SROP: Applied Plant Systems

Engage in the research and the application of plants and soil to impact food production and the environment.

For information contact

Program funded by USDA-NIFA.
Program funded by USDA-NIFA.

Application Dates

Nov 15 2016 App opens
February 1 Priority deadline
March 1 App closes
April 1 Decisions complete

Program Dates

June 4 2017 Arrival day
June 5 Program begins
August 9 Program ends
August 10 Departure day

Who should apply

Related fields

  • Plant Breeding
  • Plant Production and Management
  • Rangeland Ecology
  • Soil Management
  • Environmental Sciences
  • Microbiology
  • Agricultural Technology


Participation in the Nebraska Summer Research Program is limited to students who meet the following criteria:
  • U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident
  • Current undergraduate with at least one semester of coursework remaining before obtaining a bachelor's degree

See Eligibility for more information.

How to apply

Follow the application steps to submit the following materials.

About the Program

The goal of this program is to prepare students with both knowledge and skills necessary to address the grand challenges of food production and the environment. Participating students will conduct a summer experiential internship related to his or her career interests and goals, choosing from a variety of programs in the applied plant, soil, and environmental sciences available through a network of collaborators. The students will also work with their program peers and a team of faculty mentors to engage in activities related to teamwork, decision making, systems thinking, and translating their summer work into learning objects for science literacy.

Applied Plant Systems program framework.
Applied Plant Systems program framework.


  • Competitive stipend: $6,000
  • Suite-style room and meal plan
  • Travel expenses to and from Lincoln
  • Campus parking and/or bus pass
  • Full access to the Campus Recreation Center and campus library system
  • Wireless internet access

Learn more about academic and financial benefits.


  • Department seminars and presentations
  • Professional development workshops (e.g., applying to graduate school, taking the GRE)
  • Welcome picnic
  • Day trip to Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo
  • Canoe and camping trip
  • Research symposium

Mentors and Projects

Keenan Amundsen Agronomy and Horticulture

Evaluate genetic diversity among germplasm collection

Use molecular markers to evaluate genetic diversity and relationships among a collection of buffalograss and/or hops germplasm.

Keenan Amundsen Agronomy and Horticulture

Develop segregating plant populations for genetics instruction

Working with ornamental pearl millet in the field, advance F1, F2, and F3 populations segregating for distinct seedling traits. Evaluate segregation ratios of traits and test gene models.  Time permitting, contribute to plant management, evaluations, and crossing work to support ornamental pearl millet breeding.

P. Stephen Baenziger Agronomy and Horticulture

Small Grains Breeding Research

To feed an increasing global population, we must improve our crops.  Developing improved small grains (winter wheat, barley, and triticale) through plant breeding is the goal of this project. The student will be involved in note taking, harvest, data entry, seed cleaning and processing as part of an ongoing process of creating new cultivars.  They will see how genetics and phenotyping drives plant breeding and crop improvement.

Lisa M. Durso USDA-ARS Agroecosystem Management Research, Lincoln, NE

Antibiotic resistance in agricultural systems

Antibiotic resistance (AR) is one of the most important health challenges of our era.   There is much interest in the role that agricultural production plays in enriching and spreading antibiotic resistant bacteria and antibiotic resistance genes.  This project provides laboratory opportunities to evaluate AR profiles within the context of agricultural and environmental systems at multiple stages along the food production supply chain. 

Virginia L. Jin USDA-ARS Agroecosystem Management Research, Lincoln, NE

Soil greenhouse gas emissions from food and biofuel production systems

Agricultural soils can help reduce global warming by storing carbon, but management-related emissions of soil greenhouse gases (GHGs) into the atmosphere can counteract the benefits of soil carbon storage.  This project provides multiple field-related opportunities to measure and evaluate soil GHG emissions from conventional and alternative management systems used for food and biofuel production.  Project outcomes will contribute to evidence-based management recommendations that enhance the sustainability of food and fuel production systems.

Don Lee (UNL), Brian Bresnahan (Bresnahan Consulting, Inc) Industry partner - Bresnahan Consulting, Inc and UNL

Crop Consulting Intern

Work directly with crop consulting agronomists during the growing season to gain hands-on crop production experience performing field checks, identifying and diagnosing pest and crop growth problems, monitoring soil moisture, scheduling irrigation, assisting with equipment calibration, as well as plant and soil sampling.  This project will be an excellent opportunity to apply classroom knowledge to practical field experience, gain exposure to a variety of crops, utilize Precision Ag technologies, learn the value of relationship building, understand crop fields as ecosystems, and customize agronomic recommendations to fit the needs of individual growers.

Dan Miller USDA-ARS Agroecosystem Management Research, Lincoln, NE

Effects of livestock antimicrobials on soil processes and microbial communities

Antimicrobials administered to livestock eventually end up in the soil and may contribute to antimicrobial resistance and potentially adversely affect important microbial functions in the soil.  This project provides laboratory research opportunities to measure and evaluate soil microbial functions (decomposition and nutrient transformations), antimicrobial resistance, and microbial community composition.  The outcomes of this research will provide important information about the risks and levels of antimicrobials that impact important soil processes.

Walt Schacht Agronomy and Horticulture

Rangeland Ecology and Management

Assist rangeland scientists and graduate students with field research collecting and processing plant and animal data, analyzing and interpreting preliminary results, applying experimental treatments, and managing experimental sites. Live at a University research ranch/site in the Nebraska Sandhills with other students.

Walt Schacht (UNL), Shelly Kelly (Sandhills Task Force) Agronomy and Horticulture, in association with the Sandhills Task Force

Ranch Internship

Experience working for the owner and/or manager of a Sandhills ranch. The student will be guided in arranging for an internship on a ranch that is the best match for the student’s learning goals and objectives. Regardless of ranch selected, the student will experience typical ranch work and life; however, each ranch provides different learning opportunities including such things as grazing management, beef nutrition, animal selection and reproduction, and marketing.

Marty R. Schmer USDA-ARS Agroecosystem Management Research, Lincoln, NE

Evaluating management practices for sustainable cropping systems

An integrated approach is needed to improve farming systems toward greater sustainability to meet societal demands for food, feed, fiber, and fuel. Soil and crop management strategies can optimize the capacity of agricultural soils to store carbon while minimizing greenhouse gas emissions from nitrogen fertilizer and management practices.  Current research will (1) evaluate conservation tillage practices and crop diversity on the soil resource, (2) develop management guidelines for sustainable intensification of current corn-soybean rotations using winter oilseeds, and (3) improve water and nutrient practices on crop and feedstock production.

Jess Spotanski, Don Lee (UNL) Midwest Research Inc.

Field Research Evaluating Developmental Pesticides and GMOs

Gain experience about the process of conducting plot research for industry leading companies in a field setting.  Emphasis on assessing pesticide effectiveness on crops like corn and soybean, evaluating GMO traits in the field and collecting data to determine pesticide residues in plant tissues and soil.  There will be additional opportunities for collecting data related to plant health including the impact of diseases, insects and weeds.  This project will provide hands-on experience conducting agricultural research.

Laura Thompson and Keith Glewen Southeast Research and Extension Center

Nebraska On-Farm Research Network

Assist with data collection of Nebraska On-Farm Research Network studies including stand counts, aerial imagery analysis, and reporting.  Special projects may be developed based on intern interests. These may include:

  1. Producing a “Story Map” about on-farm research participants and the research data they have generated about nitrogen management/cover crops.  This involves summarizing research data, conducting farmer interviews, and compiling materials into the online interface.
  2. Case study on using drones to collect and analyze aerial imagery for on-farm research sites. In addition to assisting with aerial imagery data collection and GIS analysis, this student will generate a report on the process and provide recommendations and benefits of using this technology in an on-farm setting.

Dirac Twidwell Agronomy and Horticulture

Large-scale ecological restoration with fire

Eastern redcedar has invaded grasslands across the central United States, threatening livestock production, grassland wildlife, and water resources. The University of Nebraska is partnering with the Loess Canyon Rangeland Alliance to study the largest scale effort to restore grasslands using high intensity fires following conversion to Eastern redcedar woodlands. 

Candiss O. Williams (USDA-NRCS) U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service-National Kellogg Soil Survey Laboratory

Potential for phosphorus loss under differing land management

The student will use laboratory techniques to evaluate the sorption capacities of soils collected under differing conservation practices to evaluate the impact of land management on phosphorus loss.

Candiss O. Williams (USDA-NRCS), Steve Monteith (USDA-NRCS) U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service-National Kellogg Soil Survey Laboratory

Laboratory Experience at the Kellogg National Soil Survey Laboratory

Hands-on experience with sample preparation and sample analysis. There will also be an opportunity to do some field sampling.

Skye Wills (USDA-NRCS) U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service-National Soil Survey Center

Soil Bulk Density Measurement

Delve deeply into one very important soil property (Bulk Density).  This could include the direct measurements and method comparisons and/or computer based data analyses.  There is an opportunity to identify errors in current methods and develop new techniques that can be used as a part citizen-science projects.

Skye Wills (USDA-NRCS) U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service-National Soil Survey Center

Soil Data Exploration

Use data science and machine learning algorithms to develop new techniques for exploring and visualizing large soil and environmental datasets.  The project can be tailored to the interests and skills of the student to focus on maps, scripting, ecology, climate change or agriculture.

Sam Wortman Agronomy and Horticulture

Developing multifunctional management tools for sustainable vegetable production

Work as part of an interdisciplinary team to improve the efficiency, profitability, and environmental sustainability of vegetable production systems. Students will have opportunities to assist in developing and testing biodegradable mulches and films, fertilizer application methods for integrated weed and nitrogen management, and new cover crop species and planting strategies. This field-based project provides diverse experiences in sustainable vegetable crop management, experimental design, operating plant and soil sensors, and data collection and analysis. 

Jerry Zhu USDA-ARS Agroecosystem Management Research, Lincoln, NE

Development of novel technologies against various pest flies on livestock animals

Biting flies cause billions of dollars in losses for the U.S. livestock industry each year. This research project identifies chemical attractants and repellents that can be used to reduce livestock pest impacts.  Student interns will learn state-of-the art technologies in integrated pest management and chemical ecology through both laboratory and field experiences that could benefit their future career advancement.