RISE Internships Go Beyond The Science

Nariah Romero-Rudy moves plants in a greenhouse at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

The new summer internship program offered by the Center for Advanced Bioenergy and Bioproducts Innovation (CABBI) is more than just a practical experience.

Take it from the undergraduate interns who participated in 2021, the inaugural year of RISE (Research Internship in Sustainable Bioenergy).

“I’m a first-generation student and an older sister, so I’ve never really had a mentor to look up to,” said Nariah Romero-Rudy, a 2021 RISE intern who worked with Ph.D. student Sierra Raglin in the lab of Angela Kent, a Professor of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. “So it’s been nice to have Sierra around. She’s very smart and outgoing, and a big personality in the science world, which I definitely appreciate.”

RISE is a paid summer program designed to provide bioenergy research and career development opportunities to undergraduate groups currently underrepresented in STEM fields. During the 10-week program, students are paired with CABBI postdoctoral or graduate student mentors to conduct a research project on topics in plant biology, agronomy, synthetic biology, environmental sciences, chemical engineering, and civil engineering.

In addition to their research projects, students participate in workshops on the research process, science communication, the graduate school application process, and STEM career paths. At the end of the program, students present their research at a summer symposium.

The RISE program exemplifies CABBI’s commitment to reflect the diversity of society and ensure that students of all backgrounds can engage in groundbreaking bioenergy research. 2021 participants and their mentors spent a fruitful summer together, culminating in an excellent series of research presentations as the summer came to a close.

Marcus Abrams examines a University of Nebraska field.

“When I came here, it was the first time I left Alabama,” said Marcus Abrams, a 2021 RISE intern who worked on a project at the University of Nebraska. “I really wanted to be able to one day work in a lab, perform all these scientific things you’d see on TV. And to get to live and experience that? I just love it.”

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 coursework remaining. Successful applicants will receive a $5,000 stipend, and housing and travel are provided.

“If I could sit down with the next person who was debating (applying), I would push them,” Abrams said. “Go for it! Get out there! You’re going to meet new people, and they’ll be so friendly, so kind. It’s a journey, and you’ll love every single bit of it.”

For additional details, info sessions, research project descriptions, and applications, visit CABBI’s RISE page.

The application deadline for RISE 2022 is fast approaching! Apply by Feb. 24, 2022.

— Article by CABBI Communications Specialist April Wendling