More bios coming soon!
A native of Mali, Thierno Diallo takes great pride in his Fulani heritage. The West African ethnic group is well known for its tradition of raising livestock. Diallo’s family didn’t own cattle, but being immersed in the Fulani people’s pastoral ways made him long for a life in agriculture. That’s precisely the life Diallo pursued. He studied agronomy for six years in Russia (an experience about which he wrote and published a book) and interned on three farms in Normandy, France, before working for 12 years at three dairies in Wisconsin. In 2007, he took on his current role as a corn researcher with professor Joe Lauer in the CALS Department of Agronomy and decided shortly after that he wanted to use his skills and knowledge to give back to the agricultural community in Mali. To that end, in 2012, just outside Mali’s capital city of Bamako, he founded Gamou Organic Farms. According to Diallo, you can learn about farming from books and lectures, but you can’t truly appreciate it until you’ve done the manual labor.
“When I worked on farms, you would get up and do just about the same thing every day,” Diallo says. “So even if you don’t want to learn, something is going to stick. And if you really want to, and you love what you’re doing, there’s no limit to how much you can learn.”
Dr. Gutierrez is an Associate Professor and the Cereals Breeder and Quantitative Geneticist in the Department of Agronomy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is also affiliated with the Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics graduate program and CIAS. Her research focuses on understanding the genetic architecture of complex traits and their response to the environment. She integrates state of the art genotyping technologies with large phenotyping experiments to study complex traits. She studies the mechanisms employed by plants for local adaptation including the study of biotic and abiotic interactions. Her research program has also an applied component, which combines strong theoretical development, genomic tools, and high throughput phenotyping to release cereals cultivars to serve the U.S. agricultural systems.
Lucia grew-up in the Swedish west-coast surrounded by ocean and small island-archipelagos. She has a profound regard of the Swedish ways with their strongest sense of social responsibility, uncompromising respect for human beings, natural peacemakers, love of coffee and fica, and celebration of people. When Lucia moved to Uruguay, she immediately adopted the country as her own, she enjoys the warmth and closeness of people’s interactions, their commitment to building democracy and a fair and equitable country as well as their highest regard for education and knowledge. She defines herself as Uruguayan. Lucia has lived for more than a few months in several countries: Sweden, Uruguay, Argentina, Mexico, and the Netherlands. Lucia is the mother of twin-boys and she enjoys spend quality family time with her family and friends; going to the beach (ocean); windsurfing and sailing; horse-back riding; downhill skiing; playing team Handball (or just Handball outside of the U.S.); traveling with family; biking; hiking; pizza movie and game night; reading; and solving puzzles (mind and physical). She appreciates honesty, mutual respect, and engagement in her social and professional interactions.
Dr. Laura L. Hernandez is an Associate Professor in the Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and an Affiliate Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. She was born and raised in El Paso, Texas. She received her Ph.D. in 2008 from the University of Arizona and completed a three year post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Cincinnati Medical School. She has been a faculty member at UW since 2011.
Her area of research has focused on how serotonin controls the mammary gland and various aspects of lactation. The outcomes of her novel research are aimed at demonstrating the presence of factors (specifically serotonin) produced within the mammary gland that can control the animal’s physiology while lactating, particularly during the transition period when cows are the most metabolically and physiologically challenged. She specifically focuses on the interaction of serotonin and calcium metabolism during the peripartal period. Her research has determined that serotonin is an important regulator of mammary gland, maternal calcium, and maternal energy homeostasis during lactation. Her lab is currently working on the effects of using selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) during the peripartal period on long-term maternal bone health, as well as the health of the offspring. Her research on the coordination of maternal metabolism during lactation by the mammary gland has numerous applications to women that are breast-feeding, and is focused on improving maternal health during this time frame and in later life.
Dr. Hernandez and her husband have a 9 year old daughter, 3 year old son, and huge dog named Oreo. Dr. Hernandez loves running, reading, and sporting events. She was a collegiate swimmer, is a die hard Dallas Cowboys fan, an avid supporter of encouraging young women to get excited about science, and dedicated to improving support for women giving birth and trying to breastfeed.
Leslie Holland is an Assistant Professor & Extension Specialist in the department of Plant Pathology at UW-Madison. She received her Ph.D. and M.S. in Plant Pathology at UC Davis and Washington State University, respectively. The focus of her research program is the diagnosis and management of fruit crop diseases.
Her extension program translates research findings into practical solutions to improve the productivity and sustainability of fruit production in Wisconsin. She is an advocate for enhancing opportunities for underrepresented groups in STEM education and research, and loves to share her enthusiasm for plant pathology with young scientists. When she is not working she enjoys being outdoors, traveling, and cooking!
I am an Assistant Professor in the Agronomy Department at University of Wisconsin – Madison and Adjunct Professor at the University of Uruguay. I obtained an undergraduate degree in Agronomy from Uruguay, and a PhD in Sustainable Agriculture from Iowa State.
My research focuses on forages and perennial grain crops, resilience to climate change, and ecological intensification of dairy and beef grazing systems. My Kernza intermediate wheatgrass research program has demonstrated the potential of dual-use perennial grain and forage systems in terms of yield, forage nutritive value, weed suppression, root biomass, and compatibility with legumes. I have developed novel approaches to assess resilience of cultivars, cropping systems, and grazing systems to climate change. In the international front, I have studied beef, dairy, and silvopastoral systems and identified ecological intensification trajectories to inform policy makers and farmers. I have led international and trans-disciplinary research projects to link science and policy for sustainability in areas of carbon footprint, grazing systems on native grasslands, bioenergy, and forages. I teach courses on International Agriculture Sustainability, Forage management, Agroecology, and Perennial Grain Polycultures.
I enjoy research and teaching to change the world to make it more sustainable, just, and resilient. I also enjoy skiing, ice skating, canoeing, sailing, hiking, walking, and singing. I strongly believe that diversity is a source of strength, productivity, creativity, and beauty, in agroecosystems as well as human institutions. I hope someday everyone will understand this.
I am an international BIPOC assistant professor (pronouns: she/her) at the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery and the Department of Plant Pathology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Originally from Mexico City, I did my Undergraduate degrees in Actuarial Sciences and Applied Mathematics at ITAM. Then, I did a MA in Mathematics and a PhD in Statistics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
In my work, I am a statistician passionate about biology. I develop statistical models to answer biological questions, balancing biological interpretability, theoretical guarantees, and computational tractability. In my spare time, I am an outdoor enthusiast. I enjoy swimming, running, biking, climbing and yoga, and my happy place is Devil’s lake.
Jennifer Van Os
I am an Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist in Animal Welfare in the Department of Animal & Dairy Sciences. The research in my lab (40% of my appointment) focuses on understanding and improving dairy animal welfare from both biological- and social-science perspectives, particularly by identifying low-barrier solutions. The goal of my extension program (60% of my appointment) is to promote best practices in management and housing to help the dairy industry adapt as our scientific knowledge about animal welfare continues to grow. Website: https://animalwelfare.cals.wisc.edu/
Since I joined the UW-Madison faculty in 2018, I have supervised 1 Masters student, 2 PhD students, and several research specialists. The graduate students in my lab have supervised 14 undergraduate students across several majors. In my lab, we emphasize the importance of providing research opportunities for students from diverse backgrounds.
I identify as a Taiwanese-American or Asian-American woman, born and raised in the Midwest (Champaign-Urbana, IL). I earned my B.A. in Psychology from Harvard University, where I first conducted independent research on human behavior. I then gained 6 years of professional business experience, unrelated to either science or agriculture. I switched careers and obtained my PhD in the interdisciplinary Animal Behavior graduate program at the University of California-Davis (UC-Davis). I then conducted postdoctoral research in the Department of Animal Science at UC-Davis followed by the Animal Welfare Program at the University of British Columbia, Canada.
Lucinda Smetana ’09 B.S. Agricultural Sciences, has spent majority of her career supporting the agriculture industry through the proper use of pesticides, nitrogen stabilization products, and soil enhancement tools. Specific sectors include Pest Management, Turf Management, Ornamental Nurseries, Midwest Row Crop Production, Vegetable Production, and Specialty Fruit and Nut Markets. Lucinda has worked in the field with agricultural distributors and farmers to promote proper placement, rates, and conditions for optimal product performance with respect to the environment. She then earned her Six Sigma Black Belt while at Dow AgroSciences LLC (Corteva Agriscience™) while working on Global Marketing Projects for the Range & Pasture Business and reduction of waste in the Seed Production Business. From there she served as U.S. Product Manager for Chlorpyrifos and Glyphosate and participated in governmental and regulatory affairs activities.
Lucinda has worked for Fortune 100 Companies and has experience in agricultural inputs, agricultural equipment, and the medical device industries. Lucinda has held positions with increasing responsibilities on regional, national, and global capacities for companies including Dow AgroSciences LLC (Corteva Agriscience™), Valent BioSciences Corporation (Sumitomo Chemical Company), PBI/Gordon Corporation, Case IH, and Becton Dickinson.
During her time at UW-Madison CALS, she served for two years as President of UW-Madison’s Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences (MANRRS) and grew the organization significantly in a short time producing the University’s first Regional Undergraduate and Graduate Regional Representatives. She currently serves as a Member of UW-Madison College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) Board of Visitors for the 2020-2023 term. She is excited to support Mentorship Opportunities in Science & Agriculture for Individuals of Color (MOSAIC) as mentors have played a significant role in her professional success.
Lucinda has a hobby farm focused on cut flowers and vegetable production and lives with her spouse and three children. She serves her community as a University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener.
I am an early career professional working outside of academia, currently as a Nutrition Scientist in the dietary supplement industry where I am responsible for reviewing scientific evidence to support product claims. I earned my BS in Dietetics from UW-Madison in 2013 and my PhD in Nutrition from The Ohio State University in 2018. My passion for conducting research started as a sophomore in college as I spent 3 years studying fat metabolism with Dr. Eric Yen (Dept of Nutritional Sciences), followed by 5 years of studying muscle metabolism at OSU. Through my experiences, I co-authored 8 publications and earned 2 government fellowships in my academic research career.
Despite my roots in academic research, I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to do when I graduated from my doctoral program. However, I found an industry role after a few months of job searching and have never looked back. As such, one of my passions in my free time is to help undergraduate and graduate students both network effectively and explore science careers outside of academia. I have a special interest in guiding BIPOCs because we often lack resources and shared experiences in our academics and research training. My favorite hobbies include working out, playing tennis, hiking and traveling the world with my wife.
Natalia de Leon
My name is Natalia and I am a faculty member in the department of Agronomy and currently acting as chair of the Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics (PBPG) graduate program. The goal of my research is to understand the genetic architecture of economically important traits in plants and to use that information to improve the process of selecting plants to be better adapted to relevant environmental conditions. As a member of our campus community, the most important part of my job, however, is my responsibilities as mentor and teacher. Mentorship, like any other important relationship, has to be based on trust and mutual respect. Although mentors are more likely to have seen or experience certain things, each situation is completely unique and nobody has all the answers, therefore, a fruitful mentor-mentee relationship requires commitment from both parties. Since joining UW, I have had the privilege to advise or co-advise 14 graduate and 17 undergraduate students and have been part of the graduate committee of 86 students. Each experience has taught me something important about myself and I tremendously value such experience.
As a bit of background, I am originally from Uruguay, South America and lived most of my childhood and adolescence in different cities in Brazil, Argentina, and for a brief period, also the US, as my parents moved around for work. I moved to the US after graduating from my undergrad in Agronomy to pursue an internship at the USDA Dairy Forage Research Center. While there, I began my search for graduate school opportunities and landed the perfect (and only) offer from the PBPG graduate program at UW. I graduated with a MS degree in 2000 and a PhD in 2002. I then moved to Michigan State University for a postdoctoral experience and worked for the commercial sector for almost three years as a corn breeder before joining the faculty at UW in 2006.
I am the mother of two amazing kids, Lucas and Bruno, who always keep me honest. I enjoy spending time in the corn field, biking, canoeing/kayaking, traveling with the family and moving to the rhythm of the music. Pre-COVID, gatherings with extended family and friends were routine events in our household and I am looking forward to going back to that as soon as safe.
Acknowledgement & Gratitude
In addition to our volunteer mentors, we would like to thank the following people for their support, guidance, encouragement, and helpful feedback all along the way. We are thankful to you for championing this cause:
- Jo Handelsman (Director, Wisconsin Institute for Discovery)
- Lindsay Stoddard (Faculty Services, Office of the Secretary of the Faculty)
- Claudia Calderon (Faculty Associate, Department of Horticulture)
- Parmesh Ramanathan (Associate Dean, Graduate School)
- Christopher Yue (Interim Assistant Dean, Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Funding, Graduate School)
- Tom Browne (Senior Assistant Dean, Office of Academic Affairs, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences)
- Cheryl Gittens (Interim Deputy Vice Chancellor for Diversity & Inclusion, Elzie Higginbottom Vice Provost & Chief Diversity Officer)
- Abbey Thompson (Associate Director, SciMed GRS)
- Liza Chang (Postdoctoral Fellow, WISCIENCE)