In the lab of Utah State University biochemist Sean Johnson, undergraduate Scott Adair discovered making mistakes, and developing the tenacity to keep trying, is a critical part of research.
“I’d never worked in a biochemistry lab before,” says Adair, a student at Southern Utah University. “I was given so much autonomy and they let me hit my head against the wall a few times. I learned troubleshooting is a big part of research.”
The undergrad was one of seven scholars selected from schools nationwide to participate in the 2018 USU Chem/Biochem Summer Internship Program. Hosted by USU’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and the USU College of Science, the 10-week program provides opportunities for students to participate in research with faculty mentors and learn about graduate study opportunities at Utah State.
“We seek undergraduates who’ve excelled academically, but have little or no research experience,” says Nick Dickenson, R. Gaurth Hansen Assistant Professor and coordinator of this year’s program. “We view this program as an opportunity for interns to see what life is like as a Chemistry/Biochemistry graduate student and encourage them to consider graduate study.”
The department initiated the program in 2012 and one of its aims is graduate student recruitment for USU.
“As a result of the program, we’ve gained several fantastic graduate students,” Dickenson says.
Participants in the 2018 program worked in seven different labs throughout the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Their projects ranged from determining the steps of nitrogen fixation and exploring the structure of enzymes to mapping pesticides in the environment and studying therapeutic uses for carbon monoxide.
“I had a wide array of opportunities to learn lab methods” says Hunter Brittain, a Utah Valley University student, who worked in Biochemistry Professor Lance Seefeldt’s lab. “I am very grateful for this opportunity.”
Interns, in addition to Adair and Brittain, were Max Bowles, Southern Utah University (Berreau Lab); Mattia DiNiro, Brigham Young University – Idaho (Sun Lab); Jayda Hatten, Southern Illinois University – Edwardsville (Hageman Lab); Dominic Mattock, Truman State University (Dickenson Lab) and Noah Wetherald, Ithaca College (Hevel Lab).
“We advertise this program throughout the country,” Dickenson says. “And we rely heavily on support from colleagues at other institutions, who encourage their top students to apply for the internships.”