Melinda Belisle hopes her work in agricultural trade policy will help farmers access new technology while also improving nutrition and food security,

Why did you pick the branch of science you are in?

I’ve always been fascinated by the outdoors and I started my studies at WPI with a general interest in environmental science. After several eye opening anatomy and physiology labs I decided that I wanted to focus on plant biology. I settled on agricultural policy (the nexus of plant biology and policy) because this is where I can contribute the most to society. I also happen to find it fascinating!

What are the biggest misperceptions people have about scientists?

That we all work in labs and wear lab coats. I was attracted to science because I wanted to be outside and get my hands dirty! Now I spend most of my days in meetings, but that proves the point, scientists work in all sorts of situations and contexts. It just takes a curious mind, problem solving orientation and perseverance.

What’s something you do that reminds you that you are an #actuallivingscientist?

As one of a handful of scientists on my team my colleagues rely on me for accurate scientific advice. I’m rarely reminded of being an #actuallivingscientist because I live and breathe it.

I am a scientist and I... a woman of color. There are too few of us and we face unique challenges that often don’t register with our counterparts.

How do you hope your scientific contributions will impact the world?

I work in agricultural trade policy to remove barriers to the international use of biotechnology products and promote science based decision-making globally. I hope that my scientific contributions lead to increased access to helpful technology for farmers, improved nutrition, and food security.

How has WPI prepared you to become an #actuallivingscientist?

My WPI experience was about exposure to the foundations of science. Although I struggled with dissecting animals in my anatomy and physiology labs, they taught me just as much about what I didn’t want to do as where my interests lay. I cherish my solid academic foundation as I frequently draw on these basic tools (from calculus and ecology to presentation skills, teamwork, and leadership) in my professional life.

Read more about Melinda in the Fall 2016 issue of the WPI Journal.