Shurnevia Strickland, left, and Kishana Williamson praise the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Summer Institute.

Summer studies

CANR Summer Institute starts scholars on road to grad school

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9:56 a.m., June 6, 2011--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.

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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

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