Past Lectures



“A Microbial Planet for Agriculture”

Dr. Jo Handelsman is currently the Director of the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, as well as a Vilas Research Professor and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor. Previously, she served President Obama for three years as the Associate Director for Science in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). She received her Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in Molecular Biology and has served on the faculties of UW-Madison and Yale University. Dr. Handelsman has authored over 100 papers, 30 editorials and 5 books. She is responsible for groundbreaking studies in microbiology and gender in science.

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“Feeding the World with Healthful Food Crops”

Harry J. Klee received a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Massachusetts. He did postdoctoral research on Agrobacterium tumefaciens at the University of Washington. He was employed by Monsanto Company from 1984-1995 where he developed technologies for plant transformation and transgene expression and participated in the team that developed Roundup resistant crops. He has worked on ethylene for the last three decades, with emphasis on its role in tomato fruit development.

In 1995, Harry J. Klee joined the University of Florida where he established a program to understand the biochemistry and genetics underlying flavor of fruit crops. His laboratory has identified many of the genes encoding important flavor synthesis activities. That work has transitioned into large-scale genomics approaches for improvements of tomato flavor, initially focusing on varieties for the home garden market and expanding into commercial germplasm.

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“Feeding the World with Healthful Food Crops”

Dr. Mike Grusak is a Plant Physiologist at the USDA-ARS Children’s Nutrition Research Center, Houston, TX and a Professor of Pediatrics, Baylor College of Medicine.  He joined the Center in 1990 to develop an interdisciplinary program that would link plant science and production agriculture with human nutrition concerns.  His main research involves understanding how mineral nutrients are acquired from soil and transported throughout the plant, in order to use this information to enhance the nutritional quality of plant foods for human consumption.  His group works with a diverse array of species and germplasm, including staple food crops like bean, rice, wheat, and cassava, with a focus on the micronutrient minerals, iron and zinc.  These minerals tend to be lacking in the diets of many developing world populations, and thus the research is helping to develop food-based approaches to reduce micronutrient deficiencies and improve human health within these populations.  His group also has studied various health-beneficial classes of phytochemicals such as carotenoids and flavonoids and he uses in vitro cell culture methods and clinical investigations to study phytonutrient bioavailability and metabolism in humans.  His group has developed labeling techniques to incorporate various stable isotopes of different elements into plant foods, to provide unique tools for these clinical studies.

Dr. Grusak’s research has been funded by USDA, NSF, NIH, the US Agency for International Development, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  Dr. Grusak has organized and/or served on the Scientific Advisory Committees of several International Symposia.  He currently serves on the Editorial Boards of the journals: Plant and Soil, Crop Science, Plant Foods for Human Nutrition, Rice Journal, and The Plant Genome.  He is the 2016 President of the Crop Science Society of America, a member of the Board of Directors of the Texas Academy of Science, and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.  He also has served as the Scientific Officer for the Office of Scientific Quality Review, which conducts peer review of all USDA-ARS research projects, and recently was an Acting National Program Leader for Specialty Crops in the USDA-ARS Office of National Programs.  His educational background includes a BS in Biology from Bates College (Lewiston, ME), an MS and PhD in Botany from the University of California-Davis, and post-doctoral training in New Zealand, France, and Ithaca, NY.



Dr. May Berenbaum

“Insects and Wild Parsnips: Coevolutionary arms races and peace treaties” 

Dr. Berenbaum is nationally recognized for her studies on chemical coevolution and the genetic basis of insect/plant interactions. She is an authority on insects in general, with a recent focus on threats to insect pollinators and pollinator health.

She has been on the faculty of the Department of Entomology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign since 1980, serving as head since 1992 and as Swanlund Chair of Entomology since 1996. She is known for elucidating chemical mechanisms underlying interactions between insects and their hostplants, including detoxification of natural and synthetic chemicals, and for applying ecological principles in developing sustainable management practices for natural and agricultural communities. Her research, supported primarily by NSF and USDA, has produced over 230 refereed scientific publications and 35 book chapters.  A member of the National Academy of Sciences, she has chaired two National Research Council committees, the Committee on the Future of Pesticides in U.S. Agriculture (2000) and the Committee on the Status of Pollinators in North America (2007). Devoted to teaching and fostering scientific literacy through formal and informal education, she has authored numerous magazine articles and six books about insects for the general public.  She graduated summa cum laude, with a B.S. degree and honors in biology, from Yale University in 1975 and received a Ph.D. in ecology and evolutionary biology from Cornell University in 1980.

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Cary Fowler

A Plan of Action for Plant Genetic Resources”

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Peter J. Hatch

Thomas Jefferson’s Revolutionary Garden at Monticello” 

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Edward S. Buckler

Corn – A Genetic Powerhouse: Unleashing Natural Diversity with Genomics for More Sustainable, Robust and Nutritious Crops

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Gebisa Ejeta

“Global Food Security in the Face of Growing Challenges”


Drs. Pamela C. Ronald and Raoul W. Adamchak

Tomorrow’s Table: Organic Farming, Genetics and the Future of Food



Dr. Stephen Baenziger

“Where Food Comes From: The Origins of the Plants on Your Plate”



Dr. Rebecca Nelson

“Science vs. Hunger: the challenges of funding research in international agriculture”



Dr. Dennis Gonsalves

“Hawaii’s GMO Papaya: An Analysis of Its Impact and Its Controversy”




Dr. Deborah Delmer

“Creating a Roadmap for a Green Revolution in Africa”


Dr. Steven Tanksley

“How the same genes make new species: wild stories from tomatoes”



Dr. Peter Raven

“Biodiversity, Sustainability and the Human Prospect” 


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Dr. Paul A. Cox

“Ethnobotany, New Drugs, & Old Diseases”