Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering enjoys a positive relationship with industry that creates great opportunities for students through internships. Partnering employers with students helps develop the student's skills working in an engineering arena and helps industry identify up and coming graduates who they may want to invite to join their team. Undergraduates who experience internships return with a sense of reality, and they feel acknowledged for their contributions.
Here is what our students have to say:
Hanna Miller (right) with Dr. Vangie Alocilja
SULI Intern, Pacific Northwest National Laboratories, Sequim, WA May – Aug. 2011
Marine Sciences Laboratory, Biotechnology
Constructed DNA vectors to transform diatoms
Verified functioning of transformed enzyme using FRET microscopy techniques
Summer Intern, Sandia National Laboratories, Livermore, CA May – Aug. 2010
Biotechnology and Bioengineering Department, Detection and Diagnostics Laboratory
Tested pH of microfluidic biosensors under various conditions to improve detection and diagnostics
Completed tests using a confocal microscope and spectrophotometer
"For me, it definitely made me decide that I wanted to pursue a graduate degree. I really enjoyed the research, but I enjoy the applied nature of the research so that made me decide to continue with an engineering graduate degree. And it also opened up my eyes just so I could see some of the possibilities after obtaining a graduate degree in research at the National Lab and also how it connects to industry as well as other possibilities."
Watch Hanna's story below:
Jessica during her internship
“This experience was wonderful and gave me a great look at what real engineers in the food industry do.”
Jessica Emery - Nestle Nutrition
Six month internship with Nestle Nutrition’s Product Technology Center (PTC) in Fremont, Michigan as a process-engineering intern from January to August 2011
Jessica Emery, now a senior, had a six month internship with Nestle Nutrition’s Product Technology Center (PTC) in Fremont, Michigan as a process-engineering intern during the spring and summer semesters of her junior year. Jessica said that her internship experience was phenomenal. She feels that Nestle is a fantastic company that knows how to do business and keep its employees happy. Jessica said of her internship experience, “I was given the opportunity to work for the biggest food company in the world and it gave me a great appreciation for the management and organization within the company.” Jessica was also impressed with the culture and diversity of employees from different backgrounds at PTC Fremont, which was something that she was not expecting.
Jessica got her internship opportunity through Dr. Marks, a Biosystems professor at MSU. Dr. Marks gave Jessica the contact information of a full-time engineer that worked at PTC Fremont. After contacting the employee, she was scheduled to visit the site to meet some of the other engineers and tour the facilities. After meeting with them, they offered her an internship position.
PTC Fremont is the Research & Development (R&D) center that supports the global baby food business. This is where a lot of new food products are “born” and a majority of what is done is trying out different products in a process. During her internship, Jessica was a process-engineering intern working on two main projects. Her first project involved leading her own trials to test new equipment in order to qualify it, or ensure that it was working according to its original design. Her second project was scaling one of the R&D processes up to a full-scale system to be implemented in the Fremont Factory. Jessica said about her projects, “Each of these opportunities gave me a glimpse of what my future will hold as a process-engineer. I was given a lot of responsibility and regard, even as an intern.”
Jessica said about her internship, “There were a lot of great things I did during my experience so it’s difficult to pick just one.” Jessica was able to narrow it down to two things that she did during her internship that stood out to her: the chance she was given to interact with upper management and the opportunity to work with corporate engineers. She chose to work with another engineering intern to improve the internship program by creating an internship manual with all of the “how-to’s” of an internship at Nestle R&D. This was a side project Jessica and the other intern decided they wanted to do on their own and the support behind them was wonderful. They were even asked to speak to the head of the PTC about how to get their internship manual implemented. Another part of Jessica’s internship that stands out to her was her chance to work with corporate engineers and share her knowledge. Jessica was able to attend a two-day off-site meeting about the design phase of the project at the Fremont Factory. At the meeting, she presented her findings about the work she had been doing which was focused on the number of tanks needed in the process. Jessica felt that she was treated with respect by the other engineers and was asked for follow-up meetings to better explain everything that she had done.
How Jessica prepared for her internship opportunity “Since I was a freshman, I knew I wanted to do a 6-month internship. So, I planned my class schedule out that would allow me to take the spring semester of my junior year off. In other words, I took the typical junior BE spring courses (BE 350, BE 385, BE 360, etc.) my sophomore spring. This was a little bit of a challenge, but the professors in our department were very supportive and willing to help me with any questions I had. Even though I took a semester off, I will still be able to graduate in May 2012 with the same people I started in BE 101 with. Not everyone is as much of a planner as I am, and that’s OK! I really recommend doing a 6-month internship if you can make it work. It gave me a lot of time to gain in-depth experience and really help the engineers to take some of their workload off.”
Jessica’s advice for students going through the process of finding an internship “DON’T GIVE UP. I was very blessed to only have to interview once and be offered a position. Not everyone is as lucky; many of my friends have had to interview with multiple companies multiple times. Take each interview as a great opportunity to practice your skills and learn more about yourself. And, don’t set your heart on one company and/or internship program and ignore all others. I never thought I would end up with Nestle, but I am SO thankful I did!”
How Jessica’s experience influenced her thoughts about her future career path “I was assured I’m right where I need to be. Biosystems Engineering is right for my future and me. I have been asked to intern at PTC Fremont again next summer and they have offered to pay for my graduate school. So, my future career path will continue with Nestle as a process engineer; I couldn’t be more excited!”
Mike working in Dr. Liao’s lab
“I gained a deep understanding of both the recent developments and challenges related to the production of biofuels.”
Mike Zanotti - E-Biofuels
Four month internship working for E-Biofuels at Michigan State University from May to August 2011 as a research intern
Mike Zanotti, now a senior, had a four month internship working at Michigan State University for E-Biofuels from May to August 2011 as a research intern during the summer semester of his junior year. Mike said that working for E-Biofuels proved to be an invaluable learning experience.
Mike got his internship opportunity through his BE 360 class (microbial process engineering). The professor teaching the course, Dr. Liao, has collaborated with E-Biofuels on bioenergy related projects in the past. Mike jumped at the opportunity to work in both an academic and industry setting.
E-Biofuels is a biodiesel production company based in Middletown, IN. They produce biodiesel from a variety of sources such as animal fats and tallows as well as from refined soybean oil. E-Biofuels also funds a variety of research projects related to the creation of biofuels from agricultural wastes and non-food sources, such as the production of bio-jet fuel using fungal-based oils. “As an intern at E-Biofuels, I was impressed by their commitment to research that could have both an immediate impact on their daily operations, as well as have future implications for the industry as a whole; particularly as it pertained to the environmentally sustainable production of biofuels.”
During his internship Mike worked in Dr. Liao’s bioenergy lab on the campus of Michigan State University as a research-assistant on an E-Biofuels funded project. The research investigated how well a particular fungus could produce oil when grown in sugars extracted from the non-edible portions of a corn stalk. Mike’s primary duties on the project included analyzing sugar samples in the fermentation broth, determining the composition of fungal biomass, and extracting lipid (oil) from the fungus. Mike says of his internship, “I gained valuable experience working with a variety of different laboratory equipment, and became proficient in a number of different analytical techniques.” At the end of the summer Mike had the opportunity to be named as second author on a research paper that is currently under review for publication.Mike feels there were many rewarding experiences during his summer internship but his favorite thing was seeing the end product of his research, which was the creation of biodiesel (on a very small scale) from the fungal oil that he had extracted. Mike said of his project results, “It’s pretty amazing to think that what started out as ground up corn stalks and fungal spores would wind up as a fuel that you could use to run a car or truck. ”
How Mike prepared for his internship opportunity...
“There wasn’t really a whole lot I did to prepare for my internship, I largely learned on the job. I did however spend the first few weeks reading as much background information related to my research project as I could. Often, when I finished one journal article I would find the articles it referenced and read those as well. This process continued throughout my internship. ”
Mike’s advice for students going through the process of finding an internship... “Be open to every opportunity that comes your way. You may have your mind set on a particular concentration in Biosystems, but don’t hesitate to explore other avenues.
How Mike’s experience influenced his thoughts about his future career path... “Working for E-Biofuels has been the highlight of my time here at Michigan State. I was able to gain a much deeper understanding of the issues surrounding the biofuels industry, something that my courses could only scratch the surface of. My time as a research assistant cemented my commitment to continue my education into graduate school, which, before this experience I had not really given much thought to. Currently I am still a part of Dr. Liao’s lab, working on research that is closely related to the experiments that I helped carry out over the summer. ”
Adrienne with Tony the Tiger
"Networking is such an important piece of the puzzle; you never know who you are going to meet, where you will meet them, and how you will be able to benefit each other in the future.”
Adrienne Bunce - Kellogg
Four month internship with the Environmental Stewardship Department of the Kellogg Company in Battle Creek, MI from May to August 2011 as an environmental intern
Adrienne Bunce, now a 5th year senior, had a four month internship with the Environmental Stewardship Department of the Kellogg Company in Battle Creek, MI from May to August 2011 as an environmental intern during the summer semester of her senior year. Adrienne said that her internship experience was great! Adrienne said of the Kellogg Company culture, “I had previously interned for Kellogg before and knew that Kellogg was a great culture fit for me.” Adrienne really enjoyed the department that she worked for but she found it hard to connect with people because she was constantly traveling to different plants.
Adrienne got her internship opportunity through a contact that she had made from her previous co-op in Omaha, Nebraska. Her contact forwarded her resume on to one of the Directors of Kellogg and that is how she got her internship.
During her internship Adrienne traveled to different plants to assist the environmental coordinators with different environmental projects. Some of the projects included conducting a wastewater study, writing standard operating procedures (SOPs), and helping to conduct an internal audit. Adrienne’s favorite thing she did during her internship was traveling to Utah, Nebraska, Tennessee, Illinois, and Indiana. Adrienne traveled to Nebraska and Tennessee twice, and Chicago three times.
Adrienne’s advice for students going through the process of finding an internship... “People are always watching so be on your best behavior, work hard, and be humble. Networking is such an important piece of the puzzle; you never know who you are going to meet, where you will meet them, and how you will be able to benefit each other in the future.”
How Adrienne’s experience influenced her thoughts about her future career path... “My experience definitely affirmed my desire to work for a food company in an environmental role. As time goes on companies are realizing and are forced to change their production habits to better help and protect the environment. I would like to be a part of doing that. I also hope to work for Kellogg when I graduate. Kellogg is definitely a stellar company that I would love to continue to be a part of!”
Steven in the lab that he worked in
“I think this experience really helped me become a better-rounded future engineer.”
Steven Archer - Environmental Quality Company
Three month internship with the Environmental Quality Company in Belleville, MI from June to August 2011 as a Lab Intern
Steven Archer, now a junior, had a three month internship with the Environmental Quality Company in Belleville, MI as a Lab Intern during the summer semester of his sophomore year. Steven said that his internship experience was great! Steven said of his internship experience, “It was very hands on and I felt like I was given a good amount of responsibility for me to work independently as well as work side-by-side with others.”
Steven got his internship opportunity through networking. Steven had networked with a friend’s parent who works for the Environmental Quality Company and knew that Steven was interested in the environmental aspect of engineering.
During his internship Steven was a lab tech and entry level chemist. He had the overall responsibility of some house cleaning type duties, such as glassware and book keeping, but that only took up about an eighth of his day. Steven said, “For the bulk of my day I had the chance to observe and learn the day to day operations of the chemists.” Steven describes the day of a chemist working for the Environmental Quality Company as processing the paper work to check in trucks and setting up tanks for the waste to be treated. There is also a lot of hands on work done with samples, such as finger printing them and doing small scale tank tests. Steven did a lot of TDU analytical tests, which involves figuring out the value of oil sludge based on its chemical make-up.
Steven’s favorite thing he did during his internship was work in the waste water lab. He found working in the waste water lab extremely interesting. Steven was also surprised that many of the things done in waste water lab are things that he had learned about in class, such as testing for COD and total solids. Steven also got to see the reactor where some of the waste water is treated by microbes.
How Steven prepared for his internship opportunity...
“I had applied to four different locations as chemists working for the Environmental Quality Company. I was turned down by the first three but having all those interviews really taught me a lot. Each interview I got a tour of the location, some history about the company, and a unique description of what they needed done as well as their day-to-day operations. The fourth time around I was asked if I knew anything about the company and by then I really did and I think that impressed my interviewer.”
Steven’s advice for students going through the process of finding an internship... “Be open-minded and sell yourself. My internship was for a chemist and I convinced them that I had an adequate scientific background experience to fulfill what they were looking for as well as a genuine desire to learn more.”
How Steven’s experience influenced his thoughts about his future career path... “I learned a lot about what it is like to work in a lab. Now I know that that is a possible path for me to go down. I still want to get more experience with as many different companies as possible.”
Katie Balaze in her State gear
“Having hands-on experience and a bit of responsibility was beneficial for me in regards to future employment.”
Katie Balaze - Algal Scientific Corporation
Four month internship at Algal Scientific Corporation in Plymouth, MI from May-August 2011 as a laboratory technician intern.
Katie Balaze, now a senior, had a four month internship at Algal Scientific Corporation in Plymouth, MI from May-August 2011 as a laboratory technician intern during the summer semester of her junior year. Katie feels that she had a great internship experience. Katie said of her internship, “Even though the work that I was doing could be pretty gross at times (algae and wastewater can be pretty smelly), I got to do some very interesting experiments in what is hopefully an emerging technology in wastewater treatment. ”
Katie got her internship experience after reading an article about Algal Scientific Corporation in a regional newspaper. Their work was very interesting to her so she decided to research their website to learn more. On the website there was a contact to email about career inquiries, and Katie decided to send them her resume and a short blurb about how she thought her experience would make her a good fit for a summer intern if they had available positions. Within a few days Katie heard back from the chief science officer, who later became her boss, and they set up a phone interview and a site visit.
During her internship Katie conducted waste water analyses (TN, TP, BOD, etc.) on samples that were treated with algae to evaluate the performance of the system, as well as tried out new procedures for extracting a valuable chemical from the harvested algae. Katie also set up some experiments to see if there was a way to pre-treat high strength wastewater so the algae could better consume the nutrient pollutants. Katie’s favorite thing she did during her internship was experiment with different ideas that she had about how to best harvest the algae for a few days when she had free time. Katie said, “I got to design, test, and evaluate the effectiveness of my ideas, so it was very cool to put my knowledge of engineering design into action.”
How Katie prepared for her internship opportunity... “My boss sent me quite a bit of literature about algae and wastewater treatment so I did a lot of reading, but that was really all I did to prepare. I didn’t really know what to expect so I hoped that my BE classes had prepared me well enough. Looking back, it would have been nice to have previous experience with microscope counting techniques (we talked about them in 360, but didn’t have any lab experience).”
Katie’s advice for students going through the process of finding an internship...
“Put yourself out there! If you see a company that piques your interest, look into it and see who you can contact about potential opportunities.”
How Katie’s experience influenced her thoughts about her future career path... “I hadn’t really considered a career in that involved lab work, so working for Algal Scientific Corporation added more options to what I can do in the future.”
Eric LaChapelle - Lockheed Martin
The summer before my senior year was spent as an intern for Lockheed Martin in metro Washington DC. I worked as both a systems engineer and test engineer in the Integrated Systems and Solutions sector of the company. Because of Lockheed Martin's role in national security research and implementation, the company was interested in students with a systems approach to engineering and an interest in Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Michigan State's Biosystems Engineering program gave me experience in both of these areas. Upon completing my summer internship, I was offered a full time position as a systems engineer. I gladly accepted, and I am looking forward to being a part of the Lockheed Martin team after graduation.
Shelley Crawford - Kellogg Company
Few students can say that they spent their summer working for one of the world's most known figures: I spent my summer in Battle Creek, Michigan, working for Tony the Tiger. During my three months at the Kellogg Company, I worked in the Snacks Department of the Research, Quality and Technology Division. The Snacks Department is comprised of Cookies (EL Fudge Sandwich Cookies), Crackers (Cheez-It), and Wholesome Foods (Nutri-Grain Bars). My primary focus was on the Keebler Fudge Shoppe Brand line of products.
Over the summer, I was able to visit production plants in Muncy, Pennsylvania; Cary, North Carolina; Battle Creek, Michigan; and Louisville, Kentucky where I was very fortunate to see how several of Kellogg's products are manufactured including Pop-Tarts, Nutri-Grain Bars, Murray's Sugar Free Cookies, Hydrox Cookies, Cheez-Its, Austin Sandwich Crackers, Raisin Bran Crunch, Rice Krispies Cereal, Fudge Shoppe Filled Cookies, Sensations Cookies, Soft Batch Cookies, and Frosted Shredded Mini-Wheats. It was quite an eventful summer!
While at Kellogg, I had the opportunity to complete an individual research project. The cookie I worked on had a creme filling that included an unusual ingredient. One day, while running a test in the pilot plant, we happened to make two batches of this creme, one with and one without this expensive ingredient. After learning the purpose of this proprietary material, I noticed that the two cremes did not appear different. I asked my supervisor if I could compare the rheological properties of the two cremes, to ensure that by excluding the "special" ingredient, we would not alter the process or the product. In addition to running tests on the creme itself, I also made some product, which contained both variables of creme and subjected them to sensory evaluations. Upon completion of all of the tests, I came to the conclusion that the cremes were rheologically identical; advising the team to remove the ingredient, which resulted in a significant cost savings for the project.
Overall, my summer was very exciting and educational. I was able to assist on many tests and plant trials for several different products. I was exposed to several different processes and equipment. I voiced a concern about a product, and was given the opportunity to test a processing hypothesis, which resulted in a savings for the company. Overall, I feel that my experiences at Kellogg have not only helped to mold me into a better engineer, but also into a better person.
Matt Lindsay - Chore Time - Brock
My summer internship at the Chore Time-Brock International Headquarters in Milford, Indiana was a valuable real-world learning experience. As an engineering assistant in the Egg Production Systems Division, I tested egg collectors; in the engineering shop, I made and assembled various parts for egg production systems. I evaluated manure drying systems and designed, prototyped and tested parts for collection system improvements.
Egg collectors are machines that transfer eggs from conveyors running alongside the cages to another conveyor moving perpendicular to the cage rows. Over the course of the summer I conducted over 450 tests on egg collectors at various sites, studying the effects of egg orientation and collector adjustments on impact magnitude. The tests used a custom built sensor that replicated a Grade A egg in shape and weight. The sensor transmitted impact data wirelessly to a handheld computer unit. The reliability of the sensor was a major frustration because it broke frequently. In addition, the test results had a large degree of variation due to numerous variables, so much to my annoyance, I had to statistically analyze the results. While this was not my favorite part of the internship, in retrospect, it was very useful and necessary.
My largest project was designing, producing, and testing prototype parts to improve upon existing collector features. Handling an egg at first inspection seems to be a rather simple task. As I later discovered, this could hardly be farther from the truth. The variation in egg sizes and constant changes in collector installation were problematic. Also, it was hard to discern why one modification would work well at one site and seem to have no effect at another site of identical set-up. Another dose of reality came when I would try a modification, only to be informed by the engineers superior to me that they had tried it five years earlier, and I "really did not want to do that." I enjoyed having the freedom to design and build my own parts. It was a very good real world experience, where everything is not done under laboratory conditions, if any are at all.
In the end the internship was a very valuable learning experience for me. The industry is the only place to learn the value of performance and flexibility. I was surprised at the responsibility given to me. There was no one to hold my hand and tell me the next step. I was given a task and working out the details was my job. I also found the people I worked with to be some of the nicest I have ever met. Not once did I ever feel out of place and I really appreciated that.
As a Division of CTB, Inc., Chore Time-Brock International develops, markets, and supports equipment for poultry, egg, hog, and grain systems and solutions worldwide. Their US Headquarters is located in Milford, Indiana.
Natalie Finkbeiner - Antel BioSystems Inc.
Antel Biosystems, Inc. is an animal disease testing center and a USDA-accredited laboratory that provides Johne's disease testing via bovine milk, serum, and fecal samples and Leukosis testing via bovine milk and serum. I have worked, part time, as a lab technician for AntelBio in Lansing since November of 2004. I am a senior in the Biosystems Engineering Program and specialize in Biomedical Engineering. I spend my time at AntelBio initiating orders, generating customer reports, running the ELISAs (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays) tests, mailing testing kits, and maintaining the lab.
During the summer, I completed an independent study research project assisting in the development of a new ELISA designed to test for Johne's disease. I conducted extensive research to become proficient with the optimization of ELISAs. I conducted all of the experiments and kept a laboratory notebook to document all my work. My supervisor served as a mentor during the project. After the experiments, he would ask me to explain what I thought happened during the test based on the results, and what the next action should be. It was quite a learning experience and provided a great insight into what a career in research would be like. My favorite part was not always knowing how the experiments would turn out. It was also amazing when we started using the test that I helped design to test samples in a commercial setting. I felt like I did something that really made a difference for other people.
I have learned more in this job than I have in any class. I have learned what it is like to work in a professional environment and the importance of being able to communicate effectively. I went into this job with a little laboratory experience. Now, I have learned a completely new procedure and how to use several new pieces of lab equipment. I have found that doing well in a job delivers rewards. Hard work does not go overlooked and it definitely pays off in the end. Currently, I am learning a new procedure for testing fecal samples and assuming additional responsibilities. I am looking forward to continuing to work for AntelBio through the rest of my senior year.
AntelBio is a USDA-accredited laboratory specializing in the diagnostic analysis of milk samples.
Shane Bennett - Spicer Group, Inc
My engineering internship with Spicer Group in St. Johns gave me experience that expanded my understanding of water resource issues. As an engineering intern, I assisted the Governmental Services Group, which provides watershed management engineering design and construction management services to federal, state, and local governments. I also worked with the Surveying Group on projects ranging from simple property surveys to topographic surveys needed for road and bridge design, storm sewer design, and for the mapping of flood prone areas.
My summer began with assisting design engineers with hydrologic analyses needed for the delineation of flood risk areas. This work was commissioned by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to update their Flood Insurance Studies. I used computer software including AutoCAD, ArcView, HEC HMS, and Excel to analyze digital soils, land use, and topographic data for the production of runoff coefficients, times of concentration, and peak flow hydrographs for riverine systems. These hydrographs are required to develop hydraulic computer models, which are needed for identifying floodplain elevations and flood risk areas.
During the remainder of the summer I served as a survey rodman, collecting topographic survey data required by the engineers for the FEMA floodplain studies and other construction and storm water design projects. I operated survey equipment such as total stations, levels, and Global Positioning System (GPS) equipment and performed ALTA/ACSM surveys and line and grid surveys.
My time at Spicer was great and I feel that I learned a great deal about the industry. It exposed me to technology and engineering techniques needed to design solutions to storm water management problems and to identify flood prone areas.
Spicer Group, Inc. is a full-service engineering, surveying, and planning consulting firm with locations in Saginaw, St. Johns, Caro, and Detroit, Michigan.
For more information on establishing an internship relationship, please contact Luke Reese our Career Resource Center Coordinator, firstname.lastname@example.org, 517-353-3258.