Will Hehemann | School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Humanities
Four University of Arkansas undergraduate students at the Pine Bluff School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences (SAFHS) recently completed paid internships with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) (USDA). Over the course of 10 weeks, they worked first-hand with ARS scientists based at the Arkansas State University (ASU) Institute for Biosciences in Jonesboro, Arkansas.
Dr. Nina Lyon-Bennett, assistant dean for academics at SAFHS, said the students’ achievement marks the start of an undergraduate internship program that will provide UAPB students with professional work experience from year by year.
The students who completed the internships were Erikton Goodloe and Trenten Wills, junior agriculture majors, Madison Purifoy, a nutrition and food science junior, and Kur’an Suluki, a sophomore in agricultural engineering.
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 a farmer’s key to success. The 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 a lot of 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 get my foot in the 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 imparted to me the wisdom of their experiences in the field,” 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, collect 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 done it without my family. Now I want to make my family proud.
Dr Bennett said the internships would not have been possible without the support of Dr Sathish Ponniah, associate professor of plant science, who helped write the proposal for the 9-week paid internship program.
“Also, Michele Reba, Acting Head of Research for ARS, Dr. Joseph Massey, Research Agronomist for the 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 support undergraduate research and student success.”
Dr. Risch said it was an honor to host the four UAPB students for their summer internships at ASU’s Arkansas Institute of Biosciences (ABI).
“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 UABP 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.
Dr. Adviento-Borbe, who has worked primarily with Purifoy and Wills, said she appreciates that UAPB-SAFHS shares 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 these exceptional young people and working with them has been the highlight of my summer,” he said.
The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff offers all of its outreach and research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion , age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.