The Cornell University Summer Research Scholars program brings undergraduates from all over the country to the New York Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva. Larry Smart is a professor of horticulture in the School of Integrative Plant Science. He says it’s a rigorous process to be accepted.
“These are really the cream of the crop of our undergraduates who are studying in the agricultural sciences.”
Over nine weeks, the students are paired with post-doctoral researchers and graduate students. They contribute to ongoing research in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, learning about state-of-the-art techniques and equipment and putting them to use. Alvin Han is a student at Duke University. He was showing his work in studying a disease-causing bacterium that affects tomato plants. Han's research used a quarter-million dollar piece of lab equipment. The students work on serious research and Larry Smart says it can have significant outcomes.
“Even within a 9-week period, they can come up with new ideas and new results that end up in publications.”
For Han, perhaps the most significant outcome of his time in the program is how he views his future career.
“I have a lot more thinking to do about graduate school. Prior to this, I kind of settled on medical or animal microbiology and that’s what I had done for my entire undergraduate career. This has really, truly been a life-altering experience, life-changing, as CALS’ motto goes. It’s opened up a lot of perspective for me and opened up a lot of doors professionally I think as well.”
This is the ninth year of the program. This year, 31 students participated. Smart says that a number of current graduate students at Cornell are graduates of the summer program and overall 60-percent the students have gone on to graduate school in plant sciences or are currently employed in plant sciences.