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Xiomara Sinisterra

Xiomara Sinisterra
Science & Technology Policy Fellowships

2007-09 Diplomacy Fellow at the Agency for International Development

Xiomara Sinisterra, who was a AAAS Fellow on the International Research and Biotechnology Team in the Office of Environment and Science Policy at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), was one of the first Afro-Colombian women at the National University of Colombia in Bogotá. She and her family moved to Bogotá for better schools and opportunities. “I always felt that I needed to give back, and that’s why I wanted a placement at USAID,” she says. “I wanted to work with developing countries and to help people.”

Xiomara’s academic research has directly affected her work as a Fellow. She received her PhD in plant pathology from the University of Florida studying Ug99, a wheat stem rust that has had serious effects in Africa and the Middle East. “Developing varieties that are resistant to the pathogen can help countries that are most vulnerable to attacks of this disease,” she explains. Countries such as Kenya, Egypt, Afghanistan, Nepal, and Pakistan are some of the most vulnerable, but the disease could have effects all over the world.

“USAID gave $5.2 million to famine relief to distribute rust-resistant seed, and I coordinated an ad hoc group that encouraged the donor community to go beyond that amount.”

“The fellowship has been a life changing experience,” she says. “I have met people around the world who have become close to my heart. I have the understanding that we are more similar than different and we all want to have a peaceful environment.”

Xiomara plans to stay in the field of international agricultural development, and hopes to work in Latin America or Africa. “Agriculture is the basis for everything. It improves nutrition and people’s lives.”