Agricultural Research Services Internship Leads to UAPB Student Hiring

Will Hechman | Faculty of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences

John Mitchell, a graduate student in the University of Arkansas Pine Bluff’s (UAPB) School of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Human Sciences (SAFHS), recently completed a paid internship with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS). For 10 weeks, he worked directly with ARS scientists at the Dale Bumpers National Rice Research Center (DBNRRC) in Stuttgart, Arkansas. He is now employed by the organization due to his work during his internship.

Mitchell is majoring in Agricultural Regulation and Plant Science. He is a native of Fordyce, Arkansas, hoping to become a geneticist/plant breeder. He received his Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Business from UAPB in Spring 2022.

Mitchell said he decided to enroll in the internship program because he wanted to work in an environment that offered cutting-edge research funded by the government.

“Interning at DBNRRC made me feel like I was part of something bigger than myself,” Mitchell said. “Everything I do at DBNRRC is changing the world. I’d love to help.”

During the internship, Mitchell’s responsibilities varied. He works with agronomists, pathologists and geneticists. He said he did greenhouse sampling, measured abiotic stress, checked leaf temperature, and collected data from sensors showing temperature and soil moisture in fields, plants, etc.

Dr Jeremy Edwards, a DBNRRC research geneticist, said the organisation offered Mitchell a paid part-time position because of his performance in the internship position. He is a biological science assistant, helping with various projects.

“John’s current work will help him complete his master’s thesis research,” Edwards said. “We hope that John will be a great future leader in the rice research community.”

Dr Jai Rohila, DBNRRC Research Agronomist, said it was a pleasure working with Mitchell.

“He’s a quick learner and a great colleague. He works well independently, but he’s also a great team player,” says Rohila.

Mitchell said the most enjoyable part of his experience was working with plants.

“I have a ‘green thumb,'” Mitchell said. “I have a garden and I grow the best tomatoes.”

Mitchell recommends that undergraduates take advantage of internship opportunities.

“Internships will help students decide their futures,” Mitchell said. “Through opportunity, you’ll find your passion. Before I realized I really enjoyed working with plants, I looked into agricultural business, crop insurance, and other extended careers.”

UAPB Associate Professor Sathish Ponniah is very excited about Mitchell being hired by DBNRRC.

“As he works with DBNRRC, he will learn and teach me their advanced phenotyping techniques in rice. I am excited to work with the organization and share my expertise. We plan to continue my internship at DBNRRC in the coming years .”

Dr. Nina Lyon-Bennett, Assistant Dean of Academics at SAFHS, said Mitchell’s achievement marks the beginning of an undergraduate internship program that will provide UAPB students with professional work experience year after year. The goal is to provide undergraduates with hands-on research experiences that help them apply textbook knowledge learned in the classroom to real-world experiential learning opportunities.

The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff provides all 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 any other Legally protected status and are an affirmative action/equal opportunity employer.

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