Jose Portillo

I was born to a family of coffee growers in Nicaragua. When I graduated High School my mother insisted for us to move to the United States where education is best and opportunities greater. When I arrived to Miami Florida I started taking English and grammar courses in order to learn the language and be able to start college. After completing the required English courses I applied and started taking college courses and pursuing a major in biology at Miami Dade College. After taking a few courses in live sciences my interest in science grew stronger.

When I first met Dr. Leung she was giving a presentation about careers in STEM disciplines. She spoke with such an enthusiasm that I immediately wanted to be part of the program she was announcing at Miami Dade College, and I  joined Tools For Success a program funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and was later granted a transfer scholarship; But my main interest was not only science but production animal agriculture as well. As one of Dr. Leung students I quickly realized that student success in STEM was her priority. She encouraged and helped me to stay focus in STEM disciplines and that impacted my career choices and therefore my life.

I made a decision to work with poultry and applied to The University of Georgia in the State of Georgia which is the largest broiler producer in the US and one of the largest in the world and pursued a degree in agriculture majoring in poultry science. I worked in different laboratories assisting researchers in poultry research at The University of Georgia in Athens, GA. I assisted in the study of the effects of progesterone and corticosterone treatment on avian sex ratio manipulation in white leghorn layer chickens and zebra finches at the poultry research center (PRC) and I also assisted in the development of vaccines and new diagnostics in poultry at the poultry and diagnostic research center (PDRC). While still in college I had several internships within the poultry industry and others in poultry research sponsored by the USDA.

I knew by then that I wanted to spend the rest of my life in STEM and work in the field of production animal health and in particular poultry health and vaccine development. After graduation I was granted the privilege to join Zoetis Animal Health, the largest animal health company in the world, and traveled to Charles City, IA.  to one of the company’s most important site in poultry vaccine manufacturing where I started work as a production operator in poultry antigen production, then moved to quality control as a quality scientist and I am currently training in virology.

I am thankful for Dr. Leung’s mentorship when I was her student and for the advice she provides me with today. I will keep her as a lifelong mentor for my future career plans.