Biotechnology students set to conduct research at prestigious universities

Published By: Latasha Ford June 8, 2022

Fort Valley State University plant-biotechnology students Sierra Cloud, Kamora Payne and Marian Perez will work in different laboratories across the county this summer.

Eighteen Fort Valley State University plant science-biotechnology S-STEM scholars will gain firsthand experience in a collaborative summer internship program at major research institutions across the nation.

These young scientists will spend nine-10 weeks conducting independent research projects in plant biotechnology and genomics. These professional opportunities allow some Wildcats to work at institutions and organizations such as the University of Nevada in Las Vegas, University of California-Davis, University of Georgia, University of Central Florida, University of Pittsburgh, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Penn State University and the University of California, Berkeley.

Additionally, six S-STEM scholars will participate in the FVSU National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Historically Black Colleges and Universities – Undergraduate Program (HBCU-UP) and the Department of Education’s Minority Science and Engineering Improvement Program (MSEIP) at the Center for Biotechnology.

Several students in the plant science-biotechnology program will participate in summer internships this year.

Three plant science-biotechnology majors are looking forward to learning new skills this summer.

Marian Perez, a junior, will intern at the University of Central Florida. She will participate in the NSF’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates on Engineering and Nanoscience of Materials and Device Applications in the Biotechnology and Medicine Program. Her research experience will involve using nanotechnology to study cancer cells.

The hygienist, who works in FVSU alumnus Dr. Lawrence E. Marable’s office, is excited about visiting another campus and using this opportunity to get a step closer to becoming a dentist.

Sierra Cloud, also a junior, will intern this summer at the University of Pittsburgh in the Particle-Based Functional Material Research Experience for Undergraduates Program. She will study sustainability research with options to investigate accessibility to clean water or sustainable growth. She is looking forward to gaining more experience in the laboratory in a diverse environment. Her career goals include working for a company such as Fairlife to help find sustainable ways to develop products and landscape design.

“I know everything is happening for a reason and helping me find my purpose,” Cloud said. “This program is a blessing to many students. FVSU’s College of Agriculture administration and faculty are going to make sure that students are prepared for success after graduation.”

Furthermore, Kamora Payne will intern at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas. The sophomore will participate in the NSF’s Research Experience for Undergraduates: Mechanisms of Evolution.

Her research options include targeting a DNA sequence in wild rice that can grow in harsh conditions or starvation resistance by investigating the nutritional value of flies. She looks forward to networking and experiencing other laboratories. Payne aspires to own a wellness facility and explore different herbal practices.

The students credited the plant science-biotechnology program at FVSU with exposing them to cutting-edge equipment and supportive mentors.

Dr. Sarwan Dhir, an FVSU professor of plant biotechnology, said, “During this challenging pandemic, it is inspiring to see so many students who are moving forward in their education, thinking deeply about the impact of biotechnology, gene editing and nanotechnology, and conducting original research in these disciplines.”

He added, “Our expectation that the students trained with the support of this program will boost their confidence in research and critical thinking confirms that they should continue with their STEM major and seek a career in a STEM field.”

Multimillion-dollar grants from NSF HBCU-UP (HRD-2011903), S-STEM (DUE-1834046) and the Department of Education MSEIP (P120A2000016) at FVSU help in providing financial support, cutting-edge research experiences and scientific presentation meetings to students studying biotechnology.