Thornton-Massa Lecture Features ‘Science vs. Hunger’ by MacArthur Fellow

Rebecca Nelson, one of the leading researchers on improving disease resistance in crops, will be the speaker at the ninth annual Thornton-Massa Lecture at Colorado State University.

Nelson, a professor of international agriculture, plant pathology and plant genetics at Cornell University, will discuss "Science vs. Hunger: The Challenges of Funding Research in International Agriculture," at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 13, in the Lory Student Center Theatre. The lecture is free and open to the public.

In 1998, Nelson was recognized for her work in attempting to solve major challenges in international agriculture with a MacArthur Fellow award. This so-called "genius award" acknowledges individuals who have shown extraordinary originality, dedication and great potential for future accomplishments.

Nelson serves on the Executive Committee on the United Nations University Food and Nutrition Program. She is the scientific director of The McKnight Foundation Collaborative Crop Research Program, a competitive grants program that funds agricultural research in developing countries. In this role, Nelson has interacted with researchers, development practitioners, farmers and funders in the field of international agriculture.

Nelson worked at the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines from 1988-1996 and the International Potato Center in Lima, Peru, from 1996-2001.

Nelson’s appearance is made possible by the generosity of the late Dr. Emil Massa and the late Bruce and Mildred Thornton, whose shared interest in biodiversity, plant genetics and identification and preservation of seeds led them to endow an annual lecture through the College of Natural Sciences and College of Agricultural Sciences.

Bruce Thornton served from 1927 to 1962 as a Colorado State faculty member and headed the Colorado State Seed Laboratory from 1940 to 1961. Mildred Thornton also worked in the seed laboratory. Following her husband’s retirement, she took over the directorship and, during a nine-year tenure, oversaw the move to new facilities and continued to maintain the laboratory’s excellence in seed research and training of seed analysts.

Massa, a Denver medical doctor, began his practice in 1960. He retired in 1991. He had a long-standing interest in plants, plant breeding and biodiversity.