Mini Profiles 

We've created a new section to increase highlights and stories that are simple and easy to read. Our purpose is to create a wider network of #WomenInAgScience where their voice and research gets heard. Are you a woman in ag science? We encourage any women in ag-related work including scientists, farmers, organizers, etc. Submit your story here!

Ranjana Pathak, Ph.D.

Research Extensionist and Outreach in Plant Pathology

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I was born and raised in India, and took my education up to Master’s degree. I then got an opportunity, back in 2016, to pursue my doctoral studies in Plant Science at Norwegian University of Life Sciences in Norway. My research focused on finding environmentally and cost-effective alternatives such the use of ultraviolet radiations within the visible region of the light spectrum that had the potential in mitigating the powdery mildews in greenhouse grown tomatoes. Furthermore, I was interested in elucidating the mechanism powdery mildews. I was also given the opportunity to travel to Sweden during my Ph.D. studies  to take a course in Plant Pathology. There, I was exposed to a variety of new technologies that were being used by farmers with close collaborations with scientists. I was amazed by this experience of being able to see that collaborations between scientists and farmers could exist. Since then, my career interests have been inclined towards research extension and outreach. I firmly believe that as a Plant Pathologists, it is essential to understand the problems and challenges that every farmer faces, and help them to identify problems such as diseases,pests, etc. and provide them with solutions. In turn, I find that this continuously allows me to learn from farmers as well as enjoy and love my job every single day.

 

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Instagram@ranju232

Nicole Colón Carrión

Plant Pathology Graduate Student

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I was born and raised in Puerto Rico, where I obtained my bachelor's degree in Natural Science with a concentration in Biology at the University of Puerto Rico, Cayey. After obtaining my bachelor's degree, I joined the post-baccalaureate program (PREP) at Michigan State University where I had the opportunity to work in the area of Neurotoxicology. Currently, I am a third-year Ph.D. student at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at the University of Arizona working in Dr. Arnold's lab. As a graduate student, I am interested in understanding how climate change impacts plant-fungal associations and their focus on reforestation and agricultural enhancement. After obtaining my Ph.D., my career goal is to become a specialist focused on the use of symbioses to develop biocontrol strategies to reduce pathogenicity and the use of chemical agents in the landscape. By integrating my knowledge in fungal symbioses, plant sciences, molecular biology, bioinformatics, phylogenetics, ecology, and evolution I will develop and communicate innovative strategies to local farmers to improve Puerto Rico's agricultural practices, while also providing educational opportunities to local students and engaging students in research.

 

She/her/hers
Email: ncoloncarrion@email.arizona.edu

IG: @puertoricans.having.doubts.phd @nicolecolon11

Marian M. Rodríguez Soto

Entomology Graduate Student 

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“You are bumping up against a growth edge”. That is the phrase that summarizes my graduate school experience for the past two years. As an undergraduate I studied agricultural sciences at the University of Puerto Rico and applied to graduate school after hurricane Maria, unfortunately, hit our island, I had no access to internet or cellphone service but was able to apply. I started in the entomology department at Purdue University in the Summer of 2018 and since then it has been a journey of gaining knowledge in the field of entomology, research, science communication, extension, and pest management. I decided to pursue the current research I do because of the skills that I would gain during my master’s experience. My current research is in the interface of molecular tools applied to pest management. I study a group of insects called billbugs and I use DNA barcoding to understand their seasonal biology which in turn will help growers make more informed decisions in terms of pest management. My goal is to continue in the interface of science and informing better pest management programs to growers through extension materials to decrease the ecological footprint of pest control.

Her strengths: Restorative | Adaptability | Harmony | Deliberative | Context  

 

She/her/hers
Email: rodri561@purdue.edu  
Twitter: mars_rodri125
IG: marianamicaela

Yesenia I. Vélez-Negrón

Plant Pathologist

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My earliest memories as a child were listening to my father's concerns about how diseases were affecting his crops, and this is when his concerns became my curiosity. I decided to explore more about plant diseases and start my profession in Crop Protection at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez Campus (UPRM). I explored my options within the discipline by volunteering in different activities. However, being a scholar of ECaFSS (Encouraging Careers In Food Security and Safety), made me expose myself to research work. In UPRM I had experience with different pathogens that were associated with pineapple rot such as oomycetes and bacteria.

 

In the past few years, I had the opportunity to participate in internships which led me to explore two different research environments (academic (OSU) and industry (USDA-ARS)).  After my experience with different research projects, I decided that my next journey will be related to microbes in Plant Pathology as a master’s student at Ohio State University. I believe that understanding microbes and how their molecular interactions work between the plant and the pathogen can contribute to proper management for these diseases.

 

She/Hers/Ella

@yess_mei

Carmen Banks

Animal Scientist

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I received my B.S. in animal science from the University of Maryland and am now a Ph.D. candidate in the Animal Biology graduate group at UC Davis. 

 

My research focuses on the mechanisms underlying prolactin receptor expression in the kidneys of pregnant and lactating pigs. In addition to my role as a graduate researcher, I am also a teaching assistant, mentor, the vice president of Minorities in Agriculture Natural Resources & Related Sciences (MANRRS) at UC Davis, and one of the directors of the Diversity in STEM Committee (DISC) at UC Davis. Being a scientist in a field with very few people that look like you can be extremely difficult. However, one of my favorite things about pursuing a graduate degree is that I am able to serve as a role model and diversity figure for minorities in STEM. I am dedicated to supporting the advancement of marginalized students throughout academia by both mentoring and leading organizations that are devoted to fostering the success of minorities such as, MANRRS and DISC. I love that as a scientist I am able to pursue my passion for science while impacting the lives of minorities and changing the face of STEM!

 

Pronouns: She/Her/Ella

email: cmbbanks@ucdavis.edu

Vanessa García Polanco

Federal Policy Associate, Food Justice and Sustainable Community Advocate, Ag Economist

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I advocate for sustainable agriculture and fair opportunities in agriculture for small and diversify young farmers and farmers of color as the National Young Farmers Coalition Federal Policy Associate. I seek to create partnerships and work with networks to address systematic inequalities in our agriculture by serving as a board member in The Agriculture, Food and Human Values Society, and the Michigan Food and Farming Systems.  I bring my intersectional identities from sustainable food systems, environmental economics, food studies, and as a Dominican immigrant to inform my research, advocacy, and policy activities. 

 

Pronouns: She/Her/Ella

email: garci430@msu.edu

Twitter/Instagram @vgpvisions  Website:https://www.vanessagarciapolanco.com/

Ivanett Z. Barreto Concepción

Food Engineer

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I was born and raised in Puerto Rico. I received my B.S. degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Puerto Rico (Mayagüez). I am a second-year Ph.D. student at The Ohio State University. I work in the Food Process Engineering laboratory with Dr. Dennis R. Heldman. For decades, the meat industry has been encountering efficiency and quality problems with the current air-handling system of smokehouses. My research project involves an innovative smokehouse air-handling system that will increase food safety and quality attributes. The overall goal of my research is to determine the optimal configuration of the new ventilation system to achieve uniformity of airflow distribution thereby reducing temperature variations and process time. Part of my project also involves numerical analysis using Computational Fluid Dynamics to develop a 3D model and simulate the airflow pattern, velocity, and temperature distribution within the new smokehouse design. The transition from being an undergraduate student, working in the food industry, and going back to academia to pursue a doctoral degree has been challenging and tough but I am very proud of the decision I made. I am convinced that my graduate journey will be a unique and valuable experience in my life.  

 

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

email: barreto.15@osu.edu

IG: @ivanett.zoe

Beverly Álvarez Torres

Soil Scientist

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My first contact with soils was during visits to the family farm. Years later, I completed an internship at USDA-NRCS, primarily working with Soil Taxonomy. Each experience was different but equally educational and valuable for my professional training. In 2017, I graduated with a double B.S. in Biology and Environmental Technology with a minor concentration in Chemistry. Since I was sure of what I wanted I decided to pursue a M.Sc. in Soil Sciences at the University of Puerto Rico (Mayagüez). Despite having worked in the agricultural industry, it was quite challenging in the beginning because my academic training focused on another field. However, graduate school is full of rewards, teachings, and research experiences. Due to my graduate responsibilities, I dedicate a great part of my day to researching the saline and sodic soils of the Lajas Valley. My research implements the use of the EM-38, an electromagnetic induction sensor, to assess the relationship between the apparent electrical conductivity of the soil and its properties such as salinity, texture, and pH. In my free time, I work on Agropost a blog that I started earlier this year with one goal: to encourage a community that promotes agricultural sciences and associated professions. 

 

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

email: beverly.alvarez1@upr.edu

IG: @soil.science.lady @myagropostpr

Jacqueline Aenlle

Ag Communicator

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I received my B.S. in Dairy Science and Masters in Agricultural Education. I am currently a doctoral student studying agricultural communications. I work as a graduate assistant; supporting research projects and undergraduate courses within the Department. I also work part-time as an extension technician and manage a podcast for a research lab on campus. My research focuses on the use of new media for effective agricultural outreach. In my free time I produce my own podcast ‘From Urban to Ag,’ in an effort to bring agricultural information and research to urban consumers. 

 

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

email: fromurbantoag@gmail.com

IG: @jvaenlle @fromurbantoag

Paola I. Bonilla Carrero

Animal Scientist

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My name is Paola Bonilla and I am a second year M.S. student in the field of Animal Behavior and Welfare at the University of Maryland-College Park. My research topic involves the supplementation of probiotics to laying hens as an antibiotic alternative and to observe potential changes in behavior, production parameters, and overall well-being. Our lab also studies alternative ways to implement practices in chicken and quail production such as environmental enrichments to stimulate positive conditions in the farm, and also communicating better alternatives to the general public through Ag extension. I hope to be able to implement such practices in small laying hen farms for the benefit of the community it may serve. Many of the modern animal production systems are intensive and detrimental to the animal in question, prioritizing profit over the well-being of the animals. Although I am aware that there is heavy debate about the matter, I believe there is an ethical way to rear animals. In the animal science field, it can be a challenge to pose important questions relating to their emotional reactivity and share potential solutions. I believe it is crucial to understand the importance of this issue and the dire need for it to be addressed.

 

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

email: pbonilla@umd.edu

IG: @p.pibc

Kayla Braggs

Food Scientist, National MANRRS Region II Undergraduate Student Vice President

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Originally, I came to Florida A&M University studying pharmacy because everyone told me the obvious thing to do if I was smart and liked science was to become a doctor. However, when I realized that pharmacy wasn't what I wanted to do, I had to find something better. Food Science and Agribusiness not only allow me to have versatility in the type of careers available but also has given me unparalleled opportunities both professionally and personally. It is powerful to think that, while the field is currently white-male dominated, I am breaking down barriers for the future minority, women leaders in agriculture and related fields. My research interests primarily focuses on food manufacturing, production, and customer experience. I want to bridge the gap between the science/research-based side and the business/customer-based side of the food industry. I want to understand not only how the product is made but also why customers choose it and why they keep coming back to it compared to the thousands of products just like it in a given grocery store. 

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

email: Kayla1.braggs@famu.edu

Twitter: itsme_kaylab IG: kayla_braggs_region2

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