He was looking for a summer internship and with the help of Dr. Shawn Krosnick and Pablo Bacon, he applied to several programs worldwide. He was accepted by programs in South Africa and Ecuador, but when the letter from the Smithsonian came in stating he was accepted into their Natural History Research Experiences (NHRE) summer Research Experience for Undergrads (REU) program, he jumped at the opportunity. This program is a 10 week research project designed with his biodiversity interests in mind. He will be studying the distribution of birds in the tepui regions of South America using next gen DNA sequencing equipment. Tepuis is an isolated mountain range in northern South America. He will have many species to study that are unique to that area. The fact he has hand-drawn 6,000 species of birds, which includes 10,000 figures, it’s no surprise he was chosen for this prestigious internship.
“Subir is unique in that he is an undergraduate with an appreciation of classical taxonomy. He loves morphology and anatomy, and he is well-versed in molecular techniques,” said Krosnick. “I regularly hear him talking with students about dinosaur evolution, ecology, and population genetics. I am not sure what direction Subir’s career will ultimately take, but I am sure he will be successful no matter what branch of biology he chooses to pursue.”
Only 50 people are chosen to be part of the Smithsonian’s program, then each research project is custom designed to fit the interests of the intern. He will be working with Dr. Michael Braun from the Smithsonian Laboratory of Molecular Systematics and two of his post-doctoral students.
Shakya grew up in Kathmandu, Nepal. Since he grew up near his extended family, he had many positive influences as a child. When he was young, he enjoyed cars. Since computers were relatively new, he started learning about them as well. However, he was most passionate about nature and animals. He read all he could about nature and began sketching animal pictures. The more he learned, the more he was drawn to biodiversity and nature. When he was in 10th grade, he met Hari Sharan Napali, a renowned ornithologist from Nepal, who put him on the path towards vertebrate zoology.
“Napali showed me the diversity of life on earth, and got me interested in bird watching and learning about plants and animals,” said Shakya. “My ‘light-bulb moment’ was probably when I started developing an interest in illustrating birds. The abundance of birds in my country really mesmerized me.”
While in Nepal, his family was supportive of whatever path Shakya chose in life and he decided that studying in the United States would be best for him. He came to SAU in 2011. He likes the low student-to-teacher ratio, how involved and interactive the professors are, and the practical experience that comes from being at the University.
“Dr. Rasmussen was one of the first biology professors I got to know, and he was really helpful in setting up my classes and paving a way forward here at SAU,” said Shakya. “Dr. Kardas was also really helpful in guiding my way around SAU and the Honors College.”
When he’s not in the University’s Science Center doing what he calls “sciency stuff,” he loves being involved in other programs and clubs within the College of Science and Technology, the Honors College, the History and Political Science Club and the International Students Association. He especially enjoys the Biology Club trips to places like the Gulf Coast and Florida, and working in the molecular biology lab with Dr. Krosnick.
Once Shakya finishes his undergraduate degree in biology, he will be looking for graduate schools. He wants to earn a doctorate degree in biology in the field of evolutionary biology. This will open many doors for him to pursue his dreams.
Krosnick summed up Shakya’s bright future: “To put it plainly, Subir is an amazing student, capable of anything he puts his mind to.”