Borlaug-Ruan Interns: Experience strengthens student’s research skills

Idania Carrillo-MartinBy Amber Friedrichsen

Editor’s note: This is one of three stories featuring College of Agriculture and Life Sciences students who served as 2022 Borlaug-Ruan International Interns during the summer. The internship program, offered through the World Food Prize Foundation, places students in organizations around the world to work with eminent researchers and policymakers to analyze agricultural, nutritional, health, economic and environmental problems from a global perspective.

Over 300 students have been Borlaug-Ruan International Interns since the program was established in 1998. This year, the World Food Prize offered 23 internships to undergraduates from across the country. The majority of their work experiences were remote due to the lasting effects of COVID-19.

Read the stories of the other interns, Rachel Currant and Molly Simmons.

As a freshman in global resource systems, Idania Carrillo-Martin is eager to choose a technical area that aligns with her interests and aspirations. After participating in the 2022 Borlaug-Ruan International Internship program, she has a clearer image of her academic goals.

Carrillo was placed with the International Livestock Research Institute located in Nairobi, Kenya. The organization’s main objective is to reduce global food insecurity by improving livestock production in low income countries. It also funds research on farming practices that increase the sustainability and scalability of animal agriculture in rural areas.

Many of ILRI’s projects follow the principles of One Health — an approach to research that integrates knowledge about livestock health, human health and environmental health to enhance local food systems and combat zoonotic diseases.

Carrillo spent part of her internship studying One Health and the ways this model benefits small communities. She collaborated with her supervisor, Dr. Nicholas Bor, a research associate at ILRI, to understand how the organization incorporates One Health into its mission and write a research paper about the topic.  

“Dr. Bor is a veterinarian and an expert on One Health,” Carrillo said. “I learned how ILRI uses information from all three sectors to do things like create vaccines for animals and people.”

In addition to One Health, Carrillo also wrote reports on a variety of other topics relevant to ILRI, such as veterinary nutrition and veterinary epidemiology. With that said, most of her research was much broader than the scope of the organization.

“Because my internship was remote, I couldn’t do anything hands-on, so Dr. Bor and I talked about what I wanted out of the experience,” she said. “He would assign me a new topic each week that I’d write a research paper about, and then he reviewed it and give me professional feedback.”

Carrillo said her internship was an opportunity to refine her research skills and investigate different aspects of the agricultural industry. This was especially beneficial before starting her first semester at Iowa State, and it led her to rethink the trajectory of her college career.

“I thought I was going to go down the veterinary track, but I found out I’d rather do international studies, which is why I decided to major in global resource systems,” Carrillo said. “I did find my research on veterinary epidemiology very fascinating, so I might consider animal science as my technical area.”

Looking ahead to the school year, Carrillo is ready to explore her newfound interest in international studies in GLOBE 120: Geography of Global Resource Systems. This class surveys how factors like climate, topography and population impact the production and distribution of agricultural products. She plans on implementing the research skills she acquired in her internship to this class, as well as the rest of her coursework.  

“One of the biggest takeaways from this summer is learning more about myself and how I work best,” she said. “I practiced reading and dissecting research, note-taking and a lot of writing. I also developed different soft skills like communication and time management, which are going to be very important to me in college and my career.”