CANR’s Summer Institute accepting applications for 2014 session

February 18, 2014 under CANR News

CANR summer institute is now accepting applicationsThe University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) will offer a 10-week Summer Institute for underrepresented populations of undergraduate students who have an interest in pursuing graduate degrees in the agricultural and natural resource sciences.

The Summer Institute will be held on the UD campus in Newark from Monday, June 9, through Friday, Aug. 15.

The program is now accepting applications and the application deadline is April 1. The program is open to students at UD as well as other universities. Enrollment is limited to five undergraduate students and preference is given to students who are completing the junior year of their academic program.

The Summer Institute is intended to provide participating students with an opportunity to learn about the varied and exciting opportunities available in graduate education in the college.

Past Summer Institute scholars conducted research in a variety of topics at CANR, such as studying rice blast disease in rice, heading to coastal communities to poll beachgoers on their opinions about offshore energy production and looking at arsenic in mushrooms and its effect on the human diet.

To read more about past Summer Institute sessions, click here.

Since 2009, 21 students have completed the Summer Institute program.

Maria Pautler, program coordinator, has kept in touch with Summer Institute alumni. “Former participants have found the program quite helpful in discerning their future education options. Several students are now enrolled in graduate programs within the CANR,” said Pautler. “Other students have been accepted into graduate schools in the agricultural and natural resources sciences, such as Ross University Veterinary School, George Washington University and Michigan State University.”

Travel expenses and housing costs provided in University residence halls will be covered. Transportation from residence halls to CANR facilities will be discussed. All students will also receive a stipend to help cover costs of participation.

For more information, contact Tom Sims, CANR deputy dean, at

To download an application, click here.


CANR Summer Institute starts scholars on road to success

August 23, 2012 under CANR News

As the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Summer Institute comes to a close, this year’s participants, Bianca Riddick and Walker Jones, are heading home having completed research projects and gotten a feel for the UD campus.

“I think it’s going to be bittersweet,” said Riddick. “I’m going to miss it when I’m ready to go home. It’s grown on me.”

The 10-week Summer Institute is designed for underrepresented populations of undergraduate students who have an interest in pursuing graduate degrees in the agricultural and natural resource sciences. It is intended to provide these students with an opportunity to learn about the varied and exciting opportunities available in graduate education at the college.

Bianca Riddick

Riddick, who will be a junior at Norfolk (Va.) State University as a pre-med student majoring in biology with a minor in chemistry, said that her time at the Summer Institute was instructive as she conducted research for the first time on a subject out of her normal area of study: rice.

“I never thought I’d be working with rice,” said Riddick. “I really don’t care too much for rice, but some people depend on rice so it’s good to contribute to the research of this disease.”

The disease in question is known as “rice blast” and Riddick studied the interaction between the rice blast fungus and a bacterium that has the potential to be a bio-control agent for the disease. Specifically, Riddick looked at a handful of fungal genes in rice blast to see how they react — if they turn on or off — to the bacterium in order to get a better idea of how the disease-causing agent is defending itself against the bio-control agent.

The reason behind looking for a bio-control solution to the rice blast problem is that it has the potential to be more cost efficient and environmentally friendly than applying pesticides.

Riddick is studying in the laboratory of Nicole Donofrio, who said that she has been amazed at how quickly Riddick picks things up, especially since this is her first time conducting research.

Donofrio, assistant professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, said of Riddick, “she is one of those people who just gets it. A lot of people, when they first start research, and this was the case with me too when I was an undergrad, have a pretty shallow learning curve. I had to make a lot of mistakes and Bianca is a rare student because she retains all of this information we’re throwing at her on the first try.”

Donofrio said that she has been so impressed with Riddick this year that she is going to ask her to come back next summer.

Riddick said that she has really enjoyed her time at the Summer Institute, calling it “a really good experience. It has everything laid out for you, you just have to come here and give your time. And I think that it’s a really good eye-opener.”

She also said that she has enjoyed the UDairy Creamery, with her favorite flavor being Cookies and Cream.

Walker Jones

Like Riddick, Jones also had to conduct research in an area outside of his wheelhouse.

As a senior at Virginia State University, Jones studies agricultural business and economics, but he spent the summer with Kent Messer helping him conduct a study on how beachgoers at Cape Henlopen and Rehoboth Beach would behave if there were offshore energy production providing renewable or lower energy costs but also affecting the aesthetics of the beach.

While conducting a study on the beach may sound like a summer job that is every undergraduate’s dream, Messer explained that Jones’ job was tougher than it sounds.

“This is actually really hard work. Going to the beach sounds really fun until you spend six days standing on the beach being told, ‘No, we will not participate in your study.’ And it’s 95 degrees, and you’re sweating and your relief is that you get to go hang out inside of a tent,” said Messer, associate professor in the Department of Applied Economics and Statistics.

Messer said that Jones was integral in getting the study conducted, as he conversed directly with state officials from the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, getting the permission for the group to set up their tent at Cape Henlopen. Messer credited Jones with securing a “great spot” for the research project and said that it was a huge help to be able to give Jones such a high level of responsibility.

The research project involved having a computer simulation show participants images of wind turbines and oil drilling platforms as options for offshore energy. The participants were able to move the turbines or platforms closer or farther away from the beach, with the idea being that the closer the objects got, especially the wind turbines, the energy costs would be lower but the aesthetics of the beach would be affected.

Jones said that the group found that more people were open to the idea of having wind turbines present and closer to the shore, rather than oil platforms. “The (Gulf of Mexico) oil spill tragedy is still ringing true with some people and they don’t want that to happen again so when they see the picture of an oil platform they’d say, ‘No, I don’t like it,’” said Jones.

Jones said that he has enjoyed his time at UD, especially the fact that there are so many researchers on campus conducting a wide range of research in different departments.

He also said that he “really enjoyed how cooperative things went here, and how easily approachable the administration is around here.”

Tom Sims, CANR deputy dean and the T.A. Baker Professor of Plant and Soil Science, said that the Summer Institute was launched four years ago to “provide outstanding students such as Walker and Bianca with the opportunity to work with faculty mentors and learn more about graduate education in the agricultural and natural resource sciences.”

Sims continued that many of the 16 Summer Institute participants have “since entered graduate or professional schools both at UD and other top graduate programs. I’m sure that Walker’s exposure to the exciting new field of experimental economics and Bianca’s experiences in plant molecular biology have better prepared them for similar opportunities — we wish them well and look forward to continuing to work with similar dedicated students in the future.”

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Danielle Quigley and courtesy Kent Messer

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.


CANR Summer Institute starts scholars on road to grad school

June 6, 2011 under CANR News

Only in its third year, the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) Summer Institute at the University of Delaware is achieving its goal by seeing a large number of participants attend graduate school.

The 10-week long summer program, which is geared at underrepresented populations of undergraduate students who have an interest in pursuing graduate degrees in the agriculture and natural resource sciences, will see some of its past participants graduate and head off to graduate school this fall.

Maria Pautler, CANR Summer Institute program coordinator, said she is encouraged by the success rate of the program. Of the 11 student participants since the inaugural year of 2009, five have been accepted into graduate programs. She said she looks forward to assisting the five students selected for the 2011 CANR Summer Institute, which runs June 6-Aug. 12, to ensure they have a great experience as they “get to know the ropes” of going to graduate school.

Kishana Williamson, a senior animal science and wildlife conservation double major, participated in the program in 2009 and will be headed to graduate school to get her master’s degree in public health microbiology and emerging infectious disease at George Washington University.

Williamson said that the CANR Summer Institute helped prepare her for graduate school by giving her experience in hands-on research. “Having research experience in general, regardless of what it is, is always helpful because then people know that you’ve done a project and contributed.”

During her time at the CANR Summer Institute, Williamson was paired with Jacob Bowman, associate professor of entomology and wildlife ecology, and she worked with Bowman’s graduate students doing bird surveys to determine species diversity and tracking deer to determine migration patterns.

She said of the CANR Summer Institute, “I think it’s a really great experience, just the ability to get your hands dirty in a research laboratory. I think research in general is great but if you don’t have time during the school year, the summer is a perfect time to do it. They pay you, you get somewhere to stay and you learn a lot — it’s a really good opportunity.”

Another student headed to graduate school after participating in the program is Shurnevia Strickland, a senior in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences. Strickland attended the CANR Summer Institute in 2010 and will be attending graduate school at the University of Delaware where she will study genetics and take classes such as biochemistry and bioinformatics.

She called the CANR Summer Institute a very positive experience that helped her decide that she wanted to go on to graduate school. “The CANR Summer Institute showed me what it would be like working in a lab, similar to what I’d be doing in graduate school. From there, I knew that if I wanted a successful, long-lasting career in genetics, I’d need to get a master’s degree.”

Strickland recommends the CANR Summer Institute to those who are unsure of their plans after graduation, especially those who have not had experience with hands-on research. “Research is one of those things that you’ll either love or hate, and it’ll help narrow down not only the type of work, but the subject you want to work in as well.”

She also said, “The earlier you participate in a program like this, the better. The Summer Institute is really a hidden gem within the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.”

Kristopher Dewberry, a pre-veterinary medicine and biosciences major with minors in biology and wildlife conservation, attended the summer program in 2009 and said that he researched the Marek’s disease virus. His favorite part of the program was “the opportunity to work for a professor directly and on a real research project. I learned a magnitude of research techniques that assisted me in future research endeavors as well as a better understanding of the real scientific community and what research has to offer.”

Echoing Strickland’s thoughts, Dewberry said that he would recommend the program to anybody who has an interest in research but hasn’t had the opportunity to have hands on experience. “The CANR Summer Institute gives its participants an excellent insight into doing research on a graduate school level, as well as the opportunity to interact with faculty on a professional level. I know these experiences helped me mature and have an idea on what graduate and professional schools were looking for in candidates.”

Dewberry will be attending Cornell University in the fall as a first year doctor of veterinary medicine candidate.

Tom Sims, CANR deputy dean, said the college “is thrilled by the successes of our former CANR Summer Institute scholars and wishes them all the best in their graduate education programs. We also greatly appreciate the wonderful mentoring provided to the Summer Institute scholars by our faculty.”

Sims added that CANR “is appreciative of the initial grant funding provided by the UD Office of Graduate and Professional Education. Their help allowed us to begin what is now a permanent CANR program that is now successfully supporting the efforts of students from underrepresented populations to pursue graduate and professional degrees.”

For more information on the CANR Summer Institute, visit the website.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Danielle Quigley

The original posting of this article can be viewed on UDaily