Blog > STEMStories

#STEMStories: Sofía, Puerto Rican Scientist, Puerto Rico

#STEMStories: Sofía, Puerto Rican Scientist, Puerto Rico

1. Introduce yourself, who are you what do you do?

I’m Sofía Macchiavelli Girón, a Puerto Ricanscientist. I’m currently PhD Candidate in the Department of Plant Pathology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I study a disease of potato called silver scurf. My research involves finding innovative ways to manage and study this disease in order to reduce its negative impacts on the local and national economy. In the future, I hope to have a career in which I could teach and do research.

2. How did you arrive at this career (or point in your life/work)? Was it always something you knew you wanted to do?

I’ve always loved the natural world and thebiological sciences. I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do when I grew up, but I knew I wanted to explore the biological world and probably wanted to work outside. When I was an undergraduate, I got a job in a Plant Genetics lab and I really enjoyed the experience. I originally was inspired by plant sciences/agriculture because I was interested in contributing to the fight against world hunger through science. I decided I wanted to pursue a PhD, so I searched for labs where I could work with plants both in the lab and in the field – and Plant Pathology was able to give that to me.

3. What about your job makes you jump out of bed in the morning, especially on those cold, dark mornings?

What I love about my job is that I get to work on problems related to food and agriculture. I also love that I can help others through research and teaching. My hope is that my work has a direct and positive impact on food security and the world.

4. What is your personal cure for stress or how do you raise your spirits in times of doubt? Can you share a Story?

My way to feel better is to do Zumba classes with friends or at home. I love the way I feel when I dance because it makes me remember home (Puerto Rico) and the exercise makes me feel good. I remember this occasion when I had a really hard day at work and didn’t want to do anything – I lost all my motivation. However, my friends encouraged me to join them at Zumba. After the class I was feeling energized and happy, it really changes my whole mood and keeps me healthy!

5. Who is your role model? If no one, any thoughts on this?

I don’t really have a specific role model. I mostly look to my peers for inspiration – I am very lucky to be part of a great group of graduate students from diverse geographical, cultural and academic backgrounds.

6. What advice would you give to yourself if you could go back in time?

I would tell myself to worry less and focus on myself, not on the opinions of others. To illustrate that, I was told by many people around me that a MS degree would not be useful. With my experience now, I recognize that this was bad advice. I should have listened to my gut and gone for the MS degree instead of the PhD straight out of undergrad. This is a very personal choice, so it’s important to recognize our own needs and fight for them.

7. Top 3 tips for girls starting out in STEM?

  1. Follow your passion - it will lead you to interesting adventures!
  2. Surround yourself with many mentors that will support you in all aspects of your life.
  3. Don’t disqualify yourself for any opportunity – apply to that job/fellowship/program – you might be exactly what they are looking for!

8. How do you measure your success?

I measure my success based on my own happiness. I don’t like focusing on titles or awards, if I feel happy doing what I’m doing then I am successful.

9. Where can we find out more about your work?

10. Are you social? Will you share your Twitter handle, or LinkedIn profile, or Facebook so that young women can connect with you?

Yes, please connect with me! I’m always happy to chat!
Twitter - @sofiamacgiron
LinkedIn - Sofía Macchiavelli Girón