The Diversity and Inclusion Task Force presents Excellence in STEM, with Brianna Posadas, Assistant Professor in the School of Plant and Environmental Sciences at Virginia Tech.
Dr. Posadas shares how her upbringing inspired her career path and work ethic.
Keep reading to learn more about Dr. Posadas being the first in her family to earn a PhD.
Why Did You Choose Your Current Technical Field?
Dr. Brianna Posadas I was inspired to work in agriculture because of my family’s history. My family immigrated to the US from Mexico through the bracero program and were field workers. Because of the labor my family did in the agricultural fields, my parents were able to become the first in their families to go to college. And now I am the first in my family to earn a PhD. I enjoy that in my work, I can contribute to the industry that brought my family here and gave us these opportunities.
I also resonated with what an electrical engineer professor once told me “humans have lived without computers, without cellphones, but we have never lived without food.” I enjoy that I can use my engineering and computer science expertise to advance the agricultural industry; and industry that touches everyone and we cannot live without.
What does a typical day or week look like for you as an Assistant Professor?
Dr. Brianna Posadas I’m an assistant professor in the School of Plant and Environmental Sciences at Virginia Tech. I have a research and extension appointment, but no teaching obligations. Weekly, I hold lab meetings with my students to outline the tasks for the week. I meet my direct advisees individually to discuss their academic progress. I spend time every week collaborating with my coworkers at the Agricultural Research and Extension Centers (ARECs) throughout the state. This can mean working on grant proposals, collecting data out in the field, meeting with the growers, or writing manuscripts.
What’s been your greatest professional challenge as a member of the Latino community, and how did you overcome it?
Dr. Brianna Posadas When I earned my PhD at the University of Florida, I was the first Latina to earn a PhD from the Computer Science department. In my current position, I am one of the only Latina professors. Isolation is the greatest professional challenge for me. I depend on my external Hispanic/Latino professional community for support, guidance, and advice. Every year the Hispanics in Computing meet at the CMD-IT/ACM Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing Conference. The professionals I’ve met at these meetings have provided me a community when I feel isolated in my position.
What is one piece of advice you can give Latino students and/or early career professionals?
Dr. Brianna Posadas Be afraid, and do it anyways. Many of us find ourselves the first in our families to go down a specific path, the first and/or only Latino in our positions, and this can be a terrifying experience. But if you wait until you are not afraid, you may never take the first step. Sometimes the fear doesn’t go away, so you will just have to do it scared and that’s ok. Be afraid, and do it anyways.
What would you consider are Hispanic traits or behaviors instilled by your family that have made you successful?
Dr. Brianna Posadas My family gave me my work ethic. I grew up watching my parents work hard to provide for my sister and I. I’ve been told the stories of how my abuelos and tios worked in the fields when they first came to the US. I do my best to honor their sacrifices by doing my best in the opportunities I have been given.
What do you miss from your country of origin?
Dr. Brianna Posadas My family is from Mexico and I spent most of my life in Southern California. Now that I live in Blacksburg Virginia, I miss the food the most. I miss having multiple panaderias to get pan dulces from and having several taco trucks within walking distance of each other.
About Dr. Brianna Posadas:
Dr. Brianna B. Posadas is an assistant professor in the School of Plant and Environmental Sciences at Virginia Tech. She was previously a CRA Computing Innovation Fellow in the Department of Agricultural, Leadership, and Community Education also at Virginia Tech. She is also a fellow with the Center for Food Systems and Community Transformation and affiliated with the Center for Advanced Innovation in Agriculture (CAIA) and the Center for Human-Computer Interaction (CHCI). Her research is focused on the intersection of agriculture,technology, and user-centered design. When she completed her PhD at the University of Florida, she was the first Latina to earn a doctorate from the department of Computer and Information Science and Engineering. Dr. Posadas also received her master of science in agricultural and biological engineering at UF and her bachelor of science in engineering from Harvey Mudd College.