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!

Sandra Gomez Gutierrez

Ph.D. student in Plant Pathology at Purdue University


Sandra is a 2nd year Ph.D. student at Botany and Plant Pathology Department at Purdue University. She obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Agronomy from National University of Colombia in 2019. She started working in plant pathology during her second year of undergraduate studies. She worked in biological control of the cocoa pathogen Moniliophthora roreri. From that moment, she knew that plant pathology fascinated her and that research on fungal pathogens was her area of interest. In 2018, she did an internship where she worked with bioinformatics and discovered this incredible tool which has numerous applications for the study of gene expression in pathogens of agricultural interest. Currently, she combines bioinformatics, molecular biology and plant pathology in various projects within her laboratory, which specializes in wheat and corn pathogens. She is standardizing a field detection technique called Loop isothermal amplification (LAMP) for the detection of wheat pathogens whose visual detection is difficult. Her thesis research focuses on the wheat pathogen Zymoseptoria tritici and the characterization of pathogen effectors which are involved in the transition from biotrophic to necrotrophic stage in this fungus. Also, she is studying target proteins in the host that interact with the corresponding pathogen effectors using protein-protein interaction analysis.

Pronouns: She/her/hers


Instagram: @sandrigoguti

Twitter: @SandriGutierrez


BeKa (Rebecca) Leuschen

Graduate Student in Plant Pathology at Purdue University


Halito! (Choctaw) Beka is a native american second-year graduate student studying molecular plant pathology at Purdue University - Department of Botany and Plant Pathology. Her research focuses on understanding pattern-triggered immunity (PTI) perception and response in tomato roots. BeKa's dream job is to work with Native American farmers to execute crop/pathogen research that directly impacts Native communities in the US and give awareness to scientific research in relation to Native cultural practices. Outside of her research focus, she is working to develop a program for Native American college students to explore PhD programs, including the interconnections between science and cultural preservation.

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers


Instagram: @purdue_bpp_gso @b3kyL3u

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Helvi Shindume

Graduate Student in Agribusiness at the Namibia University of Science and Technology


 Helvi Shindume is a Namibian farmer and entrepreneur who holds a bachelor’s degree in agriculture and is currently pursuing her honors degree in Agribusiness at the Namibia University of Science and Technology. As a woman aspiring to build a career in agriculture, Helvi is known for instigating and devising original, thought-provoking concepts. In October 2019, she created the Women In Agriculture Namibia organization, which aims to strengthen the recognition of women’s efforts in agriculture. The club has two hundred members who are proactively dynamic in their communities, most being small scale farmers that produce for their households and populace in their vicinities, while some being qualified agriculturalists

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers


Instagram: @womeninagriculturenamibia

Priyanka Mittapelly, Ph.D. 

 Postdoctoral Research Associate at USDA APHIS/University of Richmond


I was born and raised in India! I earned my bachelor’s degree in biotechnology and master’s degree in microbiology. I came to U.S. in 2011, initially worked as a research scholar and later pursued Ph.D. in entomology at The Ohio State University where I worked on bed bugs, brown marmorated stink bug and other agricultural pests. My doctoral research focused on understanding the molecular interactions of stink bug with its bacterial endosymbiont and their role in nutrient provisioning. My expertise is in molecular biology, insect-plant interactions and insect rearing and have used molecular tools such as RNA-Seq, metabolomics, mass spectrometry and RNA interference to better understand these interactions. Besides research, I have been an active participant of Entomological Society of America (ESA) meetings. I served as a student member-at-large for the ESA, North Central Branch Executive Committee for two years. I also won several student awards for my presentations during the ESA annual and branch meetings. I’m currently the President of Association of Indian Entomologists in North America and was featured as a standout early career professional in Entomology Today in 2020. When I am not working, I love spending time with my 5-year-old!

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Twitter: @PriyankaMittap2

Instagram: @priyankamittapelly

LinkedIn -

Alyssa Whitcraft, Ph.D. 

Remote sensing of agriculture associate research professor 

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Dr. Alyssa Whitcraft is the Deputy Director and Program Manager for NASA Harvest, a thematically and geographically diverse consortium of more than 50 institutions focused on advancing the use of satellite-based EO by agricultural and food security decision makers.  She is also an Associate Research Professor in the Department of Geographical Sciences at UMD, and since 2015, she has served as Program Scientist at the G20’s Group on Earth Observations Global Agricultural Monitoring (GEOGLAM) Secretariat. She has a broad portfolio ranging from management of large, multi-national programs to applications research in remote sensing of agriculture and in the social, political, economic, and technical aspects of transforming decision support systems through the integration of Earth observations (EO). She is an expert in organizational, institutional, and individual change with respect to integrating new satellite technologies into work flows. Dr. Whitcraft, having grown up working in her family winery also understands well the challenges of high-quality agricultural production in the context of climate change, extreme weather events, and land mismanagement. She is bringing this knowledge and experience to working with actors throughout the agricultural value chain - from inputs to producers to consumers.


Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Twitter: @AKWhitcraft


Emily Cole, Ph.D.

Climate and Agriculture Program Manager at American Farmland Trust

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I lead AFT’s Climate and Agriculture Program in New England. Where I  work to improve and advocate for the integration of climate-smart management practices into New England’s productive farming communities through education, outreach, and policy. Before joining AFT, I was an assistant professor of environmental science at Westfield State University. Before that, I was a high school teacher and farming during the summers prompted me to pursue my doctorate degree in agriculture. I earned my Doctorate in plant and soil sciences from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where my research focused on improving soil health and carbon sequestration though the application of biochar and implementation of climate-smart management practices. I also hold a Master of Science Education from Boston University and a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from Kenyon College.


Pronouns: She/Her/Hers


Jodie McVane Reisner

Conservation Agriculture Graduate Student 

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Conservation agriculture professional previously with USDA as a regional conservation agronomist.  In this role, I helped people help the land to promote soil and water conservation for our nation's land water resources.  Currently, a Ph.D. student at Texas A&M University conducting research on cover crops for integrated weed management and regenerative agriculture.  Communicating science to diverse audiences, especially farmers, is a passion I hope to share with other scientists.  Bringing science to the public is a responsibility I take seriously so we can apply conservation on the ground at regional and national levels.  Protecting our nation's greatest assets of soil and water resources for current and future generations is exciting!


Pronouns: She/Her/Hers



Ranjana Pathak, Ph.D.

Research Extensionist and Outreach in Plant Pathology


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


Nicole Colón Carrión

Plant Pathology Graduate Student


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.


Pronouns: She/her/hers

IG: @nicolecolon11

Marian M. Rodríguez Soto

Entomology Graduate Student 


“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  


Pronouns: She/her/hers
Twitter: mars_rodri125
IG: marianamicaela

Yesenia I. Vélez-Negrón

Plant Pathologist


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.


Pronouns: She/Her/hers


Carmen Banks

Animal Scientist


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/hers

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/hers


Twitter/Instagram @vgpvisions  


Ivanett Z. Barreto Concepción

Food Engineer


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


IG: @ivanett.zoe

Beverly Álvarez Torres

Soil Scientist


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


IG: @myagropostpr

Jacqueline Aenlle

Ag Communicator


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


IG: @jvaenlle @fromurbantoag

Paola I. Bonilla Carrero

Animal Scientist


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


IG: @p.pibc

Kayla Braggs

Food Scientist, National MANRRS Region II Undergraduate Student Vice President


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


Twitter: itsme_kaylab IG: kayla_braggs_region2