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Interview: Student Romy Baath is carrying out a replacement internship assignment for the lectorate Plant-soil Health

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  4. Interview: Student Romy Baath is carrying out a replacement internship assignment for the lectorate Plant-soil Health

HAS University of Applied Sciences is doing its best to ensure that students incur as little study delay as possible during the corona crisis. Many students who had to cancel or were unable to complete their internship are now working on replacement assignments. Romy Baath, an International Food & Agribusiness student, is one of them. She is participating in a research project for the lectorate Plant-soil Health.

Romy Baath was actually supposed to go to New Zealand on an internship. Unfortunately, this was cancelled because of the corona crisis. She looked for an alternative internship in the Netherlands but, because of the lockdown, that too turned out to be difficult. When she asked HAS University of Applied Sciences about other possibilities, an internship for the lectorate of Judith van de Mortel was presented as a potential option. And this turned out to be a good match because as Romy put it, she’s interested in exploring 'the green route'. As part of the lectureship she was given the opportunity to participate in a research project into the role of soil in improving food quality.

Soil research

Romy is busy analysing data for her internship assignment. “Investigating the role of soil in food quality is one of the lines of research our group is exploring,” Judith explains. “We're conducting a multi-year research project on this. Last year we carried out 2 projects - a Professional Assignment (PA) and an educational project - for which we investigated 30 different soils of agricultural entrepreneurs in Brabant. We collected soil from each plot and used it in the greenhouse at HAS University of Applied Sciences to grow spinach. We then measured the plants to see if there is a relationship between the soil and the nutrients present in the plants. Romy is now investigating whether the results of the 2 projects can be compared with each other and if not, what follow-up research needs to be done in order to be able to do so.”

Writing in Dutch

Romy: “This internship was a switch for me. Not only because my internship in New Zealand didn't take place, but also because I’ve been following a study programme in English and for the past 4 years I have been mainly speaking and writing in English. Writing an advisory report in Dutch is an interesting challenge for me.”

Lector Judith van de Mortel and student Romy Baath.

Personal contact

“The International Food and Agribusiness study programme is broad,” Romy continues. “It offers lots of opportunities and I’ve done many different things, such as an internship with a large import and export company in organic fruit and vegetables and a minor at a university in the Czech Republic on growing crops. And I’ve noticed that I really want to continue working with plants. But this isn't the only reason this internship is valuable for me, it’s also giving me the opportunity to discover whether carrying research is something for me. And I’m enjoy working with the members of staff from the lectureship. I like the personal contact of working with others. That's something I’ve learned during this internship 'at a distance'. But, of course, this is affecting all of us. Although you do get used to working from home.”

Fieldwork

To make the internship a bit more varied than just doing desk research, Judith arranged for Romy to carry out fieldwork for another research project that is currently taking place in De Peel area of Brabant, which is looking at how you can use the soil to make plants more resistant to drought. Judith: “It's a PA that will continue through the summer. Normally PA projects have a fixed duration and stop in the summer. This one is a bit different in that respect. After all, a plant doesn’t stop growing when the academic year ends. And an advantage is that we’ll be able to start the next PA immediately in September. This is a good example of flexible education.”

Research questions

Judith is delighted with Romy. “I'd like to use interns like this more often. There are so many research questions, and they can be of real added value within lectureships. And because these projects involve so much fieldwork and company visits, students also get plenty of opportunities to get to know our field of work.”