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Graduate Student Point of View: The Benefits of Internship Research Experience (Part 1)

My name is Taylor Petrusha, and I am a 2021 University of Florida graduate student enrolled in my first semester in the Department of Environmental Horticulture.

During the summer of 2021, I interned at the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Mid-Florida Research & Education Center (MREC) for an exciting 4-month sponsored research experience. Through this series, I will share my story with you and talk about the benefits of a research internship.

Part 1: Understanding Sponsored Research and Internships

Sponsored Research

I worked in the Greenhouse Citrus Production program led by Dr. Richard Beeson, Associate Professor of Landscape Ornamentals, in support of important citrus research for Florida’s citrus industry. In this project, the citrus greenhouse is used to propagate and grow rootstock/scion combinations that will be field-trialed to analyze the fruit for juice quality and the varieties for HLB tolerance.

Taylor Petrusha pruning citrus tress in the UF/IFAS MREC Citrus Nursery Greenhouse. Photo credit: Lance Osborne, UF/IFAS

The project is sponsored by the Florida Citrus Processors Association (FCPA) and was initiated by Coca-Cola, with Magnolia Consulting Inc. coordinating the project. Phil Rucks of Phillip Rucks Citrus Nursery provided rootstock trees and tree maintenance recommendations. Scion budwood is provided by expert breeders from UF Gainesville campus, UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center (CREC), and USDA-ARS U.S. Horticultural Research Laboratory (USHRL).

Summer Internship

Most of my work was performed in the Citrus Nursery Greenhouse, where I worked alongside Dr. Beeson’s Biological Scientist, Heidi Savage. I learned the basics of citrus nursery tree care and greenhouse maintenance.

With over 3,000 trees to care for, I was busy learning about pruning, watering, liquid-feed fertilizing, and the budding process most commercial growers use to create rootstock/scion combinations. Budder, Gerald Gatlin ‘Buddy’, makes budding look easy with his experience passed down from multiple generations of his family.

Citrus trees have thorns and can be very precarious to work around. Taking care of citrus trees takes a lot of patience and observation.

Stay tuned for the next part in this series which will focus on biological controls of greenhouse pests.

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