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The Peter and Rosalie Johnson Internship program offers paid research opportunities for students who have completed their first year in the School of Chemical, Biological, and Environmental Engineering. Started in 1998 by chemical engineering alumnus Peter Johnson ’55 and his wife, Rosalie, the program was endowed with a $2.4 million gift in 2008. Since its inception the program has supported over 375 students in summer programs at OSU and Oregon’s other major research universities.
Opportunities for meaningful internship experiences are rare for students who have only one year of schooling under their belt, said Professor Skip Rochefort, who administers the program. However, the experience that students acquire in their first summer can be instrumental in assuring their future success.
“Our students compete nationally for internships and undergraduate research experience programs,” said Rochefort. “To be competitive for these positions, they need to have demonstrated mastery of skills not widely taught or practiced at other schools. This is what the Johnson Internship provides them in the summer following their first year.”
Qualified students are matched with research labs on campus or with one of Oregon State’s academic partners. Chemical engineering student Eileen Lukens spent her first summer at Oregon State, working on the bioremediation of chlorinated solvents with environmental engineering Professor Lewis Semprini. Lukens continued research in the Semprini lab through the academic year and into a second summer, demonstrating the powerful connections the program helps students make with their professors and their chosen major field of study early in their academic careers.
“They throw a lot of information at you in class the first year,” Lukens said. “And you think, ‘OK, so now I know the Ideal Gas Law, but I have no idea how to apply it.’ When you walk into a lab, it suddenly becomes so much more relevant. I have found that the concepts I was using in lab every day are the concepts I understand better in class. So it was really helpful to have this real-world aspect to what I learned.”