Boeing Sponsors CABBI Summer Internships

A program that helps get undergraduates from groups underrepresented in STEM started in bioenergy research has received a major boost upon receiving generous sponsorship from The Boeing Company.

2021 RISE Intern Nariah Romero-Rudy works in the lab at Illinois.

The company became the first to support an annual summer program at the Center for Advanced Bioenergy and Bioproducts Innovation (CABBI) called RISE, the Research Internship in Sustainable Bioenergy.

“Our transdisciplinary team is working to develop more sustainable and economical biofuel and bioproducts,” CABBI Director Andrew Leakey said, “and Boeing’s gift over the next three years will help us train the next generation of the bioenergy workforce in multidisciplinary, sustainability science and engineering.”

RISE is a 10-week program in which students are immersed in a wide variety of disciplines including agricultural economics, bioengineering, chemical engineering, chemistry, computer sciences, crop sciences, environmental sciences and engineering, and plant biology — and gain interdisciplinary experience in research related to the bioeconomy. Research project topics include feedstock crop development, life-cycle analysis, technoeconomics, ecosystem greenhouse gas accounting, metabolic engineering, synthetic biology, sustainability science, artificial intelligence, and more. Successful applicants receive a stipend along with paid housing and travel expenses.

The interns are paired with graduate students or postdoc mentors at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and several partner institutions, and their projects directly contribute to CABBI’s purpose of making economically viable and ecologically sustainable domestic biofuel and bioproducts industry from dedicated bioenergy crops — ultimately helping to lead the United States toward carbon-neutral energy independence.

“Boeing is committed to cultivating the next generation of STEM leaders as well as working together for a more sustainable aerospace future,” says Elia Morales, Boeing Global Enterprise Sustainability Director.  “We are honored to support the RISE internship program, allowing students to gain knowledge and experience on these complex topics to ultimately grow the bioenergy workforce and help combat climate change.”

Leveraging funding from the Department of Energy, CABBI created the internship program specifically to target students from groups underrepresented in science, engineering, technology, and math fields, and the program has grown each year as word has spread of the opportunity. Applications increased by 50% in 2024 alone, the program’s fourth year. This has led to a highly competitive application process, with only 1 in 10 qualified applicants being accepted.  

The 2023 RISE Interns were part of the CABBI annual science retreat.

“We appreciate what Boeing has done to support this program, and we hope other companies see the value of supporting it as well,” Leakey said. “We have the capacity to host an increased number of interns and given the large pool of qualified applicants, we have the opportunity to make a significant impact on growing the bioenergy workforce.”

Corporate sponsors of RISE can participate in welcome events with students, lead professional or career development workshops, provide formal or informal mentors, and be a part of the program wrap-up event at the annual retreat, which includes student research presentations and a poster session.

“As an organization focused on team-based interdisciplinary research, the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology (IGB) is delighted to partner with Boeing to provide this unique opportunity for high-quality scientific training for the next generation of researchers in the bioenergy and bioproducts sector,” said Tracy Parish, IGB’s Director of External Relations and Strategic Partnerships. “We look forward to growing our partnership with Boeing as we work to address critical challenges facing our society.”

For additional information on RISE sponsorship opportunities, please contact Parish at or 217-265-0880.

— News release by Tony Mancuso, CABBI Communications & Public Affairs Director