The Ohio State University Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering (FABE) is proud to introduce Lorrayne Miralha as an assistant professor starting in the Autumn 2023 semester!
We sat down with Lorrayne last week to learn more about her background, research areas, what she likes to do outside of work, and why FABE was a great fit for her.
Originally from a small farm city near Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Lorrayne worked several jobs throughout her adolescence, and what separated her from the rest of her peers was her ability to speak English.
"One person moved to my city, and he was an English professor, and because it was a small town, my father met the professor and asked, 'Hey, can you teach my kid?'," said Lorrayne. "So, I learned English and had the opportunity to teach it when I was about 13 to 14 years old."
Lorrayne noted that she came from a non-traditional family as far as education goes, so after high school, she worked different jobs.
"Because of my English skills, I started doing freelance jobs for oil companies after high school, and at one of my jobs, the boss came to me and asked, 'Have you thought about getting an engineering degree?'," said Lorrayne. "I quit my job three months later, took a national exam, passed into a federal college in Brazil, and started a Bachelor's degree in Forest Engineering when I was 20 years old."
In college, Lorrayne continued to work multiple jobs to pay for her cost of living and continued using her English skills to excel both inside the classroom and out. She soon learned about a Brazilian government program that funded half of the students' undergraduate careers abroad. Lorrayne took an English test, passed, and began the second half of her undergraduate career at Oregon State University studying Forest Engineering.
"When I moved to Oregon State, I realized all the technology involved in forestry and all the things that we could do with data," said Lorrayne. "I was able to volunteer at the remote sensing lab at Oregon State and learn about the power of GIS technology, remote sensing, satellite images, and laser scanning for forest and agriculture landscapes."
After graduating with a dual degree from Oregon State and her college in Brazil, she continued her studies and graduated with a Master's Degree in Geography from the University of Kentucky and a Ph.D. from Arizona State University, researching how to predict future water quality specifically in the Great Lakes, where she was introduced to Ohio State. After a post-doctoral position at Oregon State, Lorrayne saw a posting from FABE for the Watershed Modeling and Data Analytics position, applied, and accepted the position!
"The research program and the people that have worked here [FABE] and within Ohio State are the base for many of the things that I was doing in research," said Lorrayne. "The reputation of the school and the University as a whole is an important factor when you think about an academic/research career, and among the colleges that I have been to, Ohio State was definitely the right choice."
Lorrayne especially credits Dee Jepsen, Karen Mancl, Jay Martin, Scott Shearer, and Lingying Zhao as some of the incredible people who truly encouraged her to accept the position at FABE.
In the department, Lorrayne will research water quality in the Great Lakes region, working to develop models of several different water systems to understand the power of data and leverage it to mitigate climate change. In the future, she wants to build up these models to take nationwide and even globally. She is also very interested in extension and stakeholder interaction opportunities at Ohio State.
Outside of work, Lorrayne has a passion for nature and enjoys camping, hiking on trails, and participating in water sports. She also enjoys cooking and baking, where Brazilian barbeque is her specialty. In Columbus, she is enjoying the several food options that the city has to offer.
Lorrayne's advice to fellow students or professionals looking for similar experiences is simple, "Be curious!"
"It doesn't matter how many skills you have, if you are curious you will gain all the skills you need in order to accomplish your job," said Lorrayne. "I was able to keep going with my career because I was always self-motivated."
We are incredibly excited to have Lorrayne Miralha as a part of our faculty this year, and look forward to seeing all that she will accomplish!