Making connections

Jannell Bazurto employed a cohort model to build community among students from underrepresented backgrounds hired for a summer internship program in her lab.
August 08, 2023

Hanan Daud, Ramla Ali, Sadhvika Gundla joined the Bazurto lab this summer. 

For undergraduates, stepping into a faculty research lab for the first time can be a lot to take in, from learning new processes and skills to navigating working relationships. With this in mind, Jannell Bazurto, an assistant professor in Plant and Microbial Biology, along with team members Anahi Cantoran and Eric Bruger, designed a summer internship program for underrepresented students with an eye to building community and providing support. 

Jannell Bazurto
Jannell Bazurto

“A cohort style of mentoring tends to be effective because the students have a sense of community within their group” says Bazurto. “We were able to bring in three students this summer and it’s been really interesting to see how well and how quickly they’ve connected. With that I’ve noticed they feel more comfortable in the space, which is great.”

Hanan Daud, an undergraduate at Augsburg University, is one of the students that joined the Bazurto lab, helping the team characterize microorganisms that may potentially benefit crops. 

“I felt like doing this internship would help me learn a bit more about microbiology but also give me the chance to branch out into different areas of biology,” Daud says. “Professors are more willing to take students who have a little bit of research experience, and Jannell is just totally open to anyone joining, which made this more appealing.”

While gaining critical experience working in the lab, Daud also noted the impact being part of a cohort has had on her time this summer. 

“Starting with small things like even eating lunch, we had to interact with each other and work with each other and form a relationship,” Daud says. “It wasn't forced, but it was just experiences like this that helped build the type of teamwork that can help you get to your end goals. Jannell has also helped us build connections with other people in the lab with expertise in the field that can help us with what we’re doing.”

In addition to gaining lab experience, Bazurto worked with the cohort on professional development and expanding their network. All three hope to pursue a career in medicine, prompting Bazurto to host panels with a local physician, an MD/PhD student, and incoming medical students  to discuss ways to prepare for graduate programs. 

“I thought it would be important  for them to branch out and do research, but I also wanted them do some professional development activities along the way, like learning about applying to graduate programs and how to form impressive CVs,” says Bazurto. “What they're also getting is a lot of relevant connections to people that work in different spaces in my lab and within the University.” —Lance Janssen