Chance of a lifetime

Published 4:11 pm Saturday, August 8, 2009

Twenty-year-old Molly Pogones and Leah Walters have yet to earn college degrees, but they will be published in scientific research papers before they are even handed diplomas.

The women are two of 10 interns who completed the Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) Program Friday at the Hormel Institute in Austin. The students work with scientists on projects in a hands-on environment to expand their knowledge of basic research and to learn about equipment and techniques. The 10-week paid internship is full-time.

Pogones, an Austin native, attends Creighton University in Omaha, Neb. She has not chosen a major, but is learning toward pharmacy.

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Walters, of Albert Lea, attends Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, and is majoring in biology.

“All the interns had a supervisor who they worked with the whole time,” said Walters, whose focus was protein crystallization.

“They showed us techniques … you pretty much have your own project,” she said.

Pogones worked with protein purification, doing “whatever had to be done,” she said.

Both lived in their hometowns during their internship, but some drove as far as Mankato; others stayed at Twin Towers. Interns must provide their own accommodations and transportation.

“It was an incredible experience,” Walters said. “We learned more in 10 weeks than what we’ve learned in college so far.”

Gail Dennison, of public relations and development at the institute, said they received 60 applications for the internship.

“It was very competitive this year to pick the interns,” Dennison said.

Applications for the 2010 SURE internship are due in March. For more information, visit