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Student Spotlights

Josh: Molecular Biology

Josh & the Bees

Josh Kawasaki has had the chance of working with the USDA since High School. His research concerning both diseases and transportation of bees has become a work of passion, and it all started with his internship. Listen in as Josh shares some insights about what he has learned from his years-long experience.

What did you do for your internship?

I was able to work hand in hand with Dr. Cook at the USDA Bee Research Lab as a Biological Research Tech trying to see what we can do about the Honeybee epidemic. All over the country, and even the world, honeybee number numbers are dropping due to infections, stress, and other unknown causes. Honeybees are a very important pollinator not only for the environment but also for the economy. Honeybees travel around the country in order to provide their pollination services so that we can eat the crops that we eat. During this period of moving, bees experience a great deal of stress. Dr. Cook and I tested a compound to see if it would help decrease their stress response due to the trapped heat in the hives, and the low oxygen environment. The plan is to look at their genetic expression and see what kind of difference was made, but the research is still ongoing.

What was the most useful thing you learned from your internship?

With this internship, I think that the most valuable experience that I've learned was being able to keep all of my data and experiment parts organized. There were a lot of moving parts in this experiment and we have a lot of replicates, genes, and variables that are all coming down together. It's definitely a lot to keep up with, but hopefully, with all of this new data, we'll be able to help beekeepers across the country continue to share their passion and livelihood with others.

How did your courses and your major prepare you for your internship?

From the classes that I've learned at BYU, I've learned a lot of the background of the genetic response. I think that part of why I think this internship has been so cool is because I get to take what I learned in the classroom and put into play with all What professional skills did you develop in your internship? Because I got to play so many different roles at the USDA, I got exposed to so many different aspects of good beekeeping practice and the research aspect of things. Not only did I get to refine my laboratory skills with simple things such as pipetting and some newer procedures such as synthesizing cDNA. I'm not sure if I want to get into beekeeping, but being able to work with these magnificent creatures in their habitat was amazing and I got to be a part of their life and see the magic at work. By working with other experienced scientists I got to learn about the daily life of bees and I was able to try my hand at many new and familiar biological assays.

Would you recommend this internship to other students?

If you can find a way to come to DC for this internship, I wholeheartedly recommend it. I've been volunteering here and being a part of this community for the last couple of years and I thoroughly enjoy it. It's such a fun community, and the hands-on aspect of the research has been so helpful to me. Though if you have any reservations about working with bees, you might want to reconsider.

Josh Kawasaki dressed in full protective gear checking a beehive
Josh Kawasaki with a beehive