Students from undergraduate-centric institutions have few opportunities to engage in hands-on research and are often unaware of research career opportunities in agricultural sciences. In addition, the pipeline of students pursuing graduate studies and careers in these fields is not meeting demand. This five-year program "Bugs in My Food 2.0" engages 10 students each summer, all from undergraduate-centric institutions in Pennsylvania and the University of Puerto-Rico Aguadilla, with one of 5 mentors (2:1 ratio), in an 8-week research-focused summer program at Penn State that integrates bioinformatics with experiential learning opportunities in food microbiology. The program kicks-off with a one-week microbiology laboratory bootcamp followed by a cohort-building retreat. Weekly mentor-led seminars provide training in experimental design, critical reading, science communication, graduate school, and careers in the agricultural sciences. Integrating a unique bioinformatics component into student-led summer projects develops computational skills through analysis of large-scale microbial sequence data. Visiting the FDA provides opportunities for students to learn about careers in government agencies. The summer culminates with a research symposium where students present their findings. Fellows are supported to attend the Allegheny Branch of the American Society for Microbiology meeting each Fall. Pre- and post-program evaluations assess gains in knowledge in alignment with research, informatics, and experiential learning goals. Through Bugs in My Food 1.0 (held summer 2018, 2019) we engaged 25 students, published 3 papers, presented 12 posters and these Fellows have continued onto graduate schools or entered the professional workforce.
ENGAGING STUDENTS FROM UNDERGRADUATE-CENTRIC INSTITUTIONS IN RESEARCH, INFORMATICS, AND EXPERIENTIAL OPPORTUNITIES IN FOOD MICROBIOLOGY
Pennsylvania State University