Bees Sweeten Izzy Corvalan's Career Prospects
Wednesday, February 17th, 2021
Isabel "Izzy" Corvalan providing research assistance at GPRC's NBDC.
Isabel "Izzy" Corvalan's mind is abuzz with career possibilities in the sciences thanks to her employment at the GPRC National Bee Diagnostic Centre (NBDC) in Beaverlodge.
NBDC is the first comprehensive laboratory in Canada to deliver a full array of diagnostic services for honeybee pests, pathogens, and parasites for beekeepers, researchers and agencies across Canada. It employs microbiology, microscopy and molecular techniques to identify pathogens that affect pollinator health.
Corvalan has worked in the NBDC lab after school since Grade 10. This fall, she becomes a student at GPRC as she begins her pursuit of a Bachelor of Science degree. “Before working at the lab, I always wanted to go into the medical field,” she said. “I didn’t think of other science opportunities. I always thought, ‘I want to help people,’ but now working with bees, I have begun thinking there could be a different career for me in genetics, so this job has definitely opened my eyes.”
Corvalan still pinches herself that she landed a position at NBDC during high school and she hopes to return as an intern while attending GPRC. “Every day, I think, ‘how did I get this opportunity?' Working at NBDC has already been so valuable to me. It’s an incredible experience working in a lab. Now I can go to GPRC with that lab knowledge and experience. I’m fortunate to learn new things every day and I’m excited to start pursuing my science degree.”
NBDC is one of 30 Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada funded Technology Access Centres in Canada. As a member of this national network, NBDC provides applied research, outreach, and innovation to the beekeeping industry. Training services are also provided to beekeepers, veterinarians, undergrad and graduate students.
Corvalan is thrilled to be part of the NBDC professional team. “I’m honoured to work here." Even after three years of working at the lab, Corvalan continues to be in awe of NBDC Manager, Patricia Wolf Veiga. “It’s crazy how much she knows. I have to learn the stuff I do, but for her it’s routine, and I swear she has the answer to any question. She makes me wonder if I could ever be in a similar position.”
Initially, Corvalan’s work was focused on sample preparation. As she gained experience, she found herself working with specimens, learning how to read concentrations of mites and observing DNA analysis processes.
“Starting off, I didn’t think my role was that important. Then the more I worked, I realized I’m really contributing to national studies. It’s so cool getting clients from all over Canada.”
In fact, Corvalan already played a part in a research finding of significant interest. She worked on a sample in which Varroa mites had attached themselves to honeybees. Typically, researchers at NBDC find five mites on a bee. In Corvalan’s sample up to 200 mites were found.
Before her job at NBDC, Corvalan had never considered studying bees. In fact, she was unaware of the important research being conducted in her own community. As a Beaverlodge resident, is pleased to see such an important facility in a smaller centre.
“We don't often think about bees, but I’ve loved learning their important role in our environment. I also didn’t know how many beekeepers were in the Peace Region and how many people worked in the field until a local event, Bee Days, last year. It was nice talking to beekeepers and learning about their profession. It’s definitely connected and opened up my network with people who work with bees every day.”
Corvalan is looking forward to starting her degree at GPRC and enhancing her knowledge in science. “There are many different aspects in science to discover. I love learning and especially working in a lab. I couldn’t have found a better opportunity.”
Once she’s completed her education, Corvalan would like to travel and one day return to her community. But there’s no telling what course she might follow once her career takes flight.