Summer internships offer Rowan students real-world training
Brittany Tawes is studying bumblebees and pollination. Jeff Dragon worked to save turtles. Anjelica Sinigaglio is researching prairie dogs in the desert. Alison Sudano is investigating new foods for a national bakery chain. And Adam Bradshaw is working with the cast and crew of HBO's hit show, "In Treatment."
Welcome to Summer 2010 at Rowan University, where students are working diligently to build on their classroom knowledge through challenging internships from New Mexico to New York City.
Here's a look at the students and their internships:
Blandy Experimental Farm, University of Virginia
A rising senior biology major with a chemistry minor, Tawes, of Port Norris, is studying bumblebees and pollination through the highly competitive Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program funded by the National Science Foundation.
At Blandy, the 700-acre research facility at UVA, which also serves as Virginia's state arboretum, Tawes is working on an independent research project through July 30 with her mentor, David Carr, a professor at the university and acting director of Blandy. She developed her own research project to determine why bumblebees discriminate against inbred plants when they're foraging.
"In order to do this, I'm focusing on the pollen differences of both inbred and out bred Mimulus flowers," says Tawes. "I'm using the pollen to conduct a series of pollinator choice experiments.
"By learning more about what causes pollinators to forage on certain plants over others, we'll help the scientific community broaden its knowledge about plant and pollinator interactions and the possible problems inbreeding depression could have on these interactions."
Through the REU, students could choose the mentor they wished to study with, according to Tawes.
"I was most interested in Dr. Carr's work because I haven't had the opportunity to work with plants or insects before," says Tawes. "I also was especially interested in the behavioral aspects of the bees because I find the study of animal behavior to be truly fascinating."
Longwood University, Virginia
Dragon built on his passion for turtles--which began at age 8 when he led a movement to save the turtles at Pitman's Alcyon Lake--in his research work on wood turtles with Thomas Akre of Longwood University.
Through July 3, Dragon worked on Akre's three-student research team to study the turtles intensively-from their demographic parameters and population size to their capture probability and survival rates, habitat use and nesting behavior.
"The wood turtle is a threatened species that faces many threats, such as development, predation, poor water quality and collecting in the illegal pet trade," says Dragon, a rising junior environmental studies major from Pitman.
"I find wood turtles one of the most fascinating turtles-and even one of the most fascinating of all of the animal species. They are a truly unique species, but they're facing multiple reasons for decline. I don't see a great future for them if people don't get serious about conserving them."
Dragon landed his internship after studying last semester with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Va. The study opportunity was affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution and George Mason University.
"It focused on conservation biology and gave me hands-on experience with researchers, biologists and other professionals in the conservation field."
Dragon is a rising senior environmental studies major from Pitman.
Prairie dog research, Arizona and New Mexico
Working with University of Colorado-Boulder graduate student Loren Sackett, Sinigaglio is spending long, hot days as a field assistant to research Gunnison's prairie dogs in remote areas of Arizona and New Mexico during her three-month internship.
The rising senior environmental studies major from Penns Grove has learned to trap, examine, and take blood and tissue samples from the prairie dogs, a little-studied species, according to Sinigaglio.
"We're working to determine if there are two sub-species within Gunnison's prairie dogs," says Sinigaglio, adding that Sackett's research also is investigating the prevalence of bubonic plague and bartonella, an infectious disease, in prairie dogs to determine if those could be reasons for the decline of the animals.
"Not many people know this, but prairie dogs are a keystone species and they're also ecosystem engineers," she adds. "They're extremely important to the ecosystem. They provide food for many animals that are higher on the food chain, like coyotes, badgers, weasels, foxes, snakes and birds of prey. Additionally, they aerate the soil and allow nutrients to cycle through the landscape."
Thus far, Sinigaglio has worked at sites in both Arizona and New Mexico.
"So far, it's been nothing short of an amazing, new experience for me," says Sinigaglio, who has learned to live without luxuries, including running water.
"I've met four incredible biology students from across the country, learned to live with limited resources, improved my problem solving and communication skills, gained increased patience, and learned to work long hours with small mammals in a southwestern environment. It has been rewarding to me, both as an individual and as contributor to the scientific community."
Food research, Greenwich, Ct.
Always interested in food, Sudano considered a career as a chef, but found her niche in food science. The rising senior biological sciences major from Sewell is working in the co-pack operations and research and development departments of Bimbo Bakeries' labs in Greenwich, Ct.
A Mexican-owned company, Bimbo owns brands such as Entenmanns, Thomas', Arnold, Stroehmann Breads, Boboli and Freihofer's.
Her work includes maintaining quality assurance, taking measurements and running moisture and pH tests of finished products. In the research and development department, she follows formulas and conducts testing on new products in development.
"It's very interesting to see the formation of a new product from start to finish," says Sudano, who is looking to study food science in graduate school and is considering Cornell and Fresno State, among other schools.
Sudano, whose internship runs through August, is particularly interested in the science behind the fermentation aspect in food processing.
"I would eventually like to work in the winery/brewing industry," she says.
HBO, New York City
A rising senior radio/television/film major from Kalamazoo, Mich., Bradshaw is serving an eight-week internship with the Emmy-winning HBO show, "In Treatment, which is filming its third season in Brooklyn, NY.
The internship was awarded through the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Summer Internship Program. Bradshaw was one of only 30 students nationwide-from among more than 1,200 applicants-to land an internship with the academy. Students from schools such as the University of Southern California, the University of California-Berkeley, Boston College, and the University of Maryland also landed internships.
"I think the best experience so far was getting to shadow one of the best television directors out there, Paris Barclay, on set and sitting in a director's chair behind him watching him at work as he directed an episode of the show," says Bradshaw.
Winner of two Emmy awards, Barclay has directed episodes of "NYPD Blue," "ER," "The West Wing," "CSI," and "Glee," among other shows.
"Meeting the actors has been cool, also," Bradshaw adds. "But meeting the crew and absorbing all the knowledge I can from them and their years of experience has been equally amazing. I am learning so much and I'm very grateful for this opportunity to learn from professionals doing jobs I hope to do someday."
Former president of the Rowan Television Network (RTN), Bradshaw now serves as webmaster and promotions/public relations director of RTN. This fall, Bradshaw will begin another high-profile internship...this time at NFL Films.