPREFER annual meeting
  • Follow all safety guidelines required by the research mentor or their host institution

You can learn more about our internship program on our 2020, 2021, and 2022 internship pages, where we provide descriptions of past student projects.

The IPREFER IPS-URE program welcomes and encourages applications from students with diverse social backgrounds and from any field of study including but not limited to agriculture, biology, chemistry, communication, economics, education, engineering, and plant science.

IPREFER is supported by Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Competitive Grant No. 2019-69012-29851 from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture

2023 Internship Opportunities

IPREFER Internship Program 2023 – A partial list of internship positions is provided below. We will post additional positions online as they become available. Check back throughout the fall. Applications will be accepted until February 4, 2023.

Location: Western Illinois University

Knowledge/Interests/Abilities – Required/Preferred: Students only need basic field and lab experience.

Knowledge/Interests/Abilities Gained: Students will gain experience in data collection, harvesting, seed processing, optical seed sorting, and digital seed analysis. Students will also conduct seed chemistry tests by NMR for total seed oil and Gas chromatography for oil constituents. Students will have the opportunity to travel to other IPREFER sites throughout Illinois, Wisconsin, Ohio, Missouri, and Minnesota to experience all other aspects of the project. We will train students on all equipment and will provide a basic statistics (R) experience.

Internship work locations and conditions: Field and laboratory.

Role of Pelleting Processes on Germination Improvement in Pennycress

Students will utilize methods in seed science disciplines to dissect how handling and processing components during the conditioning phase impact germination of untreated pennycress. Treatments will include seed priming with and without gibberellic acid hormone treatment, impact scarification, and pelleting.
• Students will also gain experience conducting germination assays to determine any effects of these treatments on germination speed. The anticipated
outcome from this assessment will be a better understanding of how the steps of our previous pelleting experiments may have contributed to the
germination differences we observed, and if similar germination results could be achieved through a less extensive seed treatment procedure.

Location: Ohio State University, Columbus OH

Knowledge/Interests/Abilities – Required: Basic laboratory experience.
Knowledge/Interests/Abilities – Preferred: :Students with interests in seed science, chemistry, and laboratory-based research are preferred

Knowledge/Interests/Abilities Gained: Laboratory techniques, data collection and analysis, science communication.

Internship work locations and conditions: Laboratory and greenhouse.

Role of Exogenous Hormone Treatment on Early Pennycress Establishment

Hormonal control of rooting may impact fall establishment success of pennycress cultivars. Paired with late planting dates, it is possible that exogenous treatment with hormones may help accelerate fall rooting (and rosette development), leading to improved establishment and winter survivability.
The intern will work to treat multiple pennycress germplasm lines (courtesy of iPREP project-Dr. Andrea Gschwend), and assess plant establishment after treating seeds with different hormone treatments. Possible hormones to evaluate include indole-acetic acid (IAA), gibberellic acid (GA), and
The anticipated outcome from this trial will be improved understanding of how exogenous treatment impacts early-season growth (shoot and root
production) in pennycress.

Location: Ohio State University, Columbus, OH

Knowledge/Interests/Abilities – Required: Basic laboratory experience.

Knowledge/Interests/Abilities – Preferred: Students with interests in seed science, chemistry, and laboratory-based research are preferred.

Knowledge/Interests/Abilities Gained: Laboratory techniques, data collection and analysis, science communication.

Internship work locations and conditions: Laboratory and greenhouse.

Development of Additional Genetic and Genomic Resources for Long-term Pennycress Breeding Success

  • Evaluating germplasm for important agronomic traits.
  • Creating a catalog of variation in the germplasm.
  • Characterizing seed longevity in improved CoverCress (TM) germplasm.

Location: CoverCress Inc., St. Louis, MO

Knowledge/Interests/Abilities – Required: Interested in working with field and lab setup. Excited about plant biology/improvement.

Knowledge/Interests/Abilities – Preferred: Experience collecting field data, recording data with complete details.

Knowledge/Interests/Abilities Gained: Students will learn about phenotyping in the field, collection and curation of data, harvest, DNA extraction, genotyping, PCR, data analysis, and science communication.

Internship work locations and conditions: CoverCress facilities in St. Louis, MO. Field and laboratory with likely travel a few days to off-campus research locations. Travel will be provided.

Pennycress Breeding & Genetics

Pennycress imposes allelopathic stress on neighboring plants. When growing soybeans and pennycress together, it would be desirable to have soybean varieties that are resistant to this stress. We will design and plant experiments allowing us to evaluate genetic variation and map genes for resistance to allelopathy in soybean.

Location: University of Minnesota – Twin Cities

Knowledge/Interests/Abilities – Required: Willing to learn and participate in all aspects of soybean cultivar development.

Knowledge/Interests/Abilities – Preferred: Ability to handle, organize and analyze data.

Knowledge/Interests/Abilities Gained: Data collection and analysis; visualization; challenges/benefits of intercropping; phenotyping; quantitative trait loci mapping.

Internship work locations and conditions: Greenhouse, field. St. Paul. Rosemount (day trips), Morris, MN (day trips, but overnight trip is possible).

Learn scientific storytelling and communication, hypothesis construction, technical writing, data management and data visualization through the lens of sustainable agriculture and food systems research

Join Dr. Samantha Wells for a summer research experience that combines opportunities to learn scientific storytelling and communication, hypothesis construction, technical writing, data management and data visualization through the lens of sustainable agriculture and food systems research. In this experience students will use pre-collected data from a past field experiment. Students will largely focus on evaluating different approaches to corn residue management and determine subsequent impacts on pennycress, corn, and soybean yield. An additional goal is that the completed research will be presented to academic peers by the interns at the ASA/CSA/SSSA Annual Conference in St. Louis, MO in fall 2023 (all expenses paid by lab).

Location: University of Minnesota – Twin Cities – ELAI (Experiential Learning for Agricultural Innovation) Lab

Knowledge/Interests/Abilities – Required

  • A strong interest in improving data analysis and scientific writing skills
  • Cross-cultural competency and demonstrated commitment to a prejudice-free environment
  • An interest in environmental sustainability
  • Ability to work as part of a small team
  • Creative and critical thinking skills

Knowledge/Interests/Abilities – Preferred: A desire to explore multiple aspects of scientific careers, such as field work and outreach, in addition to writing, researching, and presenting

Knowledge/Interests/Abilities Gained: An ability to:

  • Analyze and interpret technical writing
  • Provide critical feedback on scientific ideas
  • Manage, manipulate, interpret trends in large sets of data
  • Use statistical software(SAS, R) to conduct basic analysis and graph-making
  • Provide information to a wide variety of audiences through verbal and written means

Internship work locations and conditions: Crops Research Building, UMN St. Paul Campus. Students will participate in limited field work (1 day per week), the remaining workdays will take place in the lab.

Researcher’s Name: Dr. Michael Stutelberg

Researcher’s Organization: Agricultural Utilization Research Institute (AURI)

Description of work being conducted by the team or lab

The Agricultural Utilization Research Institute (AURI) offers unique resources for developing innovative new uses and applications for agricultural commodities. The mission statement for AURI is: “Foster long-term economic benefits for Minnesota through value-added agricultural products.” To accomplish the organization’s mission, work in ag-based commodities focuses on four core areas: food, renewable energy, biobased products, and coproducts.

Description of Internship Project(s)

Join Dr. Michael Stutelberg at AURI’s chemistry lab in Marshall, MN for hydrothermal liquefaction processing of cold-pressed pennycress meal to remove residual oil. The student will develop comprehensive conditions for optimized parameters of oil and biomass oil extraction using hydrothermal liquefaction processing.

  • Use a Parr reactor to process pennycress meal and other oilseed meals for oil extraction using water at high temperatures and pressure. Comparisons of optimized conditions will be made with soybean, canola, and other oilseed crops. Processed biomass will be analyzed for available fat content, organic acids, water content, and other high-value chemicals.
  • Generate a table of oil extraction efficiency and byproducts for each extraction method under different conditions of temperature, pressure, and moisture. This table will serve as a match-making tool between biomass sources and hydrothermal liquefaction processing requirements.

Knowledge/Interests/Abilities – Required

  • Willing to learn and participate in chemical extraction and analysis.

Knowledge/Interests/Abilities – Preferred: 

  • Previous use of GC and HPLC, ability in analytical sample preparation and data analysis.

Knowledge/Interests/Abilities Gained:

  • Learn how to operate instrumentation (Parr reactor, GC, and HPLC) independently
  • Perform chemical analysis independently using developed SOPs
  • Assemble analytical data for reports

Location: AURI chemistry lab, Marshall, MN

Researcher’s Name: Julia Zhang

Researcher’s Organization: University of Minnesota – Twin Cities

Description of Internship Project(s)

Pennycress breeding and genetics – Northern Region

The intern will participate in every aspect of the pennycress breeding program, including field data collection of agronomic traits, harvesting, sample cleaning, post-harvest end-use quality traits characterization, data input, and organization for data analysis. Depending on the ability and interest, the intern will have the opportunity to learn molecular marker techniques in our marker laboratory by assisting in the marker-assisted breeding of a few key domestication traits.

Knowledge/Interests/Abilities – Required

  • Strong interest and ability to work in the field and laboratory; good analytical skills.

Knowledge/Interests/Abilities – Preferred: 

  • Some research experience, and ability to work in a team setting.

Knowledge/Interests/Abilities Gained:

  • plant breeding, scientific data collection, visualization, and analysis; DNA extraction, genotyping, and molecular marker data interpretation

Location: Growth chambers, laboratory, St. Paul, Rosemount, Lamberton, Morris, MN (day trips, with overnight possibility)