Four undergraduate students from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff’s School of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Humanities recently completed paid internships with the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service.
For 10 weeks, they worked first-hand with ARS scientists based at Arkansas State University’s Institute of Biosciences at Jonesboro.
Nina Lyon-Bennett, associate dean academic for SAFHS, said the students’ achievements mark the start of an undergraduate internship program that will provide UAPB students with year-to-year professional work experience. .
The students who completed the internships were Erikton Goodloe and Trenten Wills, recent agricultural business graduates; Madison Purifoy, junior nutrition and food science student; and Kur’an Suluki, a second-year agricultural engineering student.
During the internship, Wills said he enjoyed working with people from different backgrounds who shared a love of agriculture. He mainly worked on irrigation systems.
“Every day my team and I found ourselves walking on different types of soil in different fields,” he said. “Despite the many fields and types of soils and plants, one thing really remains the same: plants need water. Working on water irrigation systems is the key to a farmer’s success. implementation of technologies such as sensors, solar panels and probes have all helped to ensure that our farmers produce a higher yield and live up to the farming motto, “Farm to Fork”.
Wills said the training opened his eyes as he could see firsthand the challenges facing farmers.
“There are many challenges to face as a farmer,” he said. “But when people come together and work as a team, they are destined for success.”
Purifoy said she decided to enroll in the internship program to gain hands-on research experience in the lab and in the field. Part of his responsibilities was to analyze the starch and sugar content of rice grown under different greenhouse conditions.
“This program helped me put my foot in a door to conduct research in nutrition and food science,” she said. “It allowed me to learn about the many facets of agriculture and gave me an idea of what a researcher could be in the near future.”
Suluki said he wasn’t sure what to expect during his first internship.
“I was greeted by many agricultural experts who shared the wisdom of their experiences in the field with me,” he said. “I am fortunate to have been able to learn from those at Arkansas State University and I will take what I learned with me as I move forward.”
Goodloe said he had a better understanding of different agricultural areas from the program. He has also gained experience in the use of advanced agricultural technologies and techniques.
“Over the summer, I learned how to fly drones, change flow meters, take water samples and use different forms of agricultural technology,” he said. “I learned so much working with the staff at ARS.”
Goodloe said the internship experience complements her status as a USDA 1890 National Fellow.
“To be selected as a USDA 1890 National Scholar is a great honor and accomplishment,” he said. “It’s a blessing, and I couldn’t have accomplished this without my family. Now I want to make my family proud.”
Lyon-Bennett said the internships would not have been possible without the support of Sathish Ponniah, Ph.D, associate professor of plant science, who helped write the proposal for the 9-week paid internship program.
“Also, Michele Reba, Acting Director of Research for ARS, Dr. Joseph Massey, Research Agronomist for ARS’ Delta Water Management Research Unit, Dr. Arlene Adviento-Borbe , research agronomist and senior scientist for the USDA-ARS Global Agriculture Research Alliance Greenhouse Gases, Paddy Rice Research Group and Dr. Thomas S. Risch, vice provost for research and technology transfer at the ASU, have provided extramural financial support, mentorship and hands-on learning opportunities to our four students,” she said. “This relationship between these units and UAPB is a testament to the kind of collaboration needed to supporting undergraduate research and student success.”
Risch said it was an honor to host the four UAPB students for their summer internships at ASU’s Arkansas Institute of Biosciences.
“ABI is an agricultural and medical research consortium dedicated to improving the health of Arkansans,” he said. “So it’s important for us to work with universities across Arkansas. Students like these UAPB interns will be the leaders of tomorrow who bring new and innovative approaches to agriculture and provide solutions to challenges of feeding a growing world population. We hope to continue and expand this program in the future.”
Adviento-Borbe, who has worked primarily with Purifoy and Wills, said she appreciates UAPB-SAFHS sharing its students with ARS during the summer.
“We have certainly had a productive program and hope for more collaboration with the UAPB,” she said.
Massey said he appreciated the chance to mentor UAPB students.
“Getting to know and work with these exceptional young people has been the highlight of my summer,” he said.
Will Hehemann is a writer/editor at UAPB’s School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Humanities.