Commonwealth STEM Industry Internship Program (CSIIP)

We need your help in getting the word out to your students about the Commonwealth STEM Industry Internship Program (CSIIP), an internship program managed by the Virginia Space Grant Consortium. CSIIP is an online program that serves as a vehicle linking Virginia’s STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) undergraduates majors to more than 100 companies throughout Virginia that are offering paid internship opportunities in STEM-related fields. CSIIP is funded by the Commonwealth of Virginia, and is free to use for students, college career services, and participating companies.

Student benefits include…

·         A Certificate of Completion signed by  Governor McAuliffe.
·         Access to free and informative webcasts posted on the CSIIP website.
·         A convenient single-application process to reach 100+ companies across Virginia. Students don’t need to reapply each year.
·         No application deadlines
·         CSIIP applications roll over for future years, and updating your application is easier than ever
·         Students can indicate an interest in a specific organization or specific internship opportunity.
·         Opportunity for excellent hands-on experience related to their field of study.

Please direct your students to call Christa Hahn or Scott Bellows (office or cell) if they have any questions regarding the CSIIP application process, student eligibility, or other CSIIP-related items. They may also email CSIIP directly at

One more thing…

All new CSIIP applicants (to included newly updated existing CSIIP applications) will be entered into two drawings for two $150.00 Amazon gift cards.

When are the drawings?

·         December 1, 2014
·         February 27, 2015

Scott Bellows, Ph.D.
Technical Programs Coordinator
Virginia Space Grant Consortium
Old Dominion University Peninsula Center
600 Butler Farm Road
Hampton, VA  23666
Office:  757/766-5210
Cell: 757/876-4413
FAX:  757/766-5205


Research Experiences for Undergraduate (REU) Program at the University of Virginia’s Blandy Experimental Farm

Please pass along to undergraduate students who may be interested in an excellent opportunity to conduct ecological research next summer by joining the Research Experiences for Undergraduate (REU) Program at the University of Virginia’s Blandy Experimental Farm.   The program emphasizes experimental, field-based approaches to a wide variety of topics such as plant-animal interactions, pollination ecology, landscape ecology, and ecosystem ecology.  Successful applicants will receive a $5775 stipend, additional money for food, and free housing.  Each student picks a research mentor from our pool of faculty members and graduate students and then conducts an independent research project.  The students will gain experience in experimental design, data collection, analytical techniques, and written and oral presentation of findings.  REU students also benefit from several professional development workshops.

This is a truly wonderful opportunity for an undergraduate student contemplating a future in science.  We hope the attached information will help spread the word!

Thank you,

 Kyle J.  Haynes, Ph.D.

Associate Director, Bland Experimental Farm
University of Virginia
(540) 837-1758 ext 292

— Carolyn Martin
Blandy Experimental Farm
400 Blandy Farm Lane
Boyce, VA
540-837-1758 ext 0
cvc@virginia.eduVisit our website! Follow us on Facebook!



Andrew Kirk: Lotic Ecosystem Ecology

Andrew Kirk: VCU Center for Environmental Studies
Dr. Daniel McGarvey
Lotic Ecosystem Ecology

What were the primary factors that influenced your decision to participate in Undergraduate Research?

I was introduced to the film Never Cry Wolf (1983) where a researcher, Farley Mowat, is dropped into the Canadian wilderness to monitor how wolves impact the elk in the area. Seeing this film planted the seed for me to return to college, switch my major to Biology, and find something I was passionate about. Pursuing ecology and animal organismal courses further increased my desire to jump into research.

Did you register for academic credit? Participate in a research program? Or Volunteer?

I registered for academic credit following my stint as a volunteer undergraduate field assistant to Dr. McGarvey. He and I talked about setting up an independent study. However, both of us were made aware of the Undergraduate Research & Thesis program that exists within the Biology department headed by Dr. Sarah Golding and I took part in the program.

How did you find your mentor?

While taking Population Ecology in the spring of 2013 I met Matt Rouch, a M.S. student that works in McGarvey’s lab. He mentioned that they needed help collecting fish and macroinvertebrate samples in the mountain streams of West Virginia. I jumped at the chance, met Dr. McGarvey for the first time when he interviewed me for 1 of 2 spots, and I was selected to assist him that summer.

Untitled2For you, what were the benefits of a research experience?

Honestly, the overriding benefit was that it was life changing. Instead of graduating in the fall of 2013 with a vague appreciation of ecology and a job as a shoe salesman (no joke), I am now pursuing my Master’s in Biology here at VCU. Besides that minor detail, I was able to pick the brain of Dr. McGarvey concerning both research and the life of a scientist after receiving a degree. And of course, I learned new skills such as setting up and breaking down study sites, electrofishing, bug sampling, preparation of a scientific manuscript, and identification of insects and fish.

What would you say to a student who is considering Undergraduate Research?

Do it! If you’re at VCU wander around the Life Science Building. Go up and down the stairwells and keep an eye out for fliers looking for undergraduate help. Talk to your professors about their research (you’ll find they’re up to very fascinating work!) and see if you can chip in any way. And most importantly, find a subject that intrigues you because otherwise you’ll just slog through the process.

At what point in your studies did you start your research experience?

I was a late bloomer. I started my research experience the summer between my junior and senior year.

Please also provide a short bio below (include a brief description of your career goals)
Every since I was a kid I loved spending time outside in the woods near the Po River of Spotsylvania, Virginia. In my spare time I hike around the Appalachian Mountains, kayak, run, and volunteer at a local Richmond dog rescue. After obtaining my Master’s, I will either pursue a PhD. or find a job in either a state agency or environmental consulting group before returning for a PhD. No matter which direction I go, I intend to continue researching lotic and mountainous ecosystems.

Please provide links to any news articles, publications etc related to your experience

Joint Aquatic Sciences Meeting, 2014

Presentation: Rouch, M.G., McGarvey, D.J., Kirk, A.: Annual Production, assemblage composition and biomass of fish in three southern West Virginia Stream

Poster: Kirk, A.J., McGarvey, D.J., Rouch, M.G.: Benthic macrointertebrate assemblage structure and biomass in pristine streams of southern West Virginia.

Rouch, M.G., McGarvey, D.J., & Kirk, A. 2014. Summer fish assemblage structure and biomass in southern West Virginia streams. (in review).


Welcome to the Bioadvising “Virtual Hub”!

We’re excited to launch our new Bioadvising web portal.

Our hope is that this will become your first stop shop for all information about studying a BS in Biology at VCU!

Check out the links, class information and even some students experience profiles!

The space will be a living entity that will grow with information as it becomes available to us. This will not replace the Bioadvising Bb page but will complement it with more frequent posts (to keep down your inboxes) and up to date information about your options and opportunities!

We hope you love it!

–Your Biology Department

VCU DHSD Pre-Health student summer programs information session

Join the VCU Health Sciences and Health Careers Pipeline for a workshop  exploring opportunities for pre-health students this summer. Wednesday, October 22, 2014 from 7-8pm in the University Student Commons, Forum Room.

Blair Cousins-Dept. of Game and Inland Fisheries

Where and when did you complete your internship?

 I completed my internship with the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries in Charles City, Virginia from February to May in the spring of 2013.  I interned at a fresh water mussel hatchery.

 How did you find your internship location?

 I did a Google search.

 What types of activities did you participate in as part of your internship?

 I helped grow and take care of fresh water mussels.  Duties included cleaning housing habitats, building housing habitats, counting young, and feeding mussel species and other related animals.

 What did you gain from your experiences in this internship (academically, professionally, etc.)?

 I learned a lot about the propagation and life cycle of fresh water mussels and also met a lot of professionals in the field.

 Would you recommend internship to other students, why?

 I would highly recommend this internship experience to biology majors, because you gain industry experience and the opportunity to get really cool hands-on experience in the field, something you might not gain from the classroom alone.

 Please also provide a short bio bellow (include a brief description of your career goals)

I graduated from VCU in May 2014 with a degree in biology and minors in chemistry and creative writing.  I am currently working at a local animal shelter and have been added as a permanent volunteer at the VADGIF.  I plan to return to school for my master’s in wild conservation, specializing in mammals and habitat conservation.

VCU News – Roads negatively affect frogs and toads study finds

4 recent VCU Biology grads became scientific authors this week! Congrats to Ryan Weaver, Alessandro Molina, Jen Fjelstead, and Chris Crockett. Also see nice write up here:


Matthew Hurd: Braunschweig – Germany

Matthew Hurd: Braunschweig – Germany

What were the primary factors that influenced your decision to study abroad?

I never thought Id be the kind of person who would study abroad. In fact, I never thought I would leave Richmond. I was becoming competent in the German language by practicing religiously on Skype with Germans I had met through a language exchange website. These Germans were all STEM students (a pharmacist, a mathematician, a chemist and a computer programmer). By learning about their experiences in Germany, I quickly became inspired by how the country has become a world leader in STEM education. I wanted to experience firsthand how the country operated and why it was so successful, so I decided to make an appointment with the study abroad office (GEO).  The rest is history.

What program and destination did you choose?

What manifested from this decision to meet with GEO was something I never expected. I ended up studying abroad in Braunschweig, Germany for ten months.  Technische Universität Braunschweig is an engineering and science university with a focus on practical, applied learning.

What classes did you take while abroad and how would you compare them to taking courses on campus at VCU?

I transferred back second semester Biochemistry, Ecological Biochemistry, and Plant Biochemistry. I also completed a Molecular Genetics laboratory course. The most challenging part was the lab work. German biology students are rather advanced in lab and analytical skills as their education focuses on intensive, hands-on approaches. I had to interact and write my tests and lab reports in German. It was extremely challenging at first because my German lacked the vocabulary to express scientific ideas, but I overcame this with the help of my German peers. As a result, my competency in the language skyrocketed.

Bachelor students in Braunschweig have an intensive curriculum. Their first year consists of biology, biochemistry, organic and inorganic chemistry, plant and animal sciences, genetics and microbiology. This is all with a laboratory experience, too. They only have to do one or two electives for their whole degree! This is quite different from an American Bachelors education in which the focus is more on liberal arts and theory. I was way behind when I started, but I worked hard to gain these skills and competencies in the laboratory.

Additionally, I attended German language courses and lectures in fields such as genetics, geomicrobiology, physics for biologists, and environmental toxicology. I even studied Spanish and Swedish! I was happy to study here. I think the laboratory, analytic and practical education complimented VCUs theoretical approach. When I returned to VCU, I was able to take my new laboratory experience and use it in Dr. Wenheng Zhangs lab. 

What research did you participate in while abroad?

All biology students in Germany are required to do thesis work. In fact, the top German universities require such an experience for the acceptance into a Masters program, so many foreigners (like Americans) may be excluded. Thesis work entails much more than your own project. You are expected to work nine to five every day in the lab for three to five months.  Perhaps the most exciting part of my time in Germany was meeting a post-doc who invited me to do research for five months. Starting in May, I will work full-time in her lab assisting current research studies and undertaking my own research project. Her lab focuses on understanding and mapping specific pathways in the cell that are involved in the inflammatory response. Personally, I will research the cross-talk between Glucocorticoids and Interleukin-6 on the expression of a relatively unknown gene Redd1. Im extremely excited to improve my laboratory and research skills and to work in a collaborative environment. My advisor is a biochemist, more or less. We will be using molecular biology and biochemical approaches to answer our questions. Im thankful that I was able to take all the biochemistry and molecular biology and get the related lab experience for it in Braunschweig.

For you, what were the benefits of studying abroad?

I learned cross-cultural skills and experienced how another country operates, both culturally and academically.  I became even more proficient in German and had the chance to travel around Germany and other countries including Czech Republic, Denmark and Sweden.  I experienced first-hand why Germany is an economic and scientific leader of the world. I dont know what is in store for my future, but I know my study abroad and international research experience will help me in graduate school or professional work.  I hope everyone reading this ignores your study abroad anxieties and make an appointment with the GEO office to discuss your possibilities.  You never know what will happen.

What would you say to a student who is considering studying abroad?

For prospective study abroad students, I have advice for you based of my own experiences. My time in Germany wasnt a cakewalk. I did have many set-backs and challenges.

  • Start your research early. Due dates for scholarships and applications are usually way in advance.
  • Work closely with your GEO and biology department advisor. Your GEO advisor will help you find programs and funding opportunities and help you navigate the logistics. Before you go make sure your prospective coursework will transfer back. Understand how your experience will affect your intended graduation date and discuss getting prerequisites done for classes you may take abroad.
  • Find a way to make your experience abroad work FOR you! Although I had a semester left at VCU, I found work in Dr. Zhangs lab. I was able to use my laboratory experience in genetics to assist in her lab. People with international experience stand out academically and professionally as well-rounded and motivated individuals.


Basil Mathews: Heredia – Costa Rica

Basil Mathews: Heredia – Costa Rica


What were the primary factors that influenced your decision to study abroad?

I was always open to trying new things since childhood and was never too shy to explore unique experiences; this is why study abroad was an amazing opportunity for me. As a student who graduated from VCU with a B.S. in Biology and B.A. in Foreign Language: Spanish, I knew how critical my learning of Spanish in a foreign country would be toward my future endeavor of becoming a medical doctor.

What made you choose your destination?

Choosing Costa Rica was easy for me its known for having great tourist attractions, friendly people, and a Spanish dialect that is relatively easy to speak and understand in comparison to that of other countries. More so, it was great because most Spanish speaking immigrants that migrate to the United States come from Mexico and Central America. Studying abroad in Costa Rica is another reason why this sort of cultural awareness that I have gained will help me better connect with my patients on a more personal level in the future.

What classes did you take while abroad and how would you compare them to taking courses on campus at VCU?

During my 4-month stay in Costa Rica, I was able to take 15 credits of Spanish, which was truly an amazing experience. At VCU, students are usually limited to 2-3 language classes per semester. Taking five classes with non-native English speakers definitely changes the game in comparison. Instructors had higher expectations of us, and we truly had to force ourselves to learn the language and speak it. Towards the end of my trip, I felt comfortable traveling alone from city to city, being able to confidently navigate my way around and ask the local people for help if necessary. During my time in Costa Rica, I was able to take a Spanish Composition course, Hispanic Texts, Latin American Cinema, Analysis of Literature, and an Analysis of Culture course. The professors truly went out of their way to ensure we learned and were fully immersed in the language and culture. Another benefit was when I returned to VCU to take three more 400 level courses, it felt like a breeze!  After speaking the language continuously for four months, it seemed as if I were forgetting my English as Spanish grew on me daily.

What were some of the challenges you faced while adjusting to your host country? How might these challenges help you in the future?

For the first two months I was there, I took a 40-minute bus ride every Friday to a local pool in order to overcome my fear of opens waters and learn how to swim. By mid-March, I had finally conquered my fear and was able to scuba dive for two days up to a depth of 60 feet, viewing the marvelous life that laid beneath. Surprisingly enough, some of the physics I learned at VCU came in handy for this experience. Aside from all the fun and games, I was able to help several kids at Llorente Elementary School learn English. Working with these children and tutoring my host brothers in mathematics and science truly instilled in me the passion and desire to learn more so that I may help others one day as a physician.

How has your experience changed your future academic and career goals?

Through this experience, I have better diversified myself so that I can more easily relate with future patients. The doctor-patient relationship is truly something dynamic. Having complete trust in a physician is absolutely essential if the physician wants to properly and extensively diagnose you; I personally feel as though living in another country and speaking a different language will open up new possibilities for my future. Seeing how a population interacts in a third world country changes your vision on how people relate to one another. By gathering and learning new culturally pertinent information, I believe I can relay this valuable information to migrant patients so that they feel a sense of hominess. This experience could help all doctors out there; studying abroad is a great start to exploring unique cultures.

What were your most memorable experiences?

While abroad, I wasnt able to participate in any medically related experiences such as conducting research or shadowing physicians due to Costa Ricas strict limitations. However, I was able to step outside my comfort zone and boundaries in order to make myself a more competent, passionate person. I took extremes when it came to travel, especially with respect to the outdoor world.  I went camping for the first time in my life, not just once but many times.  I learned how to survive in the woods for several days at a time; in fact, there was one day we walked non-stop for nearly 25 miles! I learned how to rappel down a waterfall, bungee jump, and zip-line as well.


How has your study abroad experience changed your worldview?

Late night discussions with my host family each evening during dinner truly sparked my respect for different people. I realized that not everyone has it as easy as we do in the United States. Hearing the struggles that my family went through in order to come to where they are now truly made me appreciate life once again and not take it for granted. They taught me invaluable lessons lessons that I will always remember for the rest of my life, and lessons that will be useful while I treat patients of Hispanic descent. As far as ethnicities are concerned, most patients feel more comfortable and open toward those of their own ethnicity; by diversifying myself in 3 cultures: North American, Indian, and Hispanic, I believe I can better handle social discussions with future patients. This will ultimately lead to me being a better doctor that is able to more critically evaluate a patients condition.

How has your study abroad experience changed you as a person?

Studying abroad in Costa Rica was something Id always dreamed about, but I never thought it would come true. Living for four months in the small district of Heredia (known as San Joaquin de Flores) was truly life changing in many ways. Overcoming a language barrier by learning how to fluently speak Spanish as well as experiencing the world in a more physical manner greatly influenced the person I am today.

What would you say to a student who is considering studying abroad?

Definitely meet with the GEO office early. Start planning your trip and make sure you apply for scholarships. If youre a premedical student, work with your advisors. Chances are if youre a junior and youre studying abroad, youre going to miss several updates regarding the pre-health committee so make sure you complete the application and submit an online Skype interview request.  Dont be scared- be open to trying out new things.  You only get one shot at life- experience and learn by moving about and broadening your comfort zone.

Joseph Morina: Curtin University- Perth, Australia

Joseph Morina:
Curtin University- Perth, Australia

What led you to make the decision to study abroad?

I first learned about the study abroad opportunities by attending a study abroad information session.  After working closely with Stephanie Tignor, I was able to contact Dr. Richard Oliver at Curtin University for a possible study abroad research opportunity. He willingly accepted, and soon enough I was buying my plane ticket for Australia.

What classes did you take while abroad and how would you compare them to taking courses on campus at VCU?

Typically, students are enrolled in multiple classes during their study abroad. However, I spent all of my academic time performing research at the Australian Centre for Necrotrophic Fungal Pathogens (ACNFP) located at Curtin University. Under the guidance of an incredible post-doc, I ran experiments ranging from gene knockout to growing wheat cultivars.

Elaborate on your research experience.

Pathenogenisis of Pyrenophora tritici-repentis (PTR)

Plant-pathogen interactions are of extreme importance when dealing with economic crops and ultimately national food stores. Tan spot disease of wheat causes significant economic losses worldwide, and is the most widespread and damaging wheat disease in Australia. The disease is caused by the necrotrophic fungal pathogen Pyrenophora tritici-repentis (Ptr), costing upwards of 212 million dollars in lost yield each year.  The ACNFP at Curtin University has decided to tackle this problem using advanced genetic and molecular biology techniques to study the pathogenicity mechanisms of this fungus. During my study abroad semester, I aided in the identification of novel host-specific toxins produced by different Ptr isolates.


Figure 1 Example of a single cultivar treated with culture filtrate to determine susceptibility.

Other avenues of my research included testing new wheat cultivars with fungal toxins to determine cultivar sensitivity, as well as generating fungal gene knockouts that will be used to characterize candidate toxin genes. The goal of this research project, as with all other research projects undertaken by the ACNFP, is to gain fundamental knowledge of necrotrophic fungal pathosystems in order to reduce the incidence and severity of fungal crop diseases, to help guide growers in cultivar selection, and to develop molecular tools to ultimately breed out disease susceptibility. I thoroughly enjoyed being at the interface of practical and applied science, seeing research results make a direct impact on crop yields was a very rewarding experience.

What were your most memorable experiences while studying abroad?

While in Australia, I traveled up and down the west coast, drinking in the beauty and warmth of the sunburned nation. I got to spend many nights in the Australian outback, falling asleep under the stars. I also got travel to Indonesia, where I dove coral reefs, climbed volcanoes, and visited Hindu temples. I was fortunate to meet people from a multitude of cultures. Many languages were new to my ears. More importantly, I got to try foods that hid flavors I had never tasted before. I still keep in contact with many of the people I met in Perth to this day. I will be traveling with friends from Australia this summer.

What would you say to a student who is considering studying abroad?

Go talk to someone at the GEO today. Take a risk!