2022 E. Kika De La Garza Scientific Fellow

Dr. Engil Isadora Pereira, assistant professor at the School of Earth, Environmental and Marine Sciences at UTRGV, is one of 20 people selected nationally to participate in the E. Kika De La Garza from the 2022 U.S. Department of Agriculture. Pereira is one of five science fellows in the group. (UTRGV photo by Jesus Alferez)
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Texas Border Affairs

By Maria Gonzalez

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – Dr. Engil Isadora Pereira, Assistant Professor in the School of Earth, Environmental, and Marine Sciences at UTRGV, has been selected to participate in the E. Kika De La Garza Fellowship Program of the U.S. Department of agriculture 2022.

Nationally, 20 fellows were selected. Pereira is one of the group’s five scientific fellows.

Since 1998, the annual scholarships have recognized highly accomplished staff and faculty at Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs)—accredited, degree-granting institutions of higher education with a full-time Hispanic student enrollment of 25 % or more.

A recognized soil ecologist, Pereira is president of the UTRGV Women in Science network for 2021-2022 and director of the soil science training, research and education project at the university. His research on microbial nutrient cycling in agricultural and natural ecosystems aims to identify soil management and restoration strategies that promote soil health.

Pereira said she looks forward to learning more about training and career opportunities for UTRGV students through her scholarship with USDA.

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“Through the Kika De La Garza Fellowship, I seek to gain a comprehensive understanding of USDA’s organizational structure and roles, and to connect with researchers and policy implementers,” said Pereira. “I will be able to respond more effectively to research needs in the Rio Grande Valley and foster the professional development of our students.

The prestigious program — named after Kika De La Garza, a longtime Valley congressman and head of the House Agriculture Committee — links the USDA and Hispanic-serving institutions to help educate Hispanic communities about USDA services, resources and employment opportunities.

As chairman of the House Agriculture Committee (1981-1994), De La Garza led the passage of three major farm bills – in 1981, 1985 and 1990. He played an important role in the reorganization of the agricultural credit system, the agricultural insurance system, the United States Department of Agriculture, the laws on pesticides and the reform of the agricultural policies of the country.

De La Garza, who served a 12-year term in the Texas Legislative Assembly (1952-1964) and served a 32-year term as a congressman for U.S. District 15 (TX), was widely known as an advocate for higher education initiatives and Hispanic-serving institutions throughout his career in public service. During his tenure at Texas House, De La Garza was involved in the absorption of the then Pan American University into the University of Texas system in 1989, which eventually became the legacy institution of the Texas House. ‘UTRGV, University of Texas – Pan American.

When he retired from public service in 1997, De La Garza donated his entire Congressional archives to the UTRGV, and the collection is now housed in the University Library at the UTRGV Edinburgh campus .

“I am very happy to learn that Dr. Pereira has been selected for the prestigious Kika De La Garza Fellowship,” said Dr. Juan Gonzalez, Professor at UTRGV and Acting Director of SEEMS. “USDA is an important research partner for the School of Earth, Environmental, and Marine Sciences, and an employer of our graduates.

“With the knowledge and relationships Dr. Pereira will establish through this fellowship, we can shape our current work and future projects to form mutually beneficial and productive collaborations,” he said. “We will guide students towards successful careers in national service and educate our colleagues on similar cross-sector interactions.”

Dr. Lisa R. Ramírez, director of the USDA’s Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement, said the fellowships provide unique professional development experiences.

“They provide exposure that benefits young people and helps advance the Biden-Harris administration’s goal of increasing equity for underserved communities across rural America,” she said.

From July 11-15, the Kika De La Garza Education, High School and Science Fellows met with leaders from various USDA agencies in the Washington, D.C. area, where they interacted directly on national and regional issues, l policy development and research.

From July 18-22, science fellows spend an additional week collaborating with top scientists from the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) or the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Soil Center at Lincoln, Nebraska.

To learn more, visit https://www.usda.gov/ For more information about Pereira’s lab, visit https://www.soilecologylab.com/

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