Student Stories: Plant sciences major spends fabulous summer interning in Hawaii

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Is there a better place for a summer vacation than Hawaii? After spending 12 weeks on the island of Maui interning with Monsanto, Nettie Baugher doesn't think so.

The senior plant sciences major from Adams County, Pennsylvania, worked in the operations department of Monsanto's large corn-breeding facility in Hawaii. Her internship was split into two main projects: testing the chemical effectiveness of organic pesticides on controlling corn planthoppers and checking the damage threshold for these insects.  

Being the only intern there, Baugher had her work cut out for her. "My work was affected by a lot of outside factors, but they have helped me to face real challenges in the field," she said.

Baugher worked alongside an entomologist who specializes in pest management. Utilizing what she learned in the lab, she monitored the population of insects in the field and estimated how changes in the hopper population affected the yield of corn plants. She also observed pollination methods on the nursery side of breeding corn.

Baugher visited the Monsanto sites on Oahu and Molokai and spent time on these islands as well. Her internship experience in the field of corn production made her more aware of opportunities in this and related agricultural fields. "I know more about corn now than I ever thought I would," she said.

While in Maui, Baugher found something new, different and exciting in every corner of the island, and being able to explore it and experience Hawaii made for an incredible summer. "I loved to hike and camp. Two of my favorite memories included doing cliff jumping into this amazing little secluded ocean inlet near Hana, and seeing the sunset from the top of the Haleakalā volcano," she said. "The two things I miss the most are the friends I've made and the fresh poke bowls."

Baugher is excited to bring the expertise she gained from her internship in Hawaii to her career after she graduates. She wants to study abroad with an agroecology emphasis, obtain a master's degree in plant breeding, and network with people in the industry. "I want to apply what I've learned in school and work for seed companies," she said. "But, eventually, I want to specialize in tree fruit and work back home."

After experiencing a momentous summer in Hawaii, Baugher is more than ready for life after graduation from Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences, and her home is calling out to her just like her promising future in plant science.

Last Updated November 16, 2016