Senior in agronomy Perla Carmenate spends her time taking classes at Iowa State as well as working in Dr. Emily Heaton, Associate Professor and Extension Biomass Crop Expert's lab.
As a first-generation college student that has been commuting from Des Moines all four
years, it was difficult for Perla to get involved early on in her college career. However, she has participated in conversations with students and faculty members that have brought awareness to issues multicultural students face at predominately white institutions. This helped develop her communication skills. Because she commutes, Perla has also learned how to manage her time between schoolwork and home responsibilities. The time management skill is important to many employers.
"While at Iowa State, I’ve expanded my network. College is the perfect time to network because
we many renown faculty members who do awesome research. This past summer, I got
the opportunity to intern with Cornell University and while I was there, I continued to
network," Perla said.
In Dr. Heaton's lab, Perla works to integrate perennial crops into annual crop landscapes to improve economic, environmental, and social outcomes, with a focus on giant miscanthus (Miscanthus x giganteus).
"Currently, the Department of Energy (DOE) has funded the Center of Advanced Bioenergy and Bioproducts (CABBI). CABBI’s mission is to develop efficient ways to grow bioenergy crops, transform biomass into valuable chemicals, and to market the resulting biofuels and other bioproducts." Perla said. "Iowa State University is a collaborator and Heaton Lab is the official representative."
As an undergrad, Perla among other students assist in data collection and maintenance of the lab. She also helps collect biomass, soil samples, and water samples. When they are not working in the field, they are maintaining the lab and CABBI building by building tools to keep things in order or general cleaning.
Upon graduation, Perla plans to work in the industry for awhile and then pursue her master's degree. She wants to focus on local food systems within urbanized areas with the purpose to empower marginalized communities within cities. Perla plans to specifically focus on food sovereignty, land management, and public relations.