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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BARC) » Beltsville Agricultural Research Center » Environmental Microbial & Food Safety Laboratory » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #387841

Research Project: Characterization and Mitigation of Bacterial Pathogens in the Fresh Produce Production and Processing Continuum

Location: Environmental Microbial & Food Safety Laboratory

Title: "Zooming" our way through virtual undergradate research training: a successful redesign of the CONSERVE summer internship program

item MALAYIL, LEENA - University Of Maryland
item NEGAHBAN-AZAR, MASOUD - University Of Maryland
item ROSENBERG GOLDSTEIN, RACHEL - University Of Maryland
item Sharma, Manan
item GLEASON, JEANNE - New Mexico State University
item MUISE, AMY - New Mexico State University
item MURRAY, RIANNA - University Of Maryland
item SAPOKA, AMY - University Of Maryland

Submitted to: Journal of Microbiology and Biology Education
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/24/2021
Publication Date: 3/31/2021
Citation: Malayil, L., Negahban-Azar, M., Rosenberg Goldstein, R., Sharma, M., Gleason, J., Muise, A., Murray, R., Sapoka, A.R. 2021. "Zooming" our way through virtual undergradate research training: a successful redesign of the CONSERVE summer internship program. Journal of Microbiology and Biology Education. 22:1.

Interpretive Summary: During the COVID-19 pandemic, without consistent access to research laboratories or availability of personnel, the research approach to specific research issues investigated by the CONSERVE center ( Work presented here shows the efforts to engage undergraduate students in research efforts without the capability to perform active laboratory research. Weekly meetings and task oriented deadlines created a student learning experience that left 80% of students satisfied or very satisfied. While the virtual experience could not replace the totality of the educational experience and research productivity, it did provide new insights on how to provide collaborative research environments without a physical laboratory space. This work benefits farmers and the agricultural research community by providing different methods and avenues of communication and interaction to disseminate and discuss information.

Technical Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic has had an enormous impact on education globally, forcing the teaching community to think outside the box and create innovative educational plans to bene't students at home. Here, we narrate how the undergraduate, laboratory-based Summer Internship Program of our CONSERVE Center of Excellence, which focuses heavily on engaging women and underrepresented minorities in STEM programming, took a turn from an in-person research experience to a fully virtual one. We share our challenges and how we overcame them. Additionally, we provide a description of our virtual internship professional development curriculum, as well as the creative research projects that our seven interns were able to achieve in an 8-week virtual internship, including projects focused on the microbiological water quality of recycled irrigation water; social media promotion, enhancement and marketing of online educational resources focused on water, microbial contamination, and food crop irrigation; decision support systems for using recycled water in agricultural settings; and the effectiveness of zero-valent iron sand 'ltration in improving agricultural water quality, to name a few. Upon evaluating our intern-ship program, we observed that more than 80% of our interns were either very satis'ed or satis'ed with the over-all virtual internship experience. Through this experience, both the educators and the interns learned that although a virtual laboratory internship cannot completely replace in-person learning, it can still result in a very meaningful educational experience.