MacArthur Fellows Program

Rebecca J. Nelson

Plant Pathologist | Class of 1998

Plant Pathologist
Lima, Peru
37 at time of award

Rebecca Nelson is a plant pathologist whose studies of plant diseases have enhanced our understanding of the infectious mechanisms of agricultural pathogens.

Nelson's work is concerned with protecting staple food crops in underdeveloped countries, in an effort to reduce the threat of an uncontrolled disaster arising from rapidly spreading plant disease. She is disseminating the results of her research to farmers in the developing world with the hope of improving yield in important crop groups. Nelson’s models help to isolate resistance traits in wild rice, which may then be transferred into cultivated strains, diminishing the need for expensive and potentially toxic organic pesticides. She is leading a project to combat Late Blight disease, a destructive crop plague which was the cause of the Irish Potato Famine of the 1840's, and which still threatens crops worldwide.

Nelson is an associate professor in the Plant Pathology Department at Cornell University. She was a molecular pathologist at the International Potato Center in Lima, Peru, and also served as a plant pathologist (1993-96) at the International Rice Research Institute, Manila, Philippines. Her articles have appeared in such journals as Genetics and Plant Disease.

Nelson received a B.A. (1982) from Swarthmore College and a Ph.D. (1988) from the University of Washington.

Last updated January 1, 2005

More Fellows

View All 1998 Fellows

Stay Informed
Sign up for periodic news updates and event invitations.
Check out our social media content in one place, or connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and LinkedIn.