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Graduate Student Point of View: The Benefits of Internship Research Experience (Part 3)

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 3: Professional Benefits of an Internship

Industry Tours

Taylor Petrusha visiting the Phillip Rucks Citrus Nursery in Frostproof. Photo credit: Phillip Rucks

A frequent question I hear undergraduates ask is, “Why should I apply for a research experience?” There is opportunity to learn about roles in both industry and academia.

During my internship I visited industry professional, Phil Rucks of Phillip Rucks Citrus Nursery in Frostproof, Florida. I had the opportunity to tour the nursery and speak one-on-one with Phil Rucks, and our talk helped me develop a greater understanding of industry operations.

“Why should I apply for a research experience?” There is opportunity to learn about roles in both industry and academia. Understanding how industry and academia work together is vital for understanding Extension.

Certifications

During my four-month summer internship, I earned a Greenhouse 101 certification through the University of Florida IFAS Extension’s 4-week award winning course taught by experienced University of Florida Professors, including MREC’s Dr. Brian Pearson, Assistant Professor of Environmental Horticulture. The course is designed to increase productivity, employee knowledge, and skills, and can be found at https://hort.ifas.ufl.edu/training/, or reach out to greenhousetraining@ifas.ufl.edu.

Certifications are a great way to develop skills employers are looking for, and to help students be better prepared to meet and talk with industry leaders. Only one week after the completion of my internship, I was invited by Dr. Brian Pearson and Dr. Chris Marble to attend The Landscape Show 2021 in Orlando and met with many industry leaders to talk about future job opportunities.

Exploration for the Future

If you are exploring graduate school, consider a summer internship that may be the pivotal experience you need to make your decision. You will have the opportunity to meet and learn from motivated, intelligent professionals who inspire the best in you. You will have the chance to be inquisitive and ask challenging questions. This is the time to gain insight into the world of academia, explore your graduate degree options, and decide on the right option for you.

My internship led me to a greater appreciation for research. I was able to visit industry professional sites and work alongside professors and technical staff. Given the perceived impact of my internship research experience, I decided to pursue a higher education and am excited to see the doors that open after I obtain my graduate degree.

As I enter the field of horticulture, I will be able to help diversify the crops cultivated in Florida and help solve complex issues to ensure industry success. There is so much to gain from a research position. You will have the opportunity to network, diversify your skills, learn more about what you want for yourself, and choose the best path. Best of luck! Go Gators!

Acknowledgments

I would like to extend my sincerest thanks to all of the people who made this research experience so great and truly rewarding.

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