SBI Research Feature: Poster Session Showcases Research by 2009 SBI Undergraduate Interns

2009 internship poster session photo
SBI Intern Kedy Shen shares his project results with microbiology instructor Stephanie Yarwood.

Posted: September 10, 2009

This summer, 30 undergraduates gained an insider's view into some of OSU’s most cutting edge research areas. As paid interns through the Subsurface Biosphere Initiative (SBI), they worked in research labs in four colleges on topics ranging from global change mitigation to nanoparticles. The students shared their experiences through a scientific poster session held September 3 in the Memorial Union.

“Our goal for the internship program is to encourage students to learn about and consider a career in research. Looking around the poster session, I’m amazed at the diversity of the projects and the things that were accomplished,” commented Lewis Semprini, Distinguished Professor of environmental engineering and chair of the Subsurface Biosphere Initiative (SBI) executive committee.

The SBI is one of six research initiatives funded by OSU in 2004 to strengthen OSU’s interdisciplinary research programs in emerging fields. The SBI focuses on the world of microbes living below ground in soils and rock. This hidden biosphere has become a frontier for research as new technologies allow the detection and study of microbial communities living in places once thought barren. 

The SBI internship program has steadily grown in popularity over its four years, from a cohort of eleven students in 2006 to thirty this year.  “We were the only initiative to include an undergraduate internship program and it’s really been a success. Faculty from all over campus have served as mentors for students and there has been a wide range of projects – some proposed by the faculty member and some proposed and designed by the students themselves,” said Semprini.

Hiu Tung Yip, a senior in microbiology, was one of the students to join a larger project. She spent her summer looking for microbial life in samples taken from a drill hole more than a half a mile deep into Central Washington basalt. The drill hole is part of a climate change mitigation pilot study that will inject carbon dioxide into the deep subsurface. Hiu’s mentor, College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences professor Rick Colwell, is part of a regional consortium undertaking the study.  Like many other SBI interns, Hiu’s project gave her hands-on experience using DNA-techniques to identify microbes.  

At a nearby poster, Michelle Adlong, a senior in environmental engineering, described her study to look at the environmental effects of carbon nanoparticles. She explained that the growing use of nanoparticles in applications like medical imaging raises concerns about their environmental effects.  There have been few studies of how they behave in natural surface and groundwater. She worked with her mentor, environmental engineering faculty Jeff Nason to study how the nanoparticles behave when mixed with water, including a sample from the Willamette River. Michelle commented, “Designing the project really taught me about the research process.”

Shane Monares, a chemistry major, interned with chemistry professor Jim Ingle – his project adapted a chemical detection method for use on a field device developed by one of Ingle’s graduate students. When reflecting about the lessons of his internship he commented, “You feel good that you’ve answered one question, but then you realize that the answer to your question raises three more new ones.”  That's part of the allure of research, and hopefully it’s a challenge many interns will seek in their futures.

Link to more about the internship program, including a list of summer 2009 interns and their project titles.