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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Summer Research Opportunities
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Attention high school and college students! The Plains Area has the following research opportunities for the summer of 2015 in the following locations: 

·         Colorado: Fort Collins

·         Kansas:  Manhattan (Nayduch), (Wilson)

·         Montana:  Sidney

·         Nebraska: Lincoln

·         North Dakota:  Fargo

·         South Dakota: Brookings

·         Oklahoma: Stillwater, Wodward

·         Texas:  Bushland, Kerrville, Temple

 

These internships provide hands-on learning experiences in lab and field research with the Agricultural Research Service, an agency with the US Department of Agriculture.  Interns work side by side with a mentor scientist and a research team. Starting and ending dates are determined by the mentor scientist in consultation with the selected intern. The duration of each appointment is eight weeks of full time work, generally starting in mid-late May or early June. Interns will have the opportunity to present their research results to the research unit at the conclusion of the internship.

 

How to Apply:

Email the mentor scientist listed in the job description and state your interest in the position. NOTE: Your email address will be the first thing potential employers will notice about you – it is best to use an email address that includes your name or initials and not one that is provocative or “cute” or may have a double meaning. 

 

The locations, research units, name and contact information for mentor scientists (PhD research scientists) and a brief description of the internship can be found below:

 

Where: Colorado- Fort Collins, Colorado, Plant Germplasm Preservation Research Unit

Pay: $13.08/hour

Mentor Scientist: Dr. Christopher Richards; chris.richards@ars.usda.gov

Preferred/Required Experience/Education of Applicant:

Must have at least one year of college, and have an interest in biology, a strong mathematical foundation, and some computer programming experience.  We do not require that the applicant be a math or computer science major, but should have aspirations to work in one of the STEM disciplines.

Project Description:

The size of data sets used to evaluate genetic diversity in plant germplasm collections is increasing exponentially.  The intern will assist in one of two projects that involve the application of parallel computing strategies to agricultural research.

1)  Parallelization of the code (written in C++) for the data analysis program InStruct.  InStruct is a serial application for genetic clustering with obvious points where the code might be parallelized.  This option will be available to students interested in computer programming.

2)  Deployment of a parallel application, M+, developed in-house and used for core collection assembly from genomewide genotypic data, on high performance computing resources.  This will require the development of protocols, include command line scripts, for the use of a parallel program on our local distributed computing cluster, the Colorado State University ISTeC Cray supercomputer, and the supercomputing resources available through iPlant, which includes Stampede, the world’s 7th fastest supercomputer.  This option will be available to students interested in high performance computer (HPC) administration.

 

Where: Kansas - Manhattan Kansas, Arthropod Borne Animal Diseases Research Unit

Pay: $12.19/hour

Mentor Scientist: Dr. Dana Nayduch; dana.nayduch@ars.usda.gov

Preferred/Required Experience/Education of Applicant:

Must have at least one year of college, with general biology or equivalent, microbiology and/or microbiology preferred.  Previous experience working with bacterial cultures and/or with insects would be a great benefit to the student, but mentor will train students in all techniques needed irrespective of background knowledge.

Project Description:

House fly larvae are dependent on ingesting live bacteria in order to develop and metamorphose into adults. Thus, adult female house flies lay their eggs in bacteria-rich substrates such as cow manure, garbage and decaying organic matter. Summer 2014 we surveyed microbes associated with wild flies at the Kansas State University Dairy facility and identified nonpathogenic bacteria from cow manure, larvae, pupae and adult house flies.  In the proposed project, the intern will perform a set of experiments addressing the ability of one of the species to support larval development. Artificial larva media will be inoculated with the test species of bacteria and 50 surface-sterilized house fly eggs will be added. Larval development will be assessed by collecting data on: (1) egg hatch rate (%), (2) larval period (days to pupa stage), (3) larval survival (% that pupate), (4) pupal period (days as pupae), (5) pupa eclosion rate (% of flies emerging), (6) adult fitness (wing length), and (7) adult survival (%).  The intern will receive Biosafety training before beginning the project. The intern will be trained in microbiological techniques including: growing bacteria in media, bacteria enumeration, culturing bacteria from organic substrates, culture disposal and decontamination. The intern also will be trained in house fly rearing and manipulation including: harvesting and surface sterilization of eggs, larva media composition and sampling, axenic rearing of larvae, pupae collection, adult sex determination, adult knock down. Statistical analysis assistance will be given, but the intern will be responsible for interpreting the results of these analyses.

 

Where: Kansas - Manhattan Kansas, Arthropod Borne Animal Diseases Research Unit

Pay: $12.19/hour

Mentor Scientist: Dr. William Wilson; William.wilson@ars.usda.gov 

Preferred/Required Experience/Education of Applicant:

Must have at least one year of college.  Coursework in general biology and/or zoology would be preferred.

Project Description:

RVFV causes lethal disease in small ruminants and cattle in Sub-Saharan Africa and is a food security issue when outbreaks of this disease occur. It has been demonstrated that mosquito saliva enhances infection of insect-transmitted diseases, however, the mechanism of this enhancement is not clearly understood.  We have developed protocol to infect mosquitos and collect saliva-containing virus after an extrinsic incubation period. The research intern will assist in repeating these studies comparing host cell responses to saliva, saliva with added MP12 and saliva from MP12 infected mosquitoes.  This will include the rearing and manipulation of colony mosquitos and the tedious process of collecting sufficient saliva for research experiments.  The intern will be trained in good biological laboratory practices and how to prepare and maintain primary cell-cultures.  The intern will be introduced to the process of viral genomic RNA isolation and amplification used to monitor host cellular responses as well as virus growth.  The basic process will be to train the intern in cell-culture practices and mosquito manipulation. 

 

Where: Montana - Sidney Montana, Pest Management Research Unit

Pay: $12.19/hour

Mentor Scientist: Dr. Erin Espeland, erin.espeland@ars.usda.gov  

Preferred/Required Experience/Education of Applicant:

Identification experience for plants, insects, OR birds is highly preferred. Require knowledge of Microsoft Excel or other data entry program. A general ecology course is also required.

Project Description:

This project will determine the factors that contribute to biological invasions in the mixed grass prairie of western North Dakota. How do species diversity and soil productivity predict the presence of exotic and invasive species within the Bakken oilfield? The intern’s project will contribute to a larger research effort determining the effect of oilfield activity (well construction and pipeline building) and subsequent reclamation activities on soil quality, native plant species abundance, and on bird and insect populations. Because this project is part of a deep ecological inventory research program, it can be tailored to the interest and expertise of the intern: the project can be focused on insects, plants, or birds.  The intern will assist with field work to collect ecological data and will summarize these data. The field work includes four-wheel driving, hiking, performing point counts for bird species, measuring plant frequency, making soil collections and quantifying soil conditions, performing insect sweeps, and recording data in field computers.  The intern will use Microsoft Excel to summarize the data, JMP for preliminary statistical analyses, and a word processing program to write a summary of the project, including introduction, methods, results, and discussion sections.

 

Where: Nebraska - Lincoln Nebraska, Agroecosystem Management Research Unit

Pay: $12.19/hour

Mentor Scientist: Dr. Jerry Zhu, jerry.zhu@ars.usda.gov   

Preferred/Required Experience/Education of Applicant:

Must have one year of college.

Project Description:

Biting flies are the most serious pests that feed on bovids and equines in livestock barns, stables and pastures, and sometimes they attack pet animals and humans in cosmopolitan areas. The defensive behavior caused by biting fly attack on can result in reproductive failure and reduction of meat and milk yields, with estimated economic loss up to billions of dollars annually. These flies are also considered as important disease vectors that are capable of transmitting a variety of pathogens. The control of biting flies includes expensive insecticide applications and cultural control. The long-term use of toxic insecticides, however, is unsustainable and can lead to the development of insecticide resistance. Recently, AMRU scientist (Jerry Zhu) has identified several botanical repellents, with demonstrated antimicrobial activities.  The intern will be trained to monitor the cattle behavior among the treated animals, as well as the biting fly population density and animal landings. In the lab, developed bioassays will be taught to provide some preliminary results before the field application, including some advanced analytical and physiological tools.  The intern will work with livestock animals, will learn advanced skills in analytical and physiological instrument use, will be introduced to novel technology development, and will meet agricultural industry professionals.

 

Where: North Dakota - Fargo North Dakota, Animal Metabolism-Agricultural Chemicals Research Unit

Pay: $12.19/hour

Mentor Scientist: Dr. Weilin Shelver, weilin.shelver@ars.usda.gov, and Dr. David J Smith  

Preferred/Required Experience/Education of Applicant:

Must have one year of college, and have completed courses in the Animal Sciences, Introductory Chemistry, and (or) courses in Veterinary Physiology or Science. Additional consideration will be given to candidates who have some experience handling livestock. 

Project Description:

Penicillin is a commonly used antibiotic in animal agriculture. Although the livestock production industry has over 60 years of experience using penicillin, the Food Safety and Inspection Service regularly measures violative penicillin residues in food animal carcasses. Previous research has shown that urinary penicillin concentrations are highly correlated to penicillin concentrations in animal carcasses, especially in swine. Therefore, urine tests could be used to test live animals for violative tissue residues.  We propose to conduct a short validation study to determine the utility of using an inexpensive lateral flow assay to detect penicillin in urine of penicillin treated sows.  The intern will need to conduct the lateral flow assays (we have hundreds of samples), make correlations between the lateral flow assay and tissue penicillin results, and summarize the results in preliminary written and oral forms. 

 

 

Where: South Dakota - Brookings SD, Integrated Cropping Systems Research

Pay: $12.19/hour

Mentor Scientist: Dr. Michael Lehman, Michael.lehman@ars.usda.gov   

Preferred/Required Experience/Education of Applicant:

Must have one year of college, and have an aptitude for biological science and a conscientious work ethic are all that is required.  All technical skills can be taught rather quickly.

Project Description:

Understanding, quantifying, and promoting biologically-healthy soils will be central to ensuring agricultural production in the face of increasing demands and changing conditions.  There are certain soil fungi (arbuscular mycorrhizae, AM) that form partnerships with most crop plants and typically deliver an array of benefits to the plant host – nutrients, water, drought resistance, and pest/pathogen resistance. These AM fungi are key components of biologically-healthy soils. In this project, we will be field testing a method to enumerate AM fungi using DNA-based methods that overcome many of the limitations encountered with conventional enumeration methods.  The student can expect to be exposed to a number of state-of-the-art laboratory techniques, including those used in molecular biology, such as DNA isolation from field soils and PCR amplification of isolated DNA.

 

 

Where: Oklahoma - Stillwater Oklahoma, Wheat, Peanut & Other Field Crops Research Unit

Pay: $12.19/hour

Mentor Scientist: Dr. Yinghua Huang, yinghua.huang@ars.usda.gov; a cover letter describing interest in the internship including a short description of previous experience, and a 1-2 page resume/CV with at least two references should be emailed to Dr. Huang.     

Preferred/Required Experience/Education of Applicant:

Must have one year of college, with a program in plant sciences, agronomy or related disciplines.

Project Description:

Sugarcane aphid, a new aphid pest to sorghum poses serious threat to the US sorghum production. Outbreak of this aphid was detected in sorghum fields of Texas in 2013; then sugarcane aphid numbers increased rapidly and moved into sorghum fields in more than 10 southern States in 2014. As a result, US sorghum producers urgently need effective methods to control this pest aphid. Identification of natural resistance and use of genetically resistant cultivars and hybrids are the most economical and environmentally sound method to reduce the negative economic impact of this pest aphid. Thus, we have been evaluating the national sorghum germplasm collection to discover sources carrying genetic resistance to the sugarcane aphid. Building on this work, we have developed an eight-week project and invite an undergraduate intern to participate in the project this summer to re-screen a core collection consisting of 120 sorghum germplasm lines for their response to sugarcane aphid and select resistant germplasm lines. Intern will gain hands-on research experience in both greenhouse and lab, including rearing aphids, growing plants in growth chamber and greenhouse, infestation, evaluating plants for aphid resistance, and data analysis. Intern will also participate in developing DNA markers related to aphid resistance, an innovative method for rapid identification of genetic resistance of host plant to the sugarcane aphid.

 

Where: Oklahoma - Woodward Oklahoma, Rangeland and Pasture Research Station

Pay: $9.93/hour

Mentor Scientist: Dr. Stacey Gunter, Stacey.gunter@ars.usda.gov

Preferred/Required Experience/Education of Applicant:

This is for high school students (including 2015 graduates) who have knowledge of chemistry and mathematics (high school chemistry and algebra classes.

Project Description:

The intern will learn skills in measuring greenhouse gases produced by grazing beef cattle and how to analyze those results. The objective of this experiment is to evaluate the efficacy of using a supplement containing an ionophore to reduce the methane emission by grazing cattle compared to a non-mediated supplement. The intern will be trained to operate an automated head chamber feeding system for 25-30 steers, and then determine the top 20 steers for continued monitoring.  During all activities experimental range, the intern will be supervised by an Agricultural Technician or support scientist relative to the expertise needed.  During weigh days, the intern will be in charge of collecting body weight data. 

 

 

Where: Texas - Bushland TX, Soil and Water Management Research

Pay: $12.19/hour

Mentor Scientist: Dr. Susan O’Shaughnessy, Susan.O’Shaughnessy@ars.usda.gov   

Preferred/Required Experience/Education of Applicant:

Must have one year of college, with basic computer skills and experience with Excel.  Students must demonstrate an interest in science, sensors, electronics, math, engineering or agriculture and enjoy working in an outdoor environment.

Project Description:

The selected student will be part of a team of scientists and technicians to investigate the use of real-time soil water changes at the root zone to supplement information for a center pivot system that uses canopy temperature measurements to automatically schedule irrigations. The student will focus on soil water sensing by participating in the calibration, installation, and setup of wireless soil water sensors, as well as manual readings of soil water content in field plots using a neutron probe. The neutron probe is the most accurate instrument to evaluate soil water content and provides a comparison with the continuous measurements. The student will enter and graph soil water data from the continuous and manual measurements in Excel. Under the mentorship of the hiring scientist, the soil water data will be compared with crop canopy temperature data. The hiring scientist will mentor the student by providing background information on the field research objectives, the scientific method, and products from agricultural research.  The student will also enroll in onsite formal training for safe and proper use of the neutron probe. The student will record and manage field data by displaying graphs and calculations (means, standard deviation) using Excel. On a weekly basis, the student will give an informal verbal report on data analysis and accomplished objectives to the hiring scientist. The hiring scientist will provide guidance for accomplishing daily tasks and solving field problems as they arise.

 

 

Where: Texas - Kerrville TX, Tick and Biting Fly Research  

Pay: $12.19/hour

Mentor Scientist: Dr. Pia Untalan Olafson,  pia.olafson@ars.usda.gov

Preferred/Required Experience/Education of Applicant:

Must have one year of college.  Enthusiasm for biology is a must!  Completed coursework in introductory biology and chemistry along with associated course laboratories is required. 

Project Description:

In Texas, fly abundance has been monitored and documented at feedlots and dairies, but there is limited information available regarding the microbial pathogens these flies may harbor.  Site surveys of the insect-microbe dynamic would inform researchers about microbial prevalence on fly populations at these settings and would assist producers in making decisions regarding implementation of pest management practices.  The student will receive guidance and instruction on the use of standard lab equipment and data recording (Week 1), the preparation of fly samples (Weeks 2 and 3), the analysis of fly preparations using microbiology and molecular biology techniques (Weeks 4 – 7), and the compilation of data into formats for various presentation media, i.e. oral or poster presentation (Weeks 7 – 8).  During week 1 or 2, a ‘fieldtrip’ to a collection site will be arranged to provide the intern with a visual of how the summer project fits in with the big picture of insect-microbe dynamics at livestock production settings.  Upon completion of the internship, the student intern will be expected to deliver an oral presentation to members of our lab, as well as faculty invited from the local university.

 

 

Where: Texas - Temple TX, Grassland Soil & Water Research

Pay: $9.93/hour

Mentor Scientist: Dr. Michael White, mike.white@ars.usda.gov 

Preferred/Required Experience/Education of Applicant:

This is for high school students (including 2015 graduates).  Computer programing experience in an introductory course for computers or robotics at the high school level. Some experience with Java or Microsoft visual studio is preferred.

Project Description:

This position would entail the development of several small software tools and/or web pages to support researchers associated with the Conservation Effects Assessment Program, these tasks may include:

1.       Development of a program to generate a scientific diagram from basic shapes.

2.       Design of basic web page(s) to distribute research at location.

3.       Assemble computers from components.

The incumbent would be responsible for some development of computer simulation code under the supervision of the ARS scientist and technicians.  The incumbent will interact daily with staff and receive both mentoring and direction for assigned tasks. At the end of the 8 week program, a brief final report and presentation will be required.  Programing tasks will be assigned depending upon the skill level of the incumbent, and are expected to begin very simply and increase toward the end of the period. 


Additional questions can be directed to:

Barbara King - Barbara.King@ars.usda.gov
ARS Outreach, Diversity, and Equal Opportunity Program Manager
2150 Centre Ave, Bldg D
Fort Collins, CO 80526
970-492-7053 (970-492-7098 effective Feb 24 2015)


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Last Modified: 5/1/2015