September 15, 2015 – Five Fort Valley State University biotechnology students spent their summer vacation flying across the country to conduct research that will prepare them for future careers in science and medicine. Plant biotechnology majors D’Amber Jones, Gabriella Louis, Madalyn Bryant, Shavonte Anderson, Kelli Russell, Caleb Jones, Gre’Nisha. Jones and Quaneisha Woodford, learned plant genomic techniques from current researchers during their 10-week internships provided by the National Science Foundation.
According to Dr. Sarwan Dhir, director of FVSU’s Center for Biotechnology, all FVSU students majoring in science-related fields are required to complete research internships before they graduate.
D’Amber Jones, a junior majoring in plant science biotechnology, traveled to the University of Florida to conduct research on tomato plants under the mentorship of Dr. Harold Klee.
“It was a life-changing experience on all levels,” the 25-year-old Cleveland, Ohio native. Jones, who says she had previously studied botany at another school, said the experience helped her to learn how to apply her knowledge.
“The details I learned about plant anatomy, I discovered how to apply them in biotechnology,” Jones said.
She learned how to collect volatiles from 100 grams of chopped fruit, and found the genotype of each individual plant. She analyzed soluble solids with a refractometer. Jones also learned how to collect enzymes from 100 grams of chopped fruit and collect resins from the plants.
Gabriella Louis, a senior graduating in December 2015, also conducted her research on tomatoes with Dr. Klee at the University of Florida.
“I loved it,” the Haitian national said. “It was nice to do the genetic work with the plants.” When Louis graduates, she wants to earn her master’s in entomology, and eventually attend medical school at the Morehouse School of Medicine.
Madalyn Bryant, a senior biotechnology student from Perry, Ga. spent her 10-week experience at Michigan State University studying the growth and physiology of Arabidopsis thaliana, a small, edible flowering mustard green that is a native plant of Eurasia. Bryan studied the growth and physiology of the model gene plant during the summer. It was her first time doing research. She learned about the plant’s ability to photosynthesize nutrients, its respiration rate, and conducted measurements on its chlorophyll and protein content. She also measured the plant’s leaf areas and thickness.
“My internship at Michigan State, this summer, confirmed my enjoyment of conducting research,” Bryant stated. The student graduates in May 2016. “I want to attend graduate school, enter the health field, and become a research scientist.”
Bryant continued, “It was a great experience for me. Being on a big campus was an adjustment. It was diverse, so it was easy to get involved. I’m definitely for students to pursue internships. I advise students to get into research areas that allow you to find what your niche is, and what you want to do or not want to do.”
Shavonte Anderson, a 22-year-old student from Waycross, Ga., conducted her research this summer at the University of Georgia in the area of genetics, and the appearance of a small colony of phenotypes that were exposed to sodium arsenic.
“It was my first time conducting research, and I really enjoyed the things that it taught me,” Anderson said. “It gave me a better visual experience than just sitting inside of a lecture. It’s a learning experience that everyone should have. You should do research to find out if it’s what you want to do with your future.” Anderson will graduate in December 2015.
Quaneisha Woodford, a junior FVSU student from Dry Branch, Ga., conducted her research at the Danford Research Center in St. Louis on leaf morphology.
“It was a great learning experience,” the 20-year-old FVSU student said. “I did my internship last summer with Dr. Dhir, this summer I studied leaf morphology under Dr. Dan Chitwood. It was different working with different personalities, and getting a great learning experience. My mentor walked me through the process, step by step to tell me what I was doing right or wrong.”
Students will present their summer research at national and international scientific conferences throughout the year.