Research and Extension Experiences for Undergraduates (REEU) program is in its third year at South Dakota State University.
The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) funded REEU Fellowship Program is a two-year program available to students of freshmen and sophomore year status. Participating students are pursuing college degrees and are members of an ethnic minority group and/or are economically challenged and qualify for Pell Grant funding.
This year’s students come from all across the nation with attendees from Wisconsin, Alabama, Oklahoma and South Dakota. Nine students attend Tuskegee University, one attends the University of Wisconsin River Falls, two attend Oklahoma State University and several attend South Dakota State University and the University of South Dakota.
Dani Rinehart, participant in the REEU program, is working under Sanjeev Anand, professor in the Dairy and Food Science Department and Joy Scaria, assistant professor in the Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences Department. Rinehart is from Oklahoma State University and is conducting research regarding genome sequencing of bacteria under the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The hope is that this research will prevent foodborne illnesses.
“The ‘aha’ moment is really happening for me right now,” says Rinehart. “The experience in the lab pointed me in a new direction and is forming the beginning of what could be my career.”
During the first summer, students live and work on SDSU’s campus in Brookings for 10 weeks during the months of May through August. All students are paired with two faculty members who serve as their mentors throughout the program and work with them on active research and SDSU Extension projects.
Over the course of the summer, students learn cutting-edge research skills, develop scientific communication skills and prepare themselves for pursuing graduate studies and/or a career that will help feed a growing worldwide population in an environmentally sustainable manner.
Rachel Geary of Elk Point, S.D., is working under Melanie Caffe, assistant professor and oat breeder, on using genome studies to discover what gene causes leaf spot resistance in oats. Geary says, “It is nice seeing that the experiments I am working on this summer will impact the farmers around me.”
During the second year of the program, students are given a stipend for living expenses at an off-campus site where they will complete another 10 weeks of work in their respective fields.
“This program is important because students are important,” Michael Gonda said, REEU program coordinator and associate professor of animal science. “That’s number one. They’re our future.”