The goal of this program is to attract undergraduate trainees from different disciplines into graduate studies and professional careers in the plant sciences and to help them to develop the necessary skills for graduate studies and to explore the opportunities available in academia, business, government, and other career paths.
Each student will participate in the program for a total of 20 weeks during two consecutive summers (10 weeks per summer). In the first year of the cycle, six trainees will work with on-campus faculty mentors and develop an independent research project on plant microbiomes for ten weeks and will develop important skill sets in agricultural microbiology, including laboratory, field/greenhouse experiments, data analysis, and bioinformatics, and oral and written expression skills. At the end of their first program year, the trainees will choose one of the following options for the second year:
1-Research Pathway (R-PATH) with faculty mentors on SDSU campus in Brookings, SD. This path will help them to further develop their research skills and put them on track to be a successful graduate student aiming to complete a Ph.D. in the plant sciences. Trainees in this path will be able to collaborate with faculty at Dakota Wesleyan University (Mitchell, SD) to develop and implement a hands-on undergraduate course in soil microbiomes.
2-Extension Pathway (E-PATH).Trainees in this path will work with SDSU extension agronomists in Rapid City, SD, and Watertown, SD, while collecting soil samples from collaborating farmers to develop a Soil Microbiome Map of South Dakota, and will be integrated into the SDSU plant science extension programs; and
3-Industry Pathway (I-PATH).Trainees in this path will be paired in their second year with collaborating industry partners. Mentors of the program have active ongoing collaborations with industrial partners, including recent start-up companies in the microbial fertilizer and pesticide market, and trainees will work as interns for the companies. Trainees in I-Path will work with several industry partners.