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WSU Research and Extension Centers Provide Spots for ‘Translational Internships’

Posted by struscott | June 10, 2010

Katie Reed is putting what she learned in her WSU classes to work in her home community in northwestern Washington this summer and getting paid to do it, thanks to a new pilot internship program in the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences.

Bob Price and Katie Reed

Skagit Men’s Garden Club member Bob Price and Katie Reed

“Translational internships” at WSU’s research and extension centers are providing students with the opportunity to use what they learn throughout the state, according to Kim Kidwell, associate dean for academic programs in CAHNRS.

“We seed them here, and then let them translate that work in their home community,” said Kidwell. She not only approved Reed’s internship proposal, she also helped fund it to allow Reed the luxury of focusing on a single summer job.

Reed first encountered WSU when she was still a senior at Burlington-Edison High School in 2007-08, and inquired about completing a one-day “job shadow” with a scientist at the WSU Mount Vernon Northwestern Washington Research & Extension Center. Vegetable seed plant pathologist, Lindsey du Toit, offered Reed a job shadow in her program at the WSU Mount Vernon NWREC.

During the summer of 2008, du Toit read an article in the local newspaper about Reed planning to attend WSU and wanting to major in plant pathology. du Toit contacted Lori Carris, WSU mycologist and graduate coordinator for the Department of Plant Pathology, to find out if there was some way to get Reed involved in the department even though it only offers graduate level courses.

Katie Reed

Katie Reed

Carris contacted Kidwell, who made a personal phone call to Reed and arranged to meet with her when she arrived in Pullman for the new student orientation in fall 2008.

Kidwell set up a “translational internship” that allowed Reed to gain experience working in a research lab during her freshman year at WSU. During her first semester, Reed worked in Carris’ lab on a project related to du Toit’s research program. During her second semester, Reed started working in Pat Okubara’s lab, since Okubara and du Toit had a joint project underway. Reed spent the summer of 2009 working with du Toit’s program at the WSU Mount Vernon NWREC, and returned again to du Toit’s program during the winter break of 2009-10 as well as the summer of 2010.

Reed recently earned a $3,000 scholarship from the Skagit Men’s Garden Club to help cover her educational expenses at WSU.

Kidwell said Reed’s internship is not the only one in the pilot program. When Brian Koepke wrote a paper for Kidwell’s Agricultural and Food Systems 101 class on extending the harvest period and yield for asparagus at the WSU Organic Farm, she connected him with extension horticulturist Carol Miles, who also works in Mount Vernon, and with Brad Jaeckel, who operates the WSU Organic Farm. This summer, Koepke is conducting three experiments as part of the asparagus project with Miles and Jaeckel, working in Pullman and at the WSU Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center in Prosser.