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University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign University of Illinois SesquicentennialCollege of ACES
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Soybean Innovation Lab interns enjoy incredible opportunity to work on USAID project as undergraduates

To integrate the undergraduate experience with important development issues such as poverty reduction, agricultural development, and food security as well as the research methods used in these analyses, the Soybean Innovation Lab (SIL) offers an annual undergraduate research internship program.

The internship program, initiated in 2014, allows selected undergraduate students in the College of ACES an incredible opportunity to work part-time in the SIL administration offices located in on the U of I campus; register for, and complete, three hours of independent study research on an aspect of soybean for development; and complete a two-week study tour to a SIL research site in Africa.

For the 2017-18 academic year, two outstanding undergraduate students in the Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics, Greg Householter (senior) and Sam Woessner (junior), worked as SIL research interns to provide support to the Lab in its goal of improving the soybean value chain in sub-Saharan Africa. 

Sam Woessner recalled, “During my time with SIL, I worked on promotional videos to be put on our YouTube channel. I also helped maintain the SIL website by updating pages and projects such as the soy recipe database. My favorite project while at SIL was testing the Malnutrition Matters Soymilk kit. I was able to work with Dr. Juan Andrade to test the pH and color of soymilk after different storage conditions.”

Greg Householter already had international experience prior to working with SIL, having studied and lived in both Sierra Leone and China. For SIL this year, he performed literature reviews on agricultural mechanization in Sub-Saharan Africa, created informational and marketing materials, and updated the website.

“Working at SIL allowed me to see the hard work that goes on behind the scenes of a USAID-funded research project. With prior experience studying in West Africa, I had seen a lot of organizations striving to affect change in very concentrated ways. SIL brings together researchers from multiple institutions specializing in their respective fields to successfully implement programs that address the entire soybean value chain. This holistic approach is really encouraging for me after seeing many development efforts, including the case studies that our group in Sierra Leone focused on, that turned out to be unsustainable. SIL is active on the ground in Africa, and I've seen that their efforts are well planned, and evidence-based, to ensure their long-term success. My experience at SIL gave me more practical knowledge as I applied to graduate programs, helping me get a fellowship offer from my first choice program at the University of California San Diego's School of Global Policy and Strategy to earn my Master of International Affairs degree.”

SIL will once again be taking applications for the 2018-19 academic year, and interested students can send their resume to Ms. Courtney Tamimie, SIL’s associate director, at tamimi@illinois.edu.

Article submitted by Leslie Myrick, 217-244-5373

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