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USDA Education Grant Supports Student Interns & Bolsters Industry Partnerships

Fifteen undergraduate students participating in the Sustainable Bioproducts & Bioenergy Program will intern at companies and organizations across the country related to the bioeconomy this summer. Students will engage in research, project development, and operations during their Summer 2019 internship and, for many of them, this will be their first “science job”. The internship follows their success in two Forest Biomaterials courses, The Sustainable Bioeconomy and Biomass Conversion for Bioproducts & Bioenergy.
The internship program team (Shana McAlexander, Hasan Jameel, Richard Venditti, and Kristen Tomberlin), with the help of many other Forest Biomaterials faculty, staff, and graduate students, teamed with over 35 companies and organizations to match students with internships. Forest Biomaterials faculty and staff will leverage these new and existing partnerships to continue to support our research and teaching mission along with the placement of our undergraduate PSE and SMT students into future internships, co-ops, and careers.

Here are a few of students sharing their experiences and their excitement about the summer ahead.

In Amy’s words:
I am most excited about traveling to a new place that holds great learning potential for the production of biomass. I can’t wait to be a part of a product that will be used in homes that sustains the planet at the same time. I will feel a great deal of satisfaction knowing I am minimizing my and many others’ carbon footprints.
Being able to interview with over five companies in a few weeks allowed me to become very comfortable in the interviewing process. I learned that I am more than ready to start working in a professional field. I became more confident talking about myself and my accomplishments to superiors.

Amy McGaughy is majoring in chemistry and minoring in environmental sustainability at Meredith College. She is headed to Lignetics in Colorado. She will help the company’s Research and Development group create sustainable products from wood.

In Kito’s words:

I am most excited to get hands on experience in a sector of the bioeconomy. It may be an internship but I feel it is still a valuable contribution to promoting renewable standards in the US. I’m also excited about the chance to work with like-minded peers and gain a taste for what future work I’ll potentially be doing after graduation.

Kito McKenzie started in the Sustainable Bioproducts & Bioenergy Program while at Wake Technical Community College and has since transferred to NC State to study Biochemistry. He will be interning at Wood Group PLC formerly Amec Foster Wheeler in Durham, NC. He will be helping with the administration of the USDA BioPreferred labeling program.

In Tyler’s words:

I have a passionate interest in clinical research as well as environmental science and one day plan on being involved in both fields, likely in bio-pharmaceuticals.

I will be conducting research with coccolithophore algae. Coccolithophores have the unique ability to remove carbon from the environment and store the carbon in the form of calcium carbonate while also producing valuable bioproducts.I find working with algae incredibly interesting, especially considering the potential scalability of algal biofuels.

Tyler Owens is a rising Junior at UNC Chapel Hill. He will be interning with Algean Corporation in Winston-Salem, NC.

The USDA-funded Sustainable Bioproducts and Bioenergy Program (SBBP), a collaboration between the College of Natural Resources and the College of Education, aims to provide diverse undergraduate students the interdisciplinary knowledge and skills needed to advance the bioeconomy, an economy based on renewable bioproducts produced from plant materials rather than petroleum.

This project is supported by the AFRI Competitive Grants Program: Sustainable Bioenergy and Bioproducts Challenge Area: Investing in America’s Scientific Corps: Preparing a New Generation of Students, Faculty, and Workforce for Emerging Challenges in Bioenergy, Bioproducts, and the Bioeconomy, award number:  2017-67009-26771, Program Code – A6131.