Dr. Steffenson Named Malone Award Winner
The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) today announced that Dr.
Brian Steffenson, Professor and Lieberman-Okinow Endowed Chair of Cereal Disease Research at the
University of Minnesota, is the 2019 recipient of the Michael P. Malone International Leadership Award.
Steffenson is receiving the award for his renowned international agriculture research as well as his career-
long commitment to helping put his research into practice across the globe. The Malone Award, a national
honor sponsored by APLU and awarded annually, recognizes individuals who advance international
education at public universities.
Dr. Steffenson’s ground-breaking research focuses on diseases affecting wild cereals such as wheat and
barley that feed much of the world. His work centers on collecting, preserving, and studying wild varieties of
cereals. Over the past several decades, domestication and modern breeding have led to the erosion of
genetic diversity in commonly used cereal crops – increasing their vulnerability to pathogens and pests. The
wild varieties Dr. Steffenson studies carry genes that can reverse this trend. His work has led to new
approaches to use wild cereals’ hidden genes to make global food production more secure.
“Dr. Steffenson’s work stands as a powerful example of the value of international collaboration,” said APLU
President Peter McPherson. “He has worked not only to reach new discoveries that can improve lives across
the globe today but to help sow the seeds of the next generation of crop scientists who will tackle
tomorrow’s most pressing problems as well.”
His collaborative research with colleagues in Israel, Turkey, Russia, Syria, and elsewhere has resulted in key
genetic resources for global food security. Dr. Steffenson and his lab have worked with 55 different
collaborators worldwide since 2013, embracing a philosophy of scientific sharing and collaborating that he
instills in his students, post-docs, and colleagues.
He has also worked to cultivate the next generation of crop scientists. Dr. Steffenson has collaborated with
students and researchers across the globe, especially with underrepresented regions such as the Middle
East and Africa. He and his former mentees created a 12-week training course at the University of
Minnesota on cereal rust disease methodology, hosting more than 20 international scientists from Asia and
Professor Steffenson also helped establish and is the current co-director of Stakman-Borlaug Center for
Sustainable Plant Health at the University of Minnesota. The center raises the international visibility and
stature of plant disease research, bringing together more than 70 faculty spanning 10 different
departments. The center now leads collaborative research projects between Minnesota and groups in
Ethiopia, Kenya, Indonesia, India, Bangladesh, and beyond.