WHY INVAIO? – by: Yasmin Cardoza
About This Project
By: Yasmin Cardoza, Research Site Lead, Invaio-RTP, NC
“Why Invaio” series -ft. Yasmin Cardoza
I am originally from a small town in Western Honduras, Florida, Copan, known for its Mayan heritage and abundant natural and cultural diversity. At age 10, I moved to the capital city of Tegucigalpa, in the center of the country, where I finished my early education.
I then attended The Panamerican University of Agriculture, commonly known as El Zamorano, where I completed a 3 year agronomist degree receiving theoretical and practical training in all facets of agricultural production.
It was during this time that I took my first entomology course and met my husband to be.
We married after I graduated and moved to Gainesville, FL and enrolled at the University of Florida, where we both obtained our MS’ and PhDs in Entomology and Nematology. The rest, as they say, is history!
My professional experience spans public and private sectors, nationally and internationally. I am passionate and gregarious, deriving my motivation and energy from my interactions with people. I am multidisciplinary and, due to my own experiences as either one of a kind or one of very few female minorities in most work environments, a champion for diversity in all its forms.
Therefore, I thrive in teams composed of people from various professional and cultural backgrounds. Thus, the more I learned about startup culture, and about Invaio in particular, the more convinced I became that making the switch from an established ag biotech company to a dynamic, high pace, innovative, multidisciplinary, multicultural, highly collaborative enterprise was exactly what I was yearning for at this juncture in my career.
The challenge (read as opportunity) of establishing a new research site, assembling a new multidisciplinary team, learning about – and contributing to – the steps and decisions necessary to get a new company off the ground, while at the same time delving into a new area of agriculture, was simply too enticing to pass up!
My goal as a scientist has been, and continues to be, contributing to the development of best management practices for agricultural pests that will benefit producers and consumers, while minimizing negative impacts on our natural resources. My professional focus is on the application of our knowledge of the organismal biology, behavior and ecology mediating interactions among plants, insects, and microbes to solve economically pressing pest challenges in agricultural production systems. So, in this sense, Invaio’s vision and goals align quite well with mine, making it a fantastic career addition to my professional development.
Taking on a new opportunity, establishing a new site and assembling an effective team, are all activities which are full of wonder and excitement but- if I may be candid- there was no way I could have ever imagined the additional level of complexity dealing with a global pandemic would bring! We are amidst uncharted territory when it comes to navigating this unprecedented situation. The first month on the job was as I had imagined, assembling a team, getting to know each other, officially opening up the site, setting up the research space, establishing insect colonies, and ramping up for our first insect assay, all in record time!
Unfortunately, this was followed by a sudden crash as our research greenhouse was shut down after a single day of data collection. As you may imagine, this period has been unnerving and disappointing, but it helps to keep in mind that the health of our team and surrounding colleagues is worth the sacrifice. Communication within the team and with Cambridge colleagues has been key in keeping morale up and making sure we do not lose sight of our goals, and the role each of us needs to play to attain them…
I feel very lucky and grateful to have had two outstanding Invaio members from Cambridge join our Research Triangle Park (RTP) team. Antony Chettoor is a dedicated, experienced plant physiologist and Adam Martinez is a passionate, highly enthusiastic entomologist and symbiologist, and both make a fantastic, self-driven, highly complementary addition to our RTP team. We are all anxiously waiting for our greenhouse space to be made available to us, so we can start our research activities in earnest!
In closing, a bit more about me: I share my personal life with my husband of 28 years, Alonso Suazo, another Honduran, Zamorano graduate, and entomologist, and in his company, I love to travel to new places around the world and immerse in their culture. In my spare time I like gardening, photography, hiking, listening to music, dancing, cooking, and sharing time with friends. I love dogs and we have rescued four of them, but are now down to just one, a 17 year-old Jack Russell Terrier named Petey, who along with two elderly chickens and four honeybee hives, are part of our very diverse family in Raleigh, North Carolina.