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Do an internship!

Jenny Schuster (joined the program in 2023)
I worked as an intern with NASA’s Space Crop Production team at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. My internship was 16 weeks, from late August through December 2023. Space Crop Production at NASA focuses on developing technologies that enable us to better grow crops in space as well as understand how spaceflight and extraterrestrial environments impact plant growth. As a part of my main project, I analyzed RNA sequencing data collected from tomato roots and leaves grown on the International Space Station as a part NASA’s Veg-05 mission. I worked on several smaller projects as well, such as helping to curate a public database for space plant biology data and establishing protocols for growing different species of microgreens. I worked with an incredibly interdisciplinary team made up of a number of NASA’s project scientists in fields from mechanical engineering to chemistry to plant physiology. I also formed close connections with many of my fellow interns whose work spans all aspects of research and engineering at NASA and other space agencies in the area. These connections with my coworkers, mentors, and fellow interns allowed me the opportunity to tour many of NASA’s facilities, view lots of rocket launches, and learn about the exciting history of NASA’s science and engineering.

Bianca Serda (joined the program 2021)
I was a fellow of the Christine Mirzayan Science and Technology Policy Graduate Fellowship program at the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) in Washington, DC during spring 2024. At NASEM, I worked for the Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences under the Space Studies Board (SSB). This fellowship was a 12-week training and educational program, learning about science and technology policy and our role as scientists in advising the nation. During this fellowship, I learned about policy workshops, completed and wrote a policy memo that was submitted to the Journal of Science Policy & Governance, and gathered information on In Space Assembly and Manufacturing (ISAM) for an SSB proposed study. I attended Congressional hearings on the Hill and had informational meetings with various staffers from both House and Senate offices and NASA Headquarters personnel. I also participated in the NASEM Space Science Week and Global Young Academy international conferences. Overall, this fellowship taught me that I do not need to be an expert at everything but rather hone the skills I already have, gather relevant information for research, and communicate science effectively to various audiences. A highlight of my time in DC was visiting the National Mall and all the museums!

Miles Roberts (joined the program in 2021)
I worked as a computational biology intern on the Genomics Service Team at INARI in Cambridge, MA for 10 weeks from June – August 2023. My project focused on identifying genomic regions that are under selection in different crop species, with the goal of using this knowledge to inform the company’s choice of targets for genome editing. I learned a lot about how to use cloud computing infrastructure for genomics and how to write reproducible workflows. I also got to meet lots of amazing and talented scientists. Outside of the internship, I took some time to meet with professors at nearby universities - I highly recommend anyone who interns at INARI to do the same! Working at INARI had lots of parallels to working in academia - companies often hire notable academics to advise them on their technology and directions. However, the priorities are very different, with stronger emphasis on team performance (as opposed to one’s own education/attainment), achieving precise deliverables, and patenting inventions. Nonetheless, companies know that basic knowledge is the raw material for innovation and so they will invest in it accordingly if it connects to their bottom line.

Hannah Brown (joined the program in 2021)
I interned at Pairwise in Durham, NC (https://www.pairwise.com/) for 10 weeks during summer 2022 as a part of their Molecular Biology team. Pairwise is a biotechnology start-up company with a goal of producing more tasty, healthy, and accessible fruits and vegetables. They use state of the art gene editing technologies to target traits in a much faster way than traditional breeding. As a part of the molecular biology team, I was tasked with designing experiments and developing procedures that aimed to enhance the vector production pipeline. I worked cross-functionally with the molecular biology and delivery technology teams to design vectors and test them in two species of plants with the goal of developing a pipeline to test vector parts and begin building a library of parts that will produce a range of expression in plants. This internship was extremely valuable as it showed me the work culture of not only industry, but a start-up company as well. I made valuable connections with people that should last my entire career and began building a network of connections in industry. Additionally, I was exposed to a variety of career options. This experience gave me a broader knowledge of science and science careers and allowed me to begin developing skills to be successful in an industry career after graduation. 

Joshua Kaste (joined the program in 2020)
I did an internship with Yield10 Bioscience in the summer of 2022. The company is based out of Massachusetts, but my work for them was computational so I was able to do the internship remotely. I worked with the company's Senior Director of Metabolic Engineering on a cross-species transcriptomic analysis of the oilseed crop Camelina sativa in comparison to its close relatives Arabidopsis thaliana and Brassica napus. The goal of this work was to compare the transcriptomic profile of the developing Camelina seed with its relatives to identify potential targets that could be used to improve seed and oil yield in this species. By the end of the internship, this analysis had highlighted some potentially interesting targets for improvement. The work being done at Yield10 is closely related to my research, as my lab collaborates with them on a grant dedicated to Camelina improvement, but I enjoyed doing a different kind of analysis and looking at this system through a different perspective.

Nicholas Schlecht (joined the program in 2020)
My internship at Viridos introduced me to an interesting side of industry. Viridos is an algal biotech company funded by a combination of grants, investors, and their partnership with ExxonMobil. The overarching goal of the company is to generate a competitive algal biofuel product for today’s market by making innovations in the field. During this three month internship I worked on the strain development team where I learned how to develop enzyme assays to compare how different engineered strains perform. In addition, I was developing two different alternative selections to reduce the usage of antibiotics when doing transformations for different algal strains. As I learned these new skills and applied them for the company I also honed my coding skills in R and wrote scripts that automate the data analysis process for my enzyme assays and future enzyme assays that rely on colorimetric/fluorometric output using a plate reader. This experience broadened my skills and increased my ability to adapt to new environments. I also developed new connections in industry and insight into what to expect for a future career in industry.

Kaila Smith (joined the program in 2020)
The summer of 2022 I completed an internship with Michael Best LLC as a patent scientist. My experience as a patent scientist taught me the basics of intellectual property work in a law firm setting. Specifically, by allowing me the opportunity to work on a wide range of the patent process including writing patent applications, responding to rejections from the USPTO, and analyzing information disclosures for their patentability and clearance. Additionally, the projects ranged in breadth of scientific content allowing me to engage with many cutting edge research projects with clients from top tier research institutions. This experience further developed my written and verbal communication skills through delivering written reports and interactions with clients. Overall, the internship served as an insightful look into a career in patent law and affirmed my decision to pursue this career path following my graduate studies.

Hannah Parks (joined the program in 2019)
I completed an internship at the Mass Spectrometry Research Center (MSRC) at Vanderbilt University in the lab of Dr. Richard Caprioli. My research focused on developing a method to generate proteomic, lipidomic, and metabolomic datasets, using separate liquid chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry (LC-MS) approaches on extracts from a single sample to match with MALDI-IMS (matrix assisted laser desportion ionization, imaging mass spectrometry). Through this experience I learned sample preparation techniques including cryosectioning, matrix application, and laser capture microdissection (LCM). I also was exposed to different mass spectrometry techniques, technologies, and data analysis, including bottom-up proteomics on two separate platforms, lipidomics utilizing both LC and ion mobility separations, and MALDI-IMS utilizing ion mobility separations. I helped establish a method for bottom-up proteomics on the timsTOF (trapped ion mobility spectrometry coupled with time-of-flight mass spectrometry) in the lab and received a week of training from Bruker on the implementation and application of the technique. The environment at the MSRC was special and exciting because I was surrounded by mass spectrometry researchers, and this environment gave me an opportunity to expand and develop my expertise with the technique. I really appreciated and enjoyed the experience because I gained knowledge, experience, and connections that will help me in my career.

Alan Mclain (joined the program in 2017)
In 2020 I interned with LI-COR Biosciences, a biotechnology company that specializes in optical technology for quantitative western blotting as well as equipment for study of plant physiology and environmental research. LI-COR research and development provided me with development software with new techniques for measuring photosynthesis, in particular the Dynamic Assimilation Technique method for rapid acquisition of photosynthetic data. I used my background in photosynthesis research to test and evaluate these new techniques and compare the results to legacy measurements. The company wants to spark interest in using these new techniques for addressing biological questions, so our goal was to publish a paper addressing novel phenomenology in triose-phosphate utilization limited photosynthesis. The new methods combined well with the high-density optical measurements developed at MSU. The paper using these methods is in preparation. This internship was a valuable experience at an industry position in-field, and also eventually will lead to a publication and data for my dissertation.

Reid Longley (joined the program in 2018)
My internship at Los Alamos National Labs was valuable for introducing me to the environment at a national laboratory and for introducing me to the types of research occurring within the DOE. It was a 6-month internship and part of a graduate fellowship through the DOE Office of Science Graduate Student Research (SCGSR) program. During my internship, I worked as a part of Patrick Chain’s bacterial-fungal interactions (BFI) research group. Throughout my internship, I learned computational techniques for analyzing RNASeq data that was generated as part of my thesis. Additionally, I was able to work alongside other members of the Chain lab BFI team to analyze data from a comparative genomics study on mollicutes related endobacteria (MRE) that reside inside Mortierellaceae fungi. This work revealed that MRE genomes are greatly reduced, ranging in size from 326,000 bp to 600,000 bp and that these genomes have lost various functions including DNA repair; this may explain their apparent rapid rate of evolution. This work is important for assessing how relationships between Mortierellaceae and endobacteria formed and how they continue to evolve.

Ron Cook (joined the program in 2018)
My internship from January to March 2020 was at Terragen Biotech, a small agricultural biotech company in Sunshine Coast, Queensland. Terragen develops microbial mixtures for use as animal feed supplements and soil conditioners for plants. Their soil conditioner product, Great Land, has been demonstrated to increase productivity in a wide range of crops, including ryegrass-based cattle pastures, avocados, and sugarcane. I was involved in R&D projects aimed at better understanding how the microbes in Great Land interact with the plants and affect the soil environment, with the goal of applying this knowledge to further development of the product. My work was primarily focused on developing reproducible laboratory assays for testing Great Land’s effect on plant growth in the presence of various biotic and abiotic environmental factors. In addition to research and development, this was also a great opportunity to learn first-hand about product distribution, customer relations, regulatory compliance, and corporate structure, as everything was discussed in the same small space. I would like to thank the PBHS program for the support that made this internship possible, which also included assistance for travel costs. 

Alshae' Ravelle Logan (Joined the program in 2016)
I completed a summer internship at BASF Plant Science in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. This internship lasted 10 weeks, from June 4th until August 10th, 2018.  During this time, I contributed to several microbial screening activities. The goal of the research project was to identify bio-control agents, which protect wheat from disease. Identifying and understanding how bio-control agents work could help researchers increase crop resilience. As a part of my research project at BASF Plant Science, I established new and modified existing protocols, shadowed my colleagues in conducting research, attended and observed professional meetings, and suggested new ideas for follow-up research. Alongside my efforts for my primary project, I was able to make several different professional contacts within BASF Plant Science by shadowing different people in varied job functions. Experiencing plant biotech research provided a breadth of knowledge on how the BASF Plant Science pipeline operates from gene annotation, vector construction, all the way to plant management. I adapted to a new working environment and worked effectively and collaboratively in a team setting, which is critical to the team itself and the success of the entire pipeline. Working in industry and shadowing people, I learned that creativity, critical thinking, communication, strategic thinking and problem-solving skills are very important because the nature of the work changes rapidly in the industrial sector. Important aspects that I learned for working successfully in industry are flexibility and a need to be proactive, which prepare you to adapt to new situations when they arise. With this fundamental experience, I was exposed to a breadth of knowledge in plant pathology. This expanded knowledge will be beneficial to my future due to my exposure to underlying principles of plant disease management. This experience was invaluable to me as I was able to enrich the skills obtained in my core training, through my participation in the Plant Biotechnology Research Forum at Michigan State, and expanded my professional network.

Angélica V. Medina-Cucurella (Joined the program in 2016)
I performed an internship at GigaGen in South San Francisco, California from May 14th to September 14th, 2018.  GigaGen is a biotherapeutics company that seeks to investigate natural immune system dysregulation, to characterize every immune cell, and to deliver the new generation of oncology antibody therapies. During this time, I was involved in two research projects. As a part of the screening for high-affinity antibodies pipeline, my role was to explore the potential benefits of using full-length proteins to identify superior candidates. For this purpose, I modified existing protocols to sort multiple sets of antibody libraries against membrane proteins in a cell lysate and to compare these enriched antibodies with the ones obtained by using the soluble form of the proteins. Along with this project, I conducted a proof-of-principle study to establish a standardized protocol to determine the binding sites of individual monoclonal antibodies (mAbs). Our primary goal was to use comprehensive mutagenesis of specific target antigens and high-throughput sequencing to map the epitope positions of selected mAbs.  Moreover, these projects allowed me to implement some methods developed in my doctoral research. Indeed, these new pipelines will be continued by other scientists. By the end of those 18 weeks, I learned to work in collaboration with a team of interdisciplinary scientists in an industrial environment, gained knowledge of a new area of research, and expanded my professional network. Undoubtedly, being part of the GigaGen team gave me valuable experiences that have influenced in my future endeavors.

Adam Seroka (Joined the program in 2016)
My 2018 summer internship was spent with DuPont-Pioneer at their Bay Area Innovation Center, a research site in Hayward California that focuses on generating new agricultural traits for their target crops. One of the major projects of this site was to screen diverse microbial and plant species to identify novel compounds that target problematic agricultural pests and pathogens. My research project on the biodiversity screening pipeline focused on two aspects; improving the abundance of these novel compounds in microbial and plant samples, along with characterizing and isolating some of these active compounds using various biochemical and chromatographic techniques. By the end of the internship, I had found a treatment method that enhanced production of a subset of these actives in plants, along with confirming biochemical properties of some of these active compounds. Because of the monumental amount of research required to develop novel agricultural products, I gained a profound respect for the sheer magnitude of collaboration between multiple interdisciplinary research groups on-site. Working within the company, I also had the unique opportunity to interact with collaborators at smaller local biotechnology companies and universities to see how research projects are managed across institutions. My time at DuPont-Pioneer was an exceptional opportunity to see how such a large biotech company conducts research and gain exposure to new research methods and disciplines in a unique setting.

Danielle Young (Joined the program in 2017)
I completed a 12 week internship at Synthetic Genomics Inc. in La Jolla, California from June to August 2018. My internship project in algal biofuels was focused on generating protoplasts in a saltwater alga of interest. Protoplasts are cells that have had their cell wall removed, and they can be useful in improving the transformation efficiency and DNA extraction efficiency of organisms. I developed a protocol to generate viable protoplasts in the alga of interest, and methods to quantify the proportion of cells in a population that were protoplasts. I worked with the Tool Development team to transform the protoplasted cells, and my methods ultimately led to higher transformation efficiency. Although my project was in Tool Development, I was able to collaborate with several people in Phototrophic Systems to explore other applications of protoplasted cells. My internship was an excellent opportunity to explore industry and conduct research for a company, and it has helped clarify my interests and what I wish to pursue after graduate school.

Daniel Lybrand (Joined the program in 2015)
I performed an internship at Synthetic Genomics, Inc. in La Jolla, California from June to September 2017. During this time, I evaluated various methods of growing photosynthetic microbes for accumulation of proteins of interest and continued this work by improving existing methods for protein extraction and purification. I also investigated methods of cleaving and isolating protein-bound small molecules. The products I worked with have numerous commercial and industrial applications as well as significant economic value. I was able to test the effectiveness of methods at lab scale and also to assess the feasibility of scale-up for industrial production. While my assignment was in the Phototrophic Support department, I also worked closely with a number of scientists in other research departments as well as members of the Marketing and Downstream Processing divisions.

Brian St. Aubin (Joined the program in 2015)
My internship during the summer of 2017 with 3Bar Biologics in Columbus, Ohio was a rewarding and exciting experience. 3Bar Biologics is a relatively young company that develops products to modify the microbiome of agricultural soils to improve crop productivity. My role at 3Bar involved improvement and validation of their bacterial delivery system that farmers use to boost crop yield. Working at a relatively early stage company provided me with exposure to a large number of activities during the internship. I conducted research, helped others with their projects, streamlined workflows, set up new equipment, established new and modified existing protocols, participated in collaborations with academics, visited a farm where the product is being put to use, presented findings to management, and contributed my scientific prospective to marketing.  Interning for a small company that is part of a startup-incubator provided me with an insider’s view of small company culture and operations. In addition to learning about a new area of science and technology, one of the highlights was getting to meet a wide variety of people inside and outside of the company and expand my professional network.

Colleen Friel (Joined the program in 2014)
I did an internship with Spartan Innovations at Michigan State University from September 2015 to April 2016. I worked on a team composed of business students and STEM PhD to assess the commercialization potential of technologies developed by MSU faculty. We identified possible applications for the technologies, conducted market research for these applications, and ultimately determined the viability of the technology for licensing or commercial production.

Bryan Leong (Joined the program in 2014)
I performed an internship at Synthetic Genomics in La Jolla, California from May 23rd to August 12th, 2016. My project involved developing and refining methods used to extract and quantify compounds of interest in multiple phototrophic organisms. The goal of the internship was to assess whether the selected strain would be viable for commercial development. I successfully developed and refined the technique involved in extracting the compound of interest, in addition to quantifying the amount of the compound produced in that organism. Additionally, I worked on characterizing DNA binding targets of different proteins of interest that the company had identified in the course of their strain development. This project is being continued by other scientists at SGI. Overall, the internship was a great experience, and I learned about the atmosphere and collaboration model that exists at SGI. Each of the teams that I observed worked together closely to solve the problems that they encountered. It was an enlightening experience, and has better prepared me for a potential career in industry.

Tomomi Takeuchi (Joined the program in 2014)
I completed my industrial internship at Abbott Laboratories in Wiesbaden, Germany from June 6th to August 26th, 2016. Abbott Laboratories seek to advance cutting-edge science and technologies with a potential to significantly improve human health and health care. For my internship, I was in the Wiesbaden Abbott Diagnostics Division, which is the major manufacturing site of Abbott diagnostic products in Europe, including immunoassay-based test kits for the detection of hepatitis A, B, and C, HIV and Toxoplasma gondii induced antibodies*. Within the division, I was in the department of Investigation and Customer Support (ICS), where I gained experience working with a team of scientists to troubleshoot manufacturing problems relating to its array of diagnostic kits in an industrial setting. I learned that ensuring and controlling the quality of products is an essential process to the company since compromised diagnostic products have many severe implications. Therefore, ICS worked closely with the quality system to find the root cause of the observed issue and implement a corrective action to ensure that the problem does not reoccur. I learned that communications between different groups are essential in achieving a common goal, and overall, it was a great opportunity to experience and get insights into how biotech industries operate.