Summer internship program aims to deepen diversity in marine science

August 28, 2019
The Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology's summer internship program for undergraduates was created to support increased diversity in STEM fields.

In a meeting room at the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology (IMET) in the beginning of August, eleven students stood in front of mentors, peers, and family to give presentations on what they did this summer. It ranged from research projects on using spent grain from breweries to prevent toxic algal blooms to converting fish waste from recirculating aquaculture systems into biofuel. 

This day was the capstone of the annual summer undergraduate internship, a program created to support increased diversity in STEM fields. Each summer, IMET offers undergraduates the opportunity to conduct a nine-week project research in marine sciences applying molecular tools. This was the 17th year the program has been held.

“There continues to be underrepresentation of several groups entering graduate programs in the fields of biology and environmental science,” said Russell Hill, director the  Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology. “This program provides training opportunities to a diverse body of undergraduates with a long term goal of providing a strong pipeline of students continuing to higher degrees in these fields.”

Students from around the country joined the program led by Rose Jagus. The internship included an orientation to working in a lab, seminars on using molecular techniques in fisheries, energy production, and environmental research, introductions to bioanalytics and DNA-sequencing, and a research project with an IMET faculty mentor.

“This program is very beneficial to the students; we can see them grow their skills and confidence," said Rose Jagus, USM Elkins Professor of Marine Biotechnology and Director of the IMET Summer Internship Program. “It is also our main pipeline to recruit graduate students from under-represented groups into our graduate program. We are very grateful to the private foundations and other funding sources that have made this possible.”

The students were also treated to a series of roundtable conversations with local business leaders, including Calvin Butler, Chief Executive Officer of Baltimore Gas and Electric Company (BGE), who talked about the energy company’s commitment to environmental stewardship and increasing diversity in STEM disciplines, and special guest President Freeman Hrabowski of University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). They also met with staffers and interns from Congressman Ruppersberger's office and learned that the Congressman was eager to find ways to assist in our scientific endeavors.

Early in the summer the students also had a one-day workshop on visualization and communication of science with the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s Integration and Application Network known for their compilations of  easy-to-understand report cards on environmental health that act as baselines for restoration efforts around the world.

Also, to enhance students' ability to make their science accessible, Program Coordinator Kate Gillespie had the students find the poetry in their science. Gillespie is a former IMET student, post-doc and now Assistant Professor at SUNY Cobleskill, where she teaches biotechnology and leads creative writing workshops.

“It was a good opportunity to be around like-minded young individuals. I got to talk to people from Stanford, University of Pennsylvania, UMBC, people from all different backgrounds,” said Kane Samuel, who recently graduated from Frostburg University. “I am very optimistic about how everyone will move forward.”

This summer’s cohort included Abdul Adaranijo, Jennifer Akanoh, Nicholas Camacho, Daquan Davis, Aaron Johnson, Heather Levine, Nylah McClain, Aiman Raza, Kane Samuel, Amaya Simpson, and Adjele (Ruth) Wilson.

IMET's summer internship program is made possible by a generous gift from the Bunting Family Foundation.