Student Internships / Research

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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

Hanna Miller (right) with Dr. Vangie Alocilja


Hanna Miller

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 Emery at Nestle Nutrition

 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 Zanotti - E-Biofuels

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 Bunce with Tony the Tiger

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 Archer - Environmental Quality

Steven in the Environmental Quality Company lab

“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.”

For more information on establishing an internship relationship, please contact Luke Reese our Career Resource Center Coordinator,, 517-353-3258.