New funding from USDA backs beekeeping-centric program at UTSA

Dr. Ozturk is diving deep on the medicinal potential of honey while fostering STEM opportunities for students.

click to enlarge A new USDA grant is funding surprisingly sweet research at UTSA. - Shutterstock / StudioSmart
Shutterstock / StudioSmart
A new USDA grant is funding surprisingly sweet research at UTSA.
After UTSA became an R1 university in 2021, it's no surprise a mounting stream of exciting research and new student opportunities is coming out of the college.

In June, the university announced that UTSA Department of Integrative Biology Assistant Professor of Practice Ferhat Ozturk had landed a major grant that would fund expanded research and education at the school. The award of $2.8 million from the USDA will fund the school's HONEY (Honeybee Oriented Nextgen Entrepreneurs and Youth) Pathway, which aims to grow a new generation of urban beekeepers.

Ozturk's work seeks to establish UTSA as a research powerhouse while advancing STEM education for students at varying levels of education. He is also working to build understanding of the hidden power of many food items like honey, which has antioxidant, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory capabilities. These properties have a wide range of possible applications both inside and outside of the body.

Ozturk told the Current that the foundation of his research is in analyzing local honeys for their differing antimicrobial and antioxidant potential. This process will allow identification of which honeys may perform the best in medical applications. Medicinal honey was widely used throughout history, with evidence of its use present in historical records as far back as ancient Egypt. Honey was also used as a healing agent to treat soldiers in wartime as recently as the twentieth century.

According to Ozturk, the HONEY Pathway allows growth of dynamic programs for students and is meant to build a diverse workforce for the next generation of USDA careers and beekeeping work. It provides advanced STEM education for select high schools looking for ways to incorporate higher level research into their curriculum, and a wide variety of choices for UTSA students looking to get involved.

As part of the five year program funded by the USDA grant, students at the university will have a breadth of opportunities to pursue including seminars, course-based undergrad research experiences that incorporate other ongoing honey research on campus, and internships with the USDA, as well as the potential to pursue beekeeping certification and apprenticeships.

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