Interns EXPLORE career possibilities

by: Amari Baker, Ag Communications EXPLORE intern

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Layni LeBlanc and Sarah Thomas listen as Dr. Sabrina Taylor points out the differences between the turtles’ chin shapes.. Photo by Amari Baker

Summer is a break from the stresses of student life meant for relaxation.
But some students take advantage of this time off to gain valuable experiences in their fields of interest.
Twenty-one students from LSU, Southern University and Baton Rouge Community College spent their summer as interns for Project EXPLORE — a grant-funded program through the LSU AgCenter.
LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture provided the students with faculty mentors who helped the interns experience agriculture-related research, extension and teaching.
The 10-week internship included opportunities in a variety of fields, such as beef cattle DNA vaccine construction, softshell turtle conservation genetics, value-added dairy, community horticulture and agricultural communications.
The experiences the students faced throughout the summer with this internship were exciting and educational.
I was honored to be an intern for this amazing opportunity, and I interviewed several of my fellow interns in order to get a behind-the-scenes view of their experiences.
Kristy Trahan, an LSU junior in animal sciences, spent her summer as an intern in the beef cattle DNA vaccine construction internship with Richard Cooper, a professor in the School of Animal Sciences.
IKristy Trahan was surprised with the knowledge Trahan displayed through her lab technique skills and her eagerness to learn how to culture cells, transfect them and then test for antibodies.
I asked Trahan if she had any advice for her peers, and she shared some of her motivation with me.
“Try to get the most out of the experience, ask questions, and learn,” Trahan said.
A couple weeks later, I was able to drive a golf cart for the first time. It was an adventure to get action shots of Layni LeBlanc, a junior in animal science at LSU, and Sarah Thomas, a senior in natural resource ecology and management, while conducting field work. I tagged along with them to the LSU Golf Course to pick up turtles for sampling.
LeBlanc and Thomas are the two interns selected for the softshell turtle conservation genetics study with Sabrina Taylor, associate professor in the School of Renewable Natural Resources.
Their internship required both fieldwork and lab work.
Upon returning to the lab, I witnessed the efficiency of teamwork between LeBlanc and Thomas. They collected DNA from their turtles through swabs and blood samples.
It was easy to see through their work that they viewed this internship as a valuable learning experience, and both plan to apply their new knowledge to future endeavors.
Shortly after my experience out in the sun with the turtles, I was allowed to cool off behind the scenes at the LSU AgCenter Dairy Store.
Andrea Messi, a junior in biomedical sciences at Baton Rouge Community College, invited me to take pictures of the cheese-making process and her internship in value-added dairy with Charles Boeneke, associate professor in the School of Nutrition and Food Sciences.
From the moment I stepped into the cheese-making room, Messi’s enthusiasm and excitement hit me harder than the summer heat.
“I’ve learned so much. I’ve learned the entire cheese-making process. I’ve learned how to pasteurize milk and how to get everything together for production,” Messi said. “We’re doing a canning class. Sanitary methods, because there is so much that goes into making sure that our food is sterile and clean, it’s so much more than I could ever could have imagined.”
It amazed me to see how an internship could greatly affect a person. Messi said she found an interest in something she barely gave a second thought to previously.
Her experience extended to outreach as well. She worked with dairy farmers to show them ways to efficiently market their product themselves to increase profit, and she educated youth about dairy and nutrition facts and how to make cheese.
The community horticulture internship with Kiki Fontenot, associate professor in the School of Plant, Environmental and Soil Sciences, was a diverse internship with many aspects to it.Explore Interns
Jesse Pierce, LSU sophomore in horticultural sciences, and Conan Escajeda and Rodney Purdy, both Southern University seniors in urban forestry, never had a boring day during the internship. They were constantly on the go with Fontenot.
One trip took them up to West Monroe for the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry Logging Council conference that lasted three days.  A highlight of their internships was putting on a weeklong nature summer camp at the LSU AgCenter Botanic Gardens at Burden.
Some days they would be in a cooled air-conditioned room, and then the next they would be at a research station in the summer heat assisting with fieldwork.
I am a senior in LSU Biological Engineering, and I interned in communications for the LSU College of Agriculture and LSU AgCenter with Tobie Blanchard, director of communications for the LSU College of Agriculture and assistant director of communications for the LSU AgCenter.
When in the office, my time was spent designing social media posts for the College of Agriculture’s Instagram and Facebook pages.
As you can see, this internship took me out into the field to document the internships through photography and interviews.
It’s not hard to understand that communication is a crucial part of the workforce. But actually seeing it in action and all the components that go into it is fascinating.