A REEU Intern's Weekly Activities
Benefits of becoming a REEU intern include improving soft skills, such as public speaking or resume building, conducting an independent research project from start-to-finish, and networking with agricultural industry professionals and UMass research and Extension faculty. A summer experience with the REEU program will help you decide if a future in agricultural research or education is the right path for you.
But setting that aside, no one wants a boring summer internship, so you’re probably wondering: What will you do all day as a REEU intern?
Weekly activities of a REEU intern typically fit into 4 categories:
- Independent research: Each REEU intern is expected to create a research project based on personal academic interest (we encourage projects that are fruit-related, since this is an internship with the UMass Extension Fruit Team, although students can do research with other crops). This project spans the duration of your time as a REEU intern, whether that’s the entire summer or just one session. Mentors will help you hone your initial idea into an experiment that can be conducted during the internship. You will then write a full research paper about your project, including abstract, introduction, methodology, results, discussion, conclusion, and works cited. How-to workshops are conducted for each section of the research paper and time is set aside for peer and mentor editing.
- Extension modules: Each week, REEU interns focus on one aspect of the food production system through lectures and hands-on assignments, or by assisting with current research projects in that area. Modules include healthy soils, cold-hardy viticulture, agricultural technology, general fruit production, plant pathology, agrijournalism, etc. You will also produce a popular-science-type article for the REEU magazine and record a segment for the REEU podcast. Modules are led by UMass Extension staff and other UMass faculty. Occasionally a guest speaker will also present.
- Farm visits: As an essential part of understanding the Massachusetts Food system, REEU interns visit several local fruit farms throughout the summer. Typically, there will be a tour of the farm operations and occasionally a work experience.
- Field Days/demonstrations: Expect to visit UMass Cold Spring Orchard frequently for workshops and demonstrations. For example, one day is used to go over pesticide safety and how to calibrate a pesticide sprayer.
Generally, you would spend 2-3 days every week on a given module, 2-3 days on your independent research project, and one day out in the field or visiting a local farm. The exact breakdown varies from week to week depending on what stage of the research project you’re on, the curriculum created by the module leader, and whether a farm visit or field day is scheduled that week.
In addition to these regular activities, there are also professional development workshops and other events sprinkled throughout the summer. One highlight is the overnight trip to the UMass Cranberry Research Station in East Wareham, MA, where interns learn about the mechanics of cranberry production. Another is the annual Massachusetts Fruit Growers Association meeting, where UMass faculty (and REEU interns!) present their latest research results to growers from all over the state.
A REEU summer requires flexibility, as the schedule is always subject to change. A REEU intern needs help setting up tomato plants for their research project? We may pull everyone off their work for an hour to help. An opportunity comes up to view a master’s student’s thesis defense on new methods to combat plum curculio in apple orchards? Let’s move things around so we can be there to support that student!
Finally, at the end of the summer, you will present all your hard work on your independent research project at the REEU Research Symposium, which is open to the public. This is typically attended by a mix of UMass faculty, farmers, friends, and family. In addition to your presentation, which is recorded for posterity (see the 2022 presentations here), you will also leave the summer with an article published in REEU magazine, an improved resume, experience in public speaking, a podcast, greater understanding of sustainable agriculture and the work of UMass Extension, hands-on experience in conducting scientific research and writing a scientific paper, and potentially a published factsheet(s).
A summer as a REEU intern is exciting, varied, and a valuable experience for undergraduates interested in careers in agricultural research and education. Please apply if this sounds right for you!