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Spotlight on Commerce: Jenise Reyes-Rodriguez, Computer Scientist, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting the contributions and accomplishments of Department of Commerce employees in honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15—October 15).

Guest blog post by Jenise Reyes-Rodriguez, Computer Scientist, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

I feel honored to represent my culture for the Department of Commerce during Hispanic Heritage Month 2018. As a computer scientist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), my research focuses on mobile forensics. I have the privilege to “play” with various software and hardware tools currently used in criminal investigations by law enforcement. I also apply a technique to extract forensic data from mobile devices, such as phones and tablets. This technique includes extracting data from devices that have structural damage or have been harmed by liquids or exposure to heat. My job enables me to better understand more these tools and mobile devices. And by applying our test methodologies to these tools, we help the forensics community make informed choices by producing test reports.  These reports can be referenced in courts to support the admissibility of evidence. Knowing that my work helps to make a difference is what makes my job a special one.

I am proud to say that I was born and raised in Puerto Rico and my background is in computational mathematics from the University of Puerto Rico at Humacao. I would like to take this opportunity to thank those key professors who supported me to move to the mainland U.S. back in 2006. Moving to Maryland by myself was a big change in my life. It was not only about starting a completely new lifestyle within a different culture, but also was hard in leaving my family behind. I believe it is hard for many Hispanic persons’ who migrate to the U.S. states since the Hispanic culture is very family-oriented.

There are many ways I stay connected to my Hispanic Heritage. I would like to start with my name. The reason why my last name is hyphenated is because back home we use both our mother’s maiden name as well as the father’s last name. To keep part of my culture with me, I decided to hyphenate it instead of keeping only one last name, so it looks somewhat like the way we use it in Puerto Rico. I often travel back to my small but beautiful island with my family to expose our 5-year-old son to our culture. During the day, I speak English at work, but at home, we only speak Spanish. Everywhere I go, people immediately know where I am from, and if not, I make sure they know. I try to leave a part of my culture with every person I meet. I have participated in groups that want to learn conversational Spanish and have taught the basics of salsa dancing (whenever I am asked to) and always try to share Hispanic culinary delights. I never saw myself leaving the island, but when opportunities come, you must take them as they may not come back. For this very reason, every time I go to Puerto Rico, I try to stop by my alma mater to visit the math department and to present my work to the students. After I present, I usually like to emphasize how I got to where I am and let them know that anybody can do it if they believe in themselves. I also encourage them to pursue new educational opportunities.

The celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month reminds me of the importance of where I come from and how much I have accomplished during all the years since I made the decision to move to the United States. It gives me the opportunity to educate and share experiences related to my culture with other non-Hispanic people. I feel proud of my culture and will make sure I never lose the connection with my heritage.