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Spring 2004 - Internships

Destination Purdue > Spring 2004 - Internships

Agricultural internships give students a 'test run' for their careers

By Lauren Guy

"What do you want to do when you grow up?" The question you've heard all your life is gaining importance as graduation approaches.

Sarah Kessans

Photo provided by Sarah Kessans

Sarah Kessans takes a break from her internship responsibilities to enjoy a hike up Mount Sugarloaf, which is near Bray, Ireland.

Fortunately, in addition to classes, Purdue University's College of Agriculture allows students to explore possible careers through internships that give them insight into their field of study, as well as valuable work experience, before they leave college. The College of Agriculture offers students internship experiences both at home and abroad.

Sarah Kessans, a junior from Salem, Ind. majoring in plant pathology, traveled to Dublin, Ireland, for eight weeks in the summer of 2003 to work at the University College of Dublin. "I worked alongside some of the best plant pathologists in the European Union," Kessans said. "I studied Fusarium, a wheat disease. Five different wheat genes are responsible for resistance to this disease, and I worked with these five genes to develop Fusarium-resistant wheat."

Sarah Knapke, a senior from Rockville, Ind. majoring in plant science, worked at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, in St. Louis, Mo. "The most interesting part of my internship was that I played a part in the first crstallizatino of a plant thioesterase," Knapke said. Thioesterase determines the length of fatty acids and oils produced in the plant, and crystallization allows scientists to study their composition and function, she went on to explain.

In addition to meeting experts in the field and participating in research, Kessans said a paper documenting the Fusarium-resistance research she assisted with is being submitted for publication to noted scientific journals in the United States and the European Union. Knapke will be the co-author of a paper about her lab work.

Both students credit their internships with helping them determine what they want to do when they graduate. "After last summer I knew that research was exactly what I wanted to do," Knapke said. "The experience I gained and the people I met made all the difference to me."