Joshua Judkins, BTI and Beyond

by | May 22, 2014

Joshua Judkins BTI and Beyond

Pictured, from l to r, are Josh Judkins, Sydney Campbell, and Yevgeniy Izrayelit, under the watchful eye of Dr. Schroeder

In 2008, Joshua Judkins started at BTI as a REU summer intern in President David Stern’s laboratory. Jump ahead to 2014 and Josh has graduated from Cornell University with his PhD and is the lead author of a paper titled, “A Photocleavable Masked Nuclear-Receptor Ligand Enables Temporal Control of C. elegans Development,” earned while working with BTI faculty member Dr. Frank Schroeder.

When asked why this paper is hot–a term used in science papers to indicate a high number of citations over a relatively short time period–, Josh explains, “To be able to control biological signaling pathways with precise resolution is a holy grail of sorts in chemical biology. Many different groups are working to develop optogenetic tools that allow precise control of biological processes with light.”

During BTI’s initial internship Josh really enjoyed working with and culturing his own plants. He loved the quantitative aspects of the project but was especially impressed by the BTI community. When he saw Dr. Schroeder explain his work at the weekly faculty research talks set up to introduce REU interns to the scope of BTI research, he knew instantly that he wanted to join the Schroeder laboratory.

Josh soon was accepted into the Cornell University’s Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology to study for a PhD. He began working with Dr. Schroeder almost immediately. Josh recalls, “Frank set me on the task of devising a synthetic approach to the dafachronic acids and the rest is history.” Most of Josh’s work at BTI focused on creating a divergent synthetic route to rapidly access a class of bile acid-like steroidal compounds–collectively called the dafachronic acids–that regulate lifespan and development in C. elegans.

There’s no question that Josh has participated in important science while at BTI, but when asked which achievements he’s most proud of, he replies, “I have never felt so much pride before in my life than the moment I saw my undergrad research assistant, Ye Rin Koh, give her senior honors thesis seminar. When she came to our lab she knew very little about our research, but after two and half years of being immersed in our work, she has grown into a competent young scientist. Watching her rock out in her seminar filled me with such pride I couldn’t stop smiling.”

Joshua JudkinsJosh cites the impromptu conversations at the 2nd floor coffee station as one of the things he likes best at BTI, but the 4th floor holiday party, (with a real Christmas tree, no less) was one of his favorite memories. “It was really special to get together as a whole floor, relax, and get to know my colleagues on a more personal level.”

Josh describes his time in the Schroeder laboratory as…”INTENSE. The training provided by Frank is unparalleled. His drive, intensity, and push allowed me to make a tremendous amount of progress very quickly.” Relatively few graduate students are personally trained by their advisor and this is something that is really unique in the Schroeder group. Josh continues, “I’m not sure how Frank does it, but he has managed to cultivate an environment which allows every member to cooperate, collaborate, support, and push each other. Simply put: I get to work every day with some of my most cherished friends and participate in outstanding science.”

Judkins completed his PhD during summer of 2014, and has moved to Boston, where he is working as a postdoctoral scientists at Pfizer Neuroscience. All of us here at BTI wish him great adventures and big discoveries in this new episode of his career. He was an integral part of the BTI staff from his serious work in Dr. Schroeder’s laboratory to his participation on the BTI softball team to his hard work on getting the BTI Twitter page started. Thank you, Josh!

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