Sofia Macchiavelli Giron was among 10 graduate students nationwide selected to attend the 2016 USDA Agricultural Outlook Forum via the forum’s Student Diversity Program. Winners were selected based on their essays on the topic “The Greatest Challenge Facing Agriculture over the Next Five Years.” The USDA Agricultural Outlook Forum, which will be held later this month, brings together producers, policymakers, private industry, government and academia to discuss timely issues at the forefront of agriculture in the U.S.
eCALS recently caught up with Sofia to learn about her work and her opportunity to attend the forum.
Can you describe your graduate work?
I recently joined Dr. Amanda Gevens’ Potato and Vegetable Lab in the Department of Plant Pathology. Most of the research in the lab is focused on potato and vegetable diseases. I will be working on silver scurf, a fungal disease affecting potato production in the U.S. There is a good mix of basic and applied research in the lab, so I could be working in the lab one day and then out in the field the next. I enjoy seeing how our research at UW-Madison is used in real life.
What drew you to UW-Madison for graduate school?
As an undergraduate at the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez, I was accepted into the IBS-SRP (Integrated Biological Sciences Summer Research Program) at UW-Madison. I had a great summer research experience. I fell in love with the city and the people, so I applied to graduate school here.
Describe the competition you took part in to win the honor of attending the USDA Agricultural Outlook Forum.
The USDA sponsors ten graduate students to attend the Agricultural Outlook Forum, which will be held Feb. 25-26 in Arlington, VA. Graduate students are required to submit an essay, and I wrote about how the greatest challenge facing agriculture over the next five years is addressing the social inequality and discrimination towards the Hispanic/Latino(a) community brought on through discrepancies in the agriculture field.
Why were you interested in attending the forum?
As a student in plant pathology, I am very passionate about the current issues facing agriculture. I think it’s important to understand all the hard work that goes into putting food on people’s tables, not only in the U. S. but worldwide. I am very happy that one of the forum’s goals is to increase diversity in agriculture. Whenever I get the chance to participate in events that promote diversity, I do it. Also, there are going to be people there from all aspects of agriculture—academia, policy, industry, etc.—and I’m exploring all of those different aspects before deciding what my next step toward a career will be.