Aimed at developing the next generation of agricultural and natural resource professionals, the University of Delaware Envision Program provides intensive hands-on research experiences to a small cohort of students each summer. Envision also aims to address racial disparities in science by partnering with local institutions such as Lincoln University and Delaware State University to recruit interns from underrepresented communities.
Over the course of 10 weeks, students will collaborate with faculty members at the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) to address some of the most pressing challenges in animal health, nutritional management, food microbiology, soil chemistry, and soil chemistry while developing their own Make a hypothesis and test it. more. This internship program is funded by the US Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and concludes with a poster presentation summarizing the research project and a student-made video.
“The idea behind Envision is to shift the participant’s perspective from a student to a scientist,” said Mark Parcels, Director of Envision and Professor of Animal and Food Sciences at UD. . “One of the ways we try to achieve this is by asking participants to create a short video about their project so that it can be easily understood by the general public. After receiving training from the I want it to permeate.”
Tahir Taylor is a recent graduate of the University of Lincoln and will be entering his second year at Envision this summer. He worked with Parcells to improve vaccines that protect chickens from Marek’s disease, a highly contagious pathogen that can cause nerve damage and paralysis in poultry populations. The lab adds a fluorescent marker to signal whether the virus has inserted a gene that increases the replication of the vaccine.
Taylor, who plans to pursue a career in medicine, said understanding the disease process and learning more about pathology was personal given her family history of Alzheimer’s disease.
“I’ve always been interested in neurological disorders. Along with my family history, that’s what I want to focus on,” he said. They really want to know that you have a foundation in your research so it was very important for me to attend the lab this time and it was one of my main motivations to attend .”
While his future goals are focused, Taylor appreciates the variety of research opportunities offered through Envision due to the nature of faculty participation from multiple departments.
“If you take the initiative, you can find a professor that matches your interests, whether it’s animal science, entomology, microbiology, or food science,” he said. “Last summer, I was looking at things like antibiotic levels in produce for research on food safety and microbiology. I will help you load it.”
Sonni Alvarez is an animal science major at UD with a minor in food and agribusiness marketing and management, and spent summers working both in the lab and on UD’s 350-acre Newark farm. Together with Hong Li, Associate Professor of Animal Science, she studied the effects of different water treatment systems on gut function, microbiota composition, growth performance, and ammonia production in broiler chickens. By monitoring the water, feed, and bedding of their poultry, Alvarez kept daily records to help identify the water systems most likely to prevent disease and promote flock health. rice field.
Initially convinced that she wanted to become a veterinarian, Alvarez enrolled in UD’s pre-veterinary program. After trying out an internship at her animal hospital, she spent time looking for other classes and opportunities at her CANR and soon switched her major to Animal Science. “I know she took Poultry Production in the fall of 2021 and for some reason, I found out that she really likes chickens,” she said with a laugh.
In addition to learning better research techniques and continuing the research he started with Li the previous semester, Alvarez was drawn to Envision because of the experience he gained outside the lab.
“This is the first project that is ‘my project’ that I have been able to watch from start to finish,” she said. “But I was also really interested in Envision because we learn how to summarize and give presentations on our work. I didn’t have much experience with science posters, and I’m interested in a career in research, so I thought it would be really worth it.”
Both Alvarez and Taylor are quick to encourage other students to consider Envision in the future. “I learned so much about running experiments, and I got a lot of one-on-one time with professors and PhD students,” says Alvarez. “If you are looking for a research-focused summer internship, I would definitely apply to Envision.”
Taylor agreed and shared what led him to come back two summers in a row. “Professors are really engaging. If you have any questions, you can always ask them and they will answer you right away. Combined with the on-campus housing and scholarships, this internship is truly a game changer for many students.”