A new research opportunity for undergraduates interested in a STEM career will launch this summer at the Center for Bioenergy and Bioproducts Innovation (CABBI).

The Research Internship in Sustainable Bioenergy (RISE) is a 10-week summer program designed to provide research and career development opportunities to undergraduates from groups currently underrepresented in STEM fields.

Students will be paired with a CABBI mentor to conduct a research project on topics ranging from sustainability modeling and emissions data analysis to interactions between plants, microbes, and the soil. They will present their work in a research symposium at the end of the summer.

RISE participants will also be invited to the virtual CABBI Science Planning Retreat and attend a series of seminars about STEM career options, science communication, and applying to graduate school.

“This program exemplifies CABBI’s commitment to reflect the diversity of the society we serve and ensure that students of all backgrounds can engage in ground-breaking bioenergy research,” CABBI Director Andrew Leakey said.

RISE is open to any U.S. citizen or permanent resident enrolled in a degree-granting college or university with at least one semester of undergraduate course work remaining.

Students chosen for the program will receive a $4,800 stipend. The application deadline is April 23, and the internship will run June 1-Aug. 6, 2021.

CABBI’s bioenergy research spans many disciplines, so students in plant biology, agronomy, genetics, synthetic biology, environmental sciences, chemical engineering, and civil engineering are encouraged to apply.

“Creating opportunities is not enough. I think we’re seeing now, whether on social media, the news, or firsthand accounts and experiences, that making opportunities available is only the first step. Providing a supportive, inclusive environment is imperative for student success. RISE aims to do this by training mentors to be proactive and intentional and by creating a community of undergraduate peer scholars through professional and social activities,” said CABBI Postdoctoral Research Associate Christy Gibson, who helped design the RISE program.

Mentors include faculty, graduate students, and postdoctoral researchers from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, University of Nebraska at Lincoln, and University of Wisconsin at Madison. Research projects for summer 2021 will focus on biorefinery simulation, nitrogen cycling in miscanthus, machine learning in synthetic biology, analysis of farmer’s willingness to adopt perennial energy crops, and more.

The program will be conducted mostly virtually but may include some in-person activities following University of Illinois COVID guidelines on masking and social distancing.

Additional information about RISE, including the application and full descriptions of the projects, can be found on our webpage.

 —  Article by CABBI Communications Specialist Julie Wurth