A trailblazer in her field and an advocate for the environment and equality, Iowa State University Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering alum Laurimar Goncalves Vendrusculo was just named head of one of the research centers at Embrapa Agrossilvipastoril, the largest agricultural research company in Latin America.
With an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering from the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Brazil, and a doctorate degree in agricultural engineering from ISU, Vendrusculo has a broad range of experience throughout engineering and the world. She finished her doctorate degree in 2014 with Dr. Amy Kaleita, and has been working at Embrapa Agrossilvipastoril as a researcher since. Having that background is very valuable to her work, she said.
“Working for seven years here, I have realized that there are many different themes. I didn’t know how the real demand here is the complete opposite from Iowa. The farmers come here and ask for help and solutions, so I have to come up with an idea as quickly as I can to solve their issue,” Vendrusculo said. “ISU enhanced my knowledge so I can come up with these ideas, and instilled in me the belief that we have to take really good care of nature and agriculture.”
Embrapa Agrossilvipastoril works with farmers to come up with innovative and sustainable solutions. For Vendrusculo, becoming the head of the company is an opportunity to not only create more sustainable practices for farmers, but to be a role model for women in STEM, as well. Vendrusculo has been an advocate for supporting women in STEM for as long as she can remember, and was very involved in Women in Science and Engineering (WiSE) at ISU, she said.
“I am trying to form a group of women here and say to them that they are strong, they are smart, they can do the things that our male colleagues can do as well,” Vendrusculo said. “At Iowa State, I had the opportunity to participate in events about human leadership. It was very important to me, because in Brazil I started to realize that women in science have a certain feeling about their power. They go to the fields, they collect soil, they do all the things that the men do, but in their brain they don’t believe that they can really do it. So, I also want to use this position to help them realize that they have the same power and strength to do great things.”
According to Vendrusculo, being a woman in a leadership position can come with some initial fear, but is so important to not only improve the environment, but to inspire other women to do the same.
“To be here and do all of this stuff is kind of scary, but also exciting,” Vendrusculo said. “You learn a lot, speak with great people and your voice and your thoughts are being heard.”
One of Vendrusculo’s biggest passions in agriculture is forestation. In this position, she has the chance to improve sustainable solutions for precision agriculture forestation practices.
“Coming here is a dream come true,” Vendrusculo said. “In my interview, I said that I would love to work with forestation, because it is a big issue here in Brazil.”
For Vendrusculo, this top-level position is a perfect combination of all her strongest values: designing sustainable agricultural solutions, working with forestation and supporting women in STEM. What started with an electrical engineering degree, blossomed into an inspiring career in forestation.
“Iowa State gave me the basis of my knowledge,” Vendrusculo said. “And also, the power of dreaming. ISU has expanded my vision to have a broader perspective of research, companies and institutions.”
Vendrusculo officially began her position on December 31st, 2021.