First Generation College Student Dayna Buitron of Caldwell Earns Top Scholarship

Dayna Buitron (also an Idaho INBRE Fellow) knows the inner workings of fruit orchards and agriculture fields of southern Idaho.

She knows them from the ground up, and in Spanish.

Now, the University of Idaho microbiology student is learning about the inner workings of single-celled yeast and the toxins they produce to kill other fungi. The research has helped her earn the Goldwater Scholarship, one of the nation’s most prestigious science scholarships for undergraduates.

Ever since she was a young girl, Buitron accompanied her parents, immigrants who are from the Mexican state of Michoacán and speak little English, to the orchards around Caldwell where she and her family tended to fruit and vegetables. It’s where she learned about planting, pollination, germination, budding and fertilization.

“My parents couldn’t afford a babysitter, so they took my brother and me to the fields with them,” Buitron said. “My first job was picking cherries.”

It didn’t strike her until much later, after she had exhausted her high school’s AP, dual credit STEM, and liberal arts offerings, that she had grown up surrounded by a deep understanding of biological systems.

Although she couldn’t name them. At least not in English.

“Everyone in the fields spoke Spanish so it was difficult to make the translations,” Buitron said.

Her brother, five years older, earned an engineering degree from U of I, and Buitron is working toward a degree in microbiology as an honors program student researcher in the College of Science’s Rowley lab. It was this research for which she received the 2024 Barry Goldwater Scholarship.



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