Meet Gabriela Silva-Pumarada | OSU HCS Alumna Class of 2022
Gabriela Silva-Pumarada is currently a Research Associate at Corteva in Champaign, Illinois.
While in the Department of Horticulture and Crop Science, Gabriela completed her MS in Agronomy (2022). Her thesis research focused on net-zero carbon emission cropping systems under the advisement of Dr. Laura Lindsey. Prior to joining our department for graduate school, Gabriela received her undergraduate degree in Horticulture with a minor in International Relations from the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez Campus (UPR-M).
Gabriela shared she "didn’t grow up on a farm or receive exposure to agriculture growing up (I’m actually the first in my family to ever study agriculture!) since I was raised in San Juan, PR. This was also one of the reasons that I was drawn to this career, along with my passion for the outdoors and the environment."
Thankfully, Gabriela had the time to elaborate on what working in agronomic research is like, her time here at HCS + some advice for students considering studying agronomy:
How’d you first become interested in agronomy + research?
Gabriela: Ever since I was young, I had always been curious about the natural world and was interested in research, but it wasn’t until I started my undergraduate program at UPR-M (originally as a biology major), that I discovered the area of agricultural and plant science through a student organization that involved teaching adults and children about plants, where our food comes from and innovation within ag. From this experience, I realized I could see myself as an agronomist and changed my major to study horticulture. Soon after I began doing research in ag with Plant Pathologist and former mentor, Dr. Lydia Rivera (who ironically is an Ohio State alum)!
Could you tell us a bit about your thesis project & time in grad school?
Gabriela: When I started grad school in August of 2020, it was definitely an interesting time to be starting a master’s project – there were still many restrictions due to COVID-19 and our cohort had to take most courses online. Within HCS, I worked on a project under my former advisor, Dr. Laura Lindsey, that focused on net-zero carbon emission cropping systems, focusing specifically on using biochar as a soil amendment and measuring its effects in corn and greenhouse gas emissions. My project involved three locations, two at our research stations in Ohio and one at Michigan State’s agronomy farm. We wanted to see how an application of biochar combined with a N management treatment would help mitigate greenhouse gas emissions in corn fields, and its effects on crop growth and yield.
How was your time as a Research Associate in the Cereal Pathology Lab in the Department of Plant Pathology? What type of research were you involved in?
Gabriela: I worked as a Research Associate in the Cereal Pathology Lab in Plant Pathology for almost a year, it was a great learning experience with a diverse group of amazing colleagues that opened a lot of doors for me. I was involved in corn and wheat pathology research, mainly focusing on conducting fungicide trails to measure their efficacy against diseases that are common in corn and wheat in Ohio, such as Northern Corn Leaf Blight, Gray Leaf Spot, Fusarium Head Blight, Stagonospora Glume Blotch, and Tar Spot.
You recently took the next step in your career - what’s a normal day as a Research Associate at Corteva like?
Gabriela: Every day is a bit different! Sometimes I find myself in the field all day, or my office, or a combination of both, which I enjoy as part of my job. My role as RA at Corteva is split between the Seed Research & Development and Crop Protection Discovery & Development departments at the company, which involves a variety of tasks including planting, monitoring fields for disease and pests, crop tissue and root sampling, and checking for data quality among others.
What are some of your favorite aspects of your role and working in research overall?
Gabriela: I spend a lot of time going to different fields across the state of Illinois to collect data and monitor our trials. One of my favorite aspects is that I get to explore new places and meet new people, and the fact that every day is different than the next. Working within research I really enjoy the balance between field and office/data work. While I’m still fairly new to this position, it has been an interesting experience to learn about the many different parts that go into trait and product development at Corteva so far.
What have been a few highlights of your time as an agronomist so far?
Gabriela: I’ve really enjoyed mentoring students and interns and meeting all kinds of people throughout my time as an agronomist! Learning about their experiences and interests within agriculture and sharing some of mine throughout my career so far is very gratifying to me.
Is there anything you wished you had known before pursuing your career?
Gabriela: Oh boy, many things, but a whole lot of agricultural machinery specifics and common Midwestern ag phrases would’ve been a big help! Haha
What would you tell a student considering a graduate degree?
Gabriela: Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and try something new! Trust yourself - there’s always something you can learn from every experience, and many times those experiences are what you appreciate the most.
You can keep up with Gabriela on Twitter!