Summer Internships Offered at West Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center 

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Undergraduate Students Can Gain Experience in Research and Extension

JACKSON, Tenn. – The West Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center, part of the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture (UTIA), is now accepting applications for their summer internship program.

For 10 to 12 weeks beginning in May 2024, participants will attain career-focused knowledge and skills in agricultural fields. Paired with a faculty member specializing in plant pathology, entomology, crop physiology, weed science, agronomy or soil science and fertility, each intern will assist with local research and Extension efforts benefitting producers across the Mid-South. In order to gain a holistic understanding of agriculture, students will work both in an area of their choice and rotate to other research disciplines throughout the summer.

Claire Cooke, former intern and upcoming PhD student at UTIA, says the program provided her with essential hands-on experience. “If you are thinking about pursuing a scientific career, the best way to learn is by doing. This program will teach you how to work in the field and in labs all while collaborating with others. It is the perfect way to hone your skills and explore new areas you may not have discovered.”

After her interest in research led her to become a student worker at the Center in 2019, Cooke officially joined the internship program the following summer. Now a master’s student at Auburn University, she will begin her doctoral studies in the UT Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology in May 2024, the program area of her original internship.

Crystal Ferrell, current student worker at the Center, joined the internship program in 2023 and says she will participate again in 2024. “You are not only involved in every area of research, but you also attend field days, Extension programs, industry conferences and other networking events. The researchers you learn from provide invaluable mentorship, Dr. Shekoofa alone has greatly influenced my career.” 

Ferrell was the only intern selected by Avat Shekoofa, her internship program area leader and crop physiology researcher in the UT Department of Plant Sciences, to travel to Lubbock, Texas with a PhD student to collect data on a national project. An undergraduate student at UT Martin hoping to attend the Herbert College of Agriculture following graduation, Ferrell was also invited to attend two national conventions due to her internship experience, winning an award for her presentation at the 2024 Beltwide Cotton Conferences. 

Heather Kelly, head of the internship program, Extension specialist and plant pathology researcher, says a substantial stipend is provided as well as housing if needed to ensure the program is accessible for all participants. “Our faculty members are passionate about sharing their years of experience so that students can apply what they learn to their career or graduate studies. We look forward to meeting our next group of interns in summer of 2024.”

The program has been funded by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Students can apply by filling out the application found on under the “Quick Links” section. Completed applications and additional materials including a cover letter and resume can be sent to Heather Kelly at

The University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture is comprised of the Herbert College of Agriculture, UT College of Veterinary Medicine, UT AgResearch and UT Extension. Through its land-grant mission of teaching, research and outreach, the Institute touches lives and provides Real. Life. Solutions. to Tennesseans and beyond.

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Tate Cronin

UTIA Marketing and Communications