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Internships & Travel Subsidies


Graduate and undergraduate internships at the interphase of computation and pollen biology

We sponsor graduate and undergraduate students to do pollen-related research projects with an emphasis of applying computation approaches to biological questions in participating RCN labs. Up to four internships are available every year, each supporting up to 400 hours of research. For more information contact RCN PI Alice Cheung.

High School Teachers

The RCN supports three week summer internships for high school teachers to provide exposure to molecular, genetic, cell biological and bioinformatics approaches in current pollen biology, so that they will incorporate knowledge and excitement about research in biology to their classroom. It is expected that these teachers will intern within commuting distance of the host laboratories, so that long-term interactions between mentors and interns are possible. Applications for these internships should be initiated by PIs of the host laboratories with an interested teacher already identified. These internships provide stipends up to $2250 ($750 per 40 hr week); actual internship duration is negotiable between mentors and interns.

Pollen RCN interns thus far include:

Summer 2014
Yvonne Rose Bourgeois is an undergraduate student at the University of Arizona. She received intership support to manage all aspects of the Pollen RCN website. As part of this effort, she curated, annotated, fixed errors, and upgraded the website (from Drupal 6 to Drupal 7). She also assisted with the Fourth annual pollen RCN meeting in Charlotte by managing all aspects of registration and computational needs for pollen RCN in relation to this meeting (May 2014).
Ron Fox interned with Anna Dobritsa in the summer between his first and second year of college. His project is on understanding pollen aperture development. He learnt to apply statistical analysis on pollen germination.
Garth Fisher interned with Sheila McCormick and received training in using bioinformatics tools to analyze pollen gene expression and RNA processing.
Sabrina Nusrat, a first year graduate student in the University of Arizona, interned with Ravi Palanivelu and Kobus Barnard at the same institution with summer internship support from Pollen RCN. Sabrina will enhance the utility of pollen tube tracker algorithm to plant biologists by improving its performance in the new discovery environment and beta test with members of the pollen community, and analyze mutant pollen tube bahviours.
Summer 2013
Salika Dunatunga, an undergraduate student in the Ravi Palanivelu lab, received internship support during Spring and Summer 2013 from Pollen RCN. During this time, Salika assisted with the pollen RCN workshop in Tucson (March 2013). Salika also maintained and upgraded the Pollen RCN website. As part of this effort, she reformatted, organized, and updated the pollen RCN website publications page, and worked on all aspects of the website by fixing many links and managing SPAM-related issues in the pollennetwork.org website, including deleting SPAM forum topics and blocking SPAM user accounts. Finally, she also adapted the pollen tube tracker module on iPlant Collaborative's Bisque server so that the pollen tube tracker algorithm to conduct automated analysis of pollen tube tracks in time-lapsed fluorescent images is available for use by the pollen research community. Salika gave an oral presentation in the workshop on this tracker and did a booth presentation to explain and answer questions about the tracker at the Third pollen RCN meeting in Tucson. Salika entered the graduate in bioinformatics graduate program in University of Pennsylvania in Fall 2013.
Shelvasha Burkes, was an undergraduate student at UNCC in Ann Loraine’s lab received internship support. Her internship involved working with a Research Specialist to investigate pollen-specific splicing patterns. Shelvasha would also assist in phenotypic analysis of splicing factor mutants. In addition to learning how to perform the basic lab techniques (PCR, running gels) Shelvasha learnt to analyze data using R and RStudio, tools used routinely in the Loraine lab. A major goal of the internship was for Shelvasha to learn fundamentals of data analysis techniques by applying them to data sets she helps generate. Shelvasha entered the Bioinformatics masters program in Fall 2013 in Ann Loraine lab and this internship gave her a head start on learning computational and applied statistics methods.
Jason Furia and Norice McGrath, high school teachers, interns in Alice Cheung’s lab. Jason teaches Biology at Pioneer Valley Regional School in Northfield, Massachusetts; Norice teaches in Springfield City High School. They are recruits from the STEM workshop on Pollen Biology conducted by Alice Cheung earlier in 2013. For their internship, they learnt basic plant transformation techniques and generated transgenic plants with genes related to pollen biology. Seeds from their transformed plants were used as materials for the STEM workshop offered in 2014. Jason currently works on developing a two year biology module for his school.
Summer 2012
Vineeth Sai Santosh Mylapur and Praveenbabu Patchalla, students in Ann Loraine’s lab, did computational internships and contributed to development of the RCN website. Interns received training in Web site development and bioinformatics.
Laura Gates, a senior in Alice Cheung’s lab, received an internship for a collaboration with Benedikt Kost (Germany), Maria-Helena Goldman (Brazil), Li-jun Ma (UMass) on studying the tobacco pollen transcriptome. Laura entered the Biology Ph.D. Program at UCSD in the Fall of 2012.
Summer 2011
Yanjiao Zou and Eric Johnson, a postdoc and a graduate student from Alice Cheung’s lab, respectively, volunteered a demonstration module on biolistic microprojectile bombardment mediated pollen transformation for the Pollen Summer Course.
Alexander Leydon and Christin Beale, graduate students from Mark Johnson’s lab interned as Teaching assistants for the Pollen Summer Course.
Summer 2010
Brittany Morago - Brittany is a graduate student at the University of Missouri-Columbia studying computer science. During her internship, she learned about image segmentation techniques that can be used to identify vacuoles in pollen cells. She worked with members of Bruce McClure's lab to discover trends in the way the identified vacuoles grow and expand as pollen tubes age. She looks forward to continuing researching image processing techniques that can be applied to the biological sciences.
John Fortman - John interned with Bruce McClure. John received a BFA in Fine Arts and a BS in Computer Science from Truman State University at Kirksville, MO in 1996 and 1998 respectively. While working full time as a programmer for the Assessment Resource Center he completed an MS in Computer Science with the University of Missouri at Columbia. John's work with pollen started as a programming project that involved feature detection and feature tracking and then expanded and become his Masters Thesis.
Josephine Michael - Josephine is a Biology Teacher from Eleanor Roosevelt High School. She interned in Heven Sze’s lab. She participated in a project that studies the function of pollen-expressed CHX genes using ion transporter mutant bacteria.


Travel subsidy for collaboration and diversity enhancement

The RCN sponsors a total of 15 collaboration- and diversity-enhancement projects every year.

Application and Selection procedures

For internships, applications should be initiated from the host lab, accompanied by a 1 page statement prepared jointly by the host PI and the prospective intern. For collaboration- and diversity-enhancing travel subsidy, the applications should be initiated jointly by the collaborating parties. Applications should describe the goal and justification for the proposed project and submitted to the RCN, c/o Alice Cheung at acheung@biochem.umass.edu. Although we encourage projects involving the RCN working group, justifiable projects outside the RCN working group are also acceptable. However, because of NSF stipulations, applications from non-US laboratory and personnel currently working in a non-US laboratory cannot be supported. 

The RCN’s Steering Committee will review applications for subsidies for collaborative and diversity enhancement projects periodically (monthly). Review for internship applications for the summer will be conducted in late spring (April, early May) to facilitate applicants’ summer planning. For internships spanning the academic semesters, applications should be submitted at least one month prior to the start of the internships.

Recipients will be expected to communicate the outcome of their activities to the Network, provide feedback on the effectiveness of this effort and acknowledge support from the Network in publications.  The RCN may invite some of the recipients to present their work in future network annual meetings.

All inquiries should be submitted to Alice Cheung.


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