The Danforth Center Welcomes the 2021 REU Internship Program Cohort

Did you know that since the Danforth Center’s Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) internship program launched in 2003 over 335 students have completed an internship? Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 was the first year since 2003 that we did not host the REU internship program. This year, the REU internship is back in a hybrid format, and the Danforth Center has welcomed thirteen interns into the program. 

Three interns will be completing the internship in-person, and ten interns will be participating in the program virtually. As a result of the program being held virtually, many of the projects are computational in nature. The hybrid aspect of the program has also allowed the REU team to expand the scope of key workshops and training opportunities to provide a deeper experience for the interns. This year interns will also participate in an "elevator pitch" workshop to help them practice communicating their science to non-scientists.

The 2021 REU Cohort

“We probably have one of the most diverse sets of students this year in terms of backgrounds, levels of experience, and ethnicities,” says Cathy Kromer, Sr. Grant Manager at the Danforth Center. “Having such diversity only serves to strengthen the program and aligns well with the Danforth Center's core value of diversity and inclusion.  Each intern brings a unique perspective which hopefully lends to more creativity overall.” While the 2021 cohort has had to deal with all of the challenges that come with the COVID-19 pandemic, they have shown tenacity in adapting to doing research under less-than-ideal circumstances.

Mike McGrone is studying biochemistry at Bradley University, interning in the Gehan Lab

Mike McGrone, student at Bradley University, interning in the Gehan Lab

Why Mike is excited to be an REU intern at the Danforth Center: “Honestly when I first got the email that I got accepted into the internship, I screamed in my friend’s car. I’m really happy that the Danforth Center found that I was a good candidate. I’m excited to be an REU Intern at the Danforth Center because I love the values they stand by and the comfortable, accepting nature of the lab that I am in. I am looking forward to increasing my understanding of PlantCV for my project this summer. I am excited to step outside of my comfort zone, and gain this new skill. I am also looking forward to interacting with my mentors in my lab.”

Eliud R. Rivas-Hernandez is a double major in Microbiology & Computer Science at the University of Puerto Rico - Arecibo, interning in the Bart Lab

Eliud R. Rivas-Hernandez, a double major in Microbiology & Computer Science at the University of Puerto Rico - Arecibo, interning in Dr. Rebecca Bart's Lab at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center

What Eliud is looking forward to during the REU internship experience: “During my time at the Danforth Center, I aspire to become competent in plant science and research that furthers the mission of feeding the hungry and improving the human condition. I seek to contribute to the better understanding of circadian genes in tomato plants and the intricacies of its genetic relations. I am also interested in collaborating and learning from a cohort of future scientists, to gain a nourishing experience and make lasting networking for the upcoming future. I look forward to acquiring techniques such as RNA seq analysis and other bioinformatic methods that will help further my academic career as a future PhD candidate.”

Alexus Sanders is a junior at Washington University in St. Louis studying Computational Biology and Genomics with minors in Anthropology and Computer Science, interning in the Noah Fahlgren/Data Science Lab.

Alexus Sanders, junior at Washington University in St. Louis, interning in the Data Science Lab at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center

Why Alexus is excited to be an REU intern at the Danforth Center: “I am excited to be an REU student at the Danforth Center because of all the resources available to me as a scientist at the center. The resources that I find the most interesting include PlantCV, a really cool image analysis open-source software; numerous laboratory and greenhouse facilities, that give a bioinformatics, post-COVID-19 internship an immersive feel; and many mentors and point of references that have so much experience and advice!”

REU Internships Have a Lasting Impact

The REU internship experience has a significant impact on an intern's career path. The REU team tracks interns for 10-15 years after they leave the Danforth Center. Recently, 86% of our intern alumni responded to a recent survey. Of those respondents, 94% are working in or pursuing degrees in STEM. There are over 60 peer-reviewed publications from their Danforth Center research and over 470 career publications.  35 interns have received a Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation

“So many former interns commented on how much our program positively impacted their careers,” says Cathy. “I stay connected through social media with many of them and it really is a joy to watch them grow and to continue to interact with them long after the program ends. We have former interns in the building now who are mentoring this class of interns. It's full circle!”

The REU internship program is a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Site sponsored by the National Science Foundation. The Danforth Center thanks them for their generous support.