CIP LIMA Staff Profile: Post-Doctoral Scientist in Plant Virology, Integrated Crop and System Research (ICS)

Dina L. Gutierrez likes sweetpotatoes. Her favorite way to eat a sweetpotato is after they have been left in the sun for a few days, to bring out the sweetness, followed by a simple bake in the oven. Simple and delicious. This Peruvian, born and raised in Lima – a true “Limeña”-, got her start at CIP during her undergraduate studies. Dina attended Universidad Nacional Agraria La Molina, earning a bachelor´s degree in biology. In order to finish her undergraduate degree Dina took an internship at CIP, working within the virology unit. “My internship was spent working at the virology lab and interacting with farmers during the survey of sweetpotato viruses at the Cañete Valley in Lima, Peru. This survey helped me understand farmers better, and how I could help and contribute with my knowledge.” Once completing her undergraduate degree and the thesis option, she moved on to obtain her PhD. at Louisiana State University (LSU) in plant health.

In Guinea

Following her first post doc job in biomedical sciences, Dina was ready to get back to work with plants, having been hooked on plant health from her start with CIP in the late 90s. CIP helped to shape her future career by exposing her to the world of plant virology and she found encouragement, guidance and support through her mentors at CIP, the scientists Segundo Fuentes and Luis F. Salazar.

Being back at CIP has produced many great moments for Dina. One of her favorite ones to recall is her first encounter with many country staff from Lima – not in the South American country, but far away: “It was my first month working back at CIP and I was in Africa carrying out sweetpotato surveys. During an international conference on “The Roots (and tubers) of Development and Climate Change” in Nigeria, I kept meeting all these interesting co-workers. That was quite a start. At the conference, our team, led by Jan Kreuze, received a poster award for ‘Determining the Pan-African Sweetpotato Virome: Understanding Virus Diversity, Distribution and Evolution and their Impacts on Sweetpotato Production in Africa’. I worked on this project with Martine Z-Tachin, from the University of Benin, along with other contributors.”

In Zambia

Dina’s biggest challenge was when she took on the task of organizing the international workshop on “Small RNA library preparation and sequence assembly for virus identification”. This training workshop combined both practical theory and hands-on research into small RNA libraries and virus identification. There was a misperception about the climate between the northern and southern hemisphere. In Lima it was winter while some participants came ready for the summer sun and were not prepared for the cold!

For Dina, the greatest feature of CIP’s Integrated Crop and System Research efforts is getting the chance to work hands-on with a multidisciplinary team. “The research area at CIP is great. Experience in technology and methods can be limited at other institutions or organizations while at CIP, scientists are often given the opportunity to work in both lab and field. The chance to do both helps to show the entire picture of CIP’s involvement in food security.”

In Malawi

Integrated Crop, Plant Virology, scientist