IPREFER Project

Integrated Pennycress Research Enabling Farm & Energy Resilience
Integrated Plant Systems – Undergraduate Research Experience
IPREFER
Summer 2021

Scroll down to see the undergraduate internship opportunities for 2021!

We invite students to join teams of researchers who are working to develop pennycress (Thlaspi arvense) as an eco-friendly, biofuel crop for agroecosystems in the Midwest. Due to its high oil content, lipid profile, winter-hardiness and short growing season, pennycress is an ideal cash cover crop for integration in corn-soybean rotations. Developing pennycress for current cropping systems and bio-based supply chains requires the collaborative efforts of researchers from diverse disciplines, including plant genetics, crop breeding, agronomy and management, ecology, and supply chain development. The goal of multidisciplinary research conducted through the IPREFER project is to launch pennycress commercially as a cash cover crop in 2021.

This multidisciplinary research program will provide students with technical skills and interdisciplinary competencies and will equip them for work on bio-based solutions to food, energy and environmental challenges. Through mentored research, training, and program activities under the guidance of IPREFER researchers, students will gain research skills, interact with scientists from diverse fields including industries involved in plant-based biofuel development, and develop competence in interdisciplinary communication and problem solving. Research experiences are available at multiple locations including University of Minnesota, Illinois State University, Western Illinois University, Ohio State University and with private sector partners in the region.  Students who are interested in solutions to complex, interdisciplinary problems are strongly encouraged to apply. For a description of the available internships, please see below.

Participants receive a stipend of $4,800, paid project orientation and training (late May, dates to be determined), and travel to the annual project meeting for presentation of research (August).

The core of this program runs from May 31 to August 6. Some research projects may involve work in early spring 2021. All students must be able to participate in research training in late May, attend weekly online meetings during the internship, and present their research at the annual project meeting (location and dates to be determined).

Commitment to Diversity

We believe that diversity in all forms is essential to solving complex challenges. The 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-related disciplines, biology, chemistry, engineering, economics, sociology, and education.

Internship Opportunities

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

Name of Researcher
Dr. Cody Hoerning

Name of Institution
University of Minnesota

Goals of this IPREFER rearch objective
The main goal of this research is to determine the plant-pest interactions with the pathogen soybean cyst nematode (SCN) and an emerging winter oilseed pennycress. We are also actively screening and breeding for genetic resistance in pennycress.

A project or question the intern might work on
How do the juvenile SCN stages develop in the roots? How do pest population change based on management? Where can we find novel resistance traits for pennycress SCN resistance?

Knowledge, skills or interests that students should have
Basic writing, communication, and time management skills. Ability to work in a team.

Knowledge, skills or experiences the student will acquire
Microscope skills. Data collection and analysis skills. Team building and team work. Greenhouse germination and growing skills.

Location of the work (field, greenhouse, lab; city)
Field, greenhouse, and lab. Field sites are across southern Minnesota. Travel will be provided.

Name of Researcher
Dr. Win Phippen

Name of Institution
Western Illinois University

Goals of this IPREFER rearch objective
Improve 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, and chemistry 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

Name of Researcher
Dr. Win Phippen

Name of Institution
Western Illinois University

Goals of this IPREFER rearch objective
Improve quality and seed yield of pennycress in the spring with minimal nitrogen application.

A project or question the intern might work on
Does timing of spring applied nitrogen influence pennycress seed quality and yield.

Knowledge, skills or interests that students should have
Basic field, lab, and chemistry 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

Name of Researcher
Chris Aulbach

Name of Institution
CoverCress Inc.

Goals of this IPREFER rearch objective
To provide an undergraduate student a hands-on experience in a commercial breeding and commercial agronomy program.

A project or question the intern might work on
Possible projects:
GA (gibberellic acid) seed treatment studies that work on application methods and rates for GA application in commercial settings.
Potential harvest time grain handling (at the beginning of the summer) and seed processing and packaging to help get ready for planting (at the end of the summer) for a commercial business.

Knowledge, skills or interests that students should have
Willingness to work outside in the field. Have interest in Agronomy, Horticulture or Plant Science.

Knowledge, skills or experiences the student will acquire
Basic understanding of conventional plant breeding at a commercial scale. Applied agronomy and horticultural practices.

Location of the work (field, greenhouse, lab; city)
St Louis, MO and various yield trial locations that CoverCress maintains.

Name of Researcher
Dr. Michaela McGinn

Name of Institution
CoverCress Inc.

Goals of this IPREFER rearch objective
Developing Unique Dual Indices sequencing strategies for high throughput identification of CRISPR-Cas9 pennycress mutants

A project or question the intern might work on
Developing Unique Dual Indices sequencing strategies for high throughput identification of CRISPR-Cas9 pennycress mutants

Knowledge, skills or interests that students should have
Basic laboratory skills and some understanding/interest in genetics

Knowledge, skills or experiences the student will acquire
Opportunity for a junior scientist to be trained in basic and advanced laboratory techniques, PCR, genotyping, and developing Unique Dual Indicices sequencing strategies for large scale population analyses. Will work one on one with a senior scientist to develop new genotyping and sequencing platforms for high throughput genetic analyses.

Location of the work (field, greenhouse, lab; city)
Lab, greenhouse

Name of Researcher
Dr. Ratan Chopra

Name of Institution
University of Minnesota

Goals of this IPREFER rearch objective
1) Identify candidate genes that affect the important agronomic or quality traits in pennycress.
2) Screen for agronomic traits such as seed size, flowering, height, branching, etc.

A project or question the intern might work on
1) Screen for mutants in different abiotic stress during germination
2) How planting density effects the tillering in dwarf pennycress
3) Identification of shoot architecture mutants in pennycerss

Knowledge, skills or interests that students should have
Interest in working field and lab setup and be excited about plant biology.

Knowledge, skills or experiences the student will acquire
Interns will learn about phenotyping in the field setups, harvest, NIRS scanning, DNA extraction, genotyping, PCR and data analysis

Location of the work (field, greenhouse, lab; city)
Field, greenhouse and lab on St. Paul campus.

Name of Researcher
Dr. Rahul Patharkar

Name of Institution
CoverCress Inc.

Goals of this IPREFER rearch objective
The goal is to use gene editing technologies for new trait development in pennycress.

A project or question the intern might work on
Early maturity, herbicide resistance in pennycress.

Knowledge, skills or interests that students should have
Interested in learning molecular biology/gene editing technologies. Skills and knowledge on molecular biology techniques is a plus.

Knowledge, skills or experiences the student will acquire
Molecular biology and gene editing techniques.

Location of the work (field, greenhouse, lab; city)
Lab

Name of Researcher
Dr. Alex Lindsey

Name of Institution
The Ohio State University

Goals of this IPREFER rearch objective
To characterize pennycress growth and development and identify phenotypic stage progression.

A project or question the intern might work on

Knowledge, skills or interests that students should have
Photography skills
Interests in plant phenotyping

Knowledge, skills or experiences the student will acquire
In-depth knowledge on plant development and stage identification Assembly of extension materials

Location of the work (field, greenhouse, lab; city)
Field and greenhouse, Columbus, OH

Name of Researcher
Dr. Bill Perry

Name of Institution
Illinois State University

Goals of this IPREFER rearch objective

  • 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 and nectar) for pollinators and characterize the health of both individual honey bees and colonies near pennycress fields.

A project or question the intern might work on

  1. Soil organic carbon and carbon sequestration
  2. Decomposition of pennycress, cereal and/or annual rye and release of C and N to subsequent cash crops
  3. Subsurface drainage water chemistry analysis and data analysis using R

Knowledge, skills or interests that students should have

  1. Use of computers – Windows and Mac and data organization
  2. Use of excel, word, and PowerPoint
  3. Background in a course on general chemistry
  4. Ability to work in outdoor conditions and a driver’s license
  5. Preferred Knowledge/Skills Use or R and RStudio with tidyverse
  6. Preferred Knowledge/Skills Use of GitHub
  7. Preferred Knowledge/Skills Background in basic statistics

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 tidy verse 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 farm which is 20 miles north of campus, Lexington Il

Name of Researcher
Colin Cureton and Connie Carlson

Name of Institution
University of Minnesota

Goals of this IPREFER rearch objective

Develop supply chains that allow for the commercial launch of winter oilseed cash cover crops

A project or question the intern might work on

In this project students will develop marketing, communications, and messaging for winter annual “cash cover crops” such as winter camelina and pennycress that are being developed by the UMN Forever Green Partnership, which have potential to advance major agribusiness and food companies’ recent commitments to address climate change, water quality, soil erosion, and other environmental issues through “regenerative” agricultural practices such as cover crops. While only 6% of US agricultural land is currently using cover crops, the case for cover crops is now well established among growers. However, cover crops much less “cash cover crops” and their benefits are not understood as well by the general consumer, nor has agribusiness and the food industry developed effective marketing strategies for communicating these benefits. The team of students will develop a communications and marketing toolkit (concise slide deck, infographics, potentially supportive photo/video, and key messaging language) for promoting the environmental and economic benefits of winter annual “cash cover crops,” with particular focus on winter camelina, in food and other products in ways that align with emerging consumer value drivers of sustainability and impact.

Knowledge, skills or interests that students should have

  • Background, experience, or studies in marketing, business, audio/visual production, science communication, journalism, or writing
  • Interest in the food industry and consumers’ emerging sustainability values are a plus
  • Willingness to learn the basic agronomics, economics, and multifaceted benefits of incorporating “cash cover crop” winter oilseeds like camelina in Upper Midwestern US row crop agriculture
  • Students should be excellent communicators, creative, thoughtful, and good collaborators with their fellow students, researchers, growers, and consumers

Knowledge, skills or experiences the student will acquire

Practical skills in communicating/messaging emerging opportunities to advance sustainability in Midwestern agriculture and the food industry. Cutting-edge consumer research, engagement, and marketing with a strong sustainability focus. Finished projects to add to marketing and design portfolios.

Location of the work (field, greenhouse, lab; city)

Remote, with opportunities for in-person meetings, interviews, and photo/video media development on-location in 2021 as COVID allows.

Application

To apply, complete the online application form and submit as a single pdf file the following,

  • a letter of introduction
  • a one-page resume
  • academic transcripts for all of your higher education work (unofficial transcripts are acceptable)

In your letter of introduction (limited to 500 words), please explain,

  • what you hope to gain from the program
  • your prior research experience (not required)
  • research questions or areas of research that are of most interest to you
  • how this experience might help you achieve your professional goals

A letter of recommendation is required from at least one faculty member at the institution you currently attend (two letters are preferred). Students should request that letters be emailed to the IPS-URE program address internship@iprefercap.org.

Deadline for application is February 15, 2021.

For questions about the program, contact internship@iprefercap.org.

Click to Apply