College of Agriculture & Natural Resources
Institute of Applied Agriculture

IAA Internship Stories: Cameron Smith

Becky Jones
Smith with vetch that she helped to evaluate and later got to harvest.
Cameron Smith with vetch that she helped to evaluate and later got to harvest.
Image Credit: 
Meredith Epstein

Do you ever wonder which cover crop is most suitable to be grown in the state of Maryland? Current second-year Sustainable Agriculture major, Cameron Smith, spent her summer researching how to save farmers money through cover crop success!

This was just the beginning for Smith, who aspires to become a researcher in her future endeavors. “I strive to find and solve pressing issues in the agricultural and environmental industry,” said Smith. She got the inside scoop early in her career of what day-to-day life is like in a laboratory.

This summer, Smith worked in the Sustainable Agricultural Systems Laboratory (SASL) which is part of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in Beltsville, Maryland. Smith interned under scientist Dr. Steven Mirsky and technician Megan Poskaitis. “She was timely, positive, and genuinely enthusiastic about the cover crop research aspects associated with each task and project,” said Poskaitis.

What exactly did Smith do at the SASL? During this 2017 summer internship, she assisted in gathering data for a breeding experiment containing vetch, crimson clover, and peas. In May, she and her team began analyzing the field crops for any pest, chemical, or biological damage before harvest. After examination, the fields were harvested.

Following harvest, interns like Smith learned how to thresh the different seeds; threshing is the delicate process in which the seed is isolated from all other parts. She got the opportunity to learn how to thresh the seeds by hand, using a belt thresher, and a machine called a Wintersteiger. In the last weeks of her internship, they weighed the seed to be sent off for final testing.

^Smith carefully harvesting samples of crimson clover that are ready to be threshed. Photo by: Katrina Vaitkus

Smith’s time spent working at the government research facility for just a short eight weeks gave her the opportunity to dip her feet into reality for just a little while before returning to her career as a student. For Smith, this opened the door for endless opportunities, “I can see a lot of potential in what could come in future research.”

According to her IAA advisor, Meredith Epstein, “Interning at SASL was an excellent way for Cameron to gain exposure to field and laboratory work at a top-notch research facility. "It's exciting to see IAA students building their resumes with positions at USDA!”

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