Dr Robert Zeigler has been director general of the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines since 2005. From 1992 to 1998, he worked at IRRI as a plant pathologist, leading the Institute’s Rainfed Lowland Rice Research Program (1992-96) and Irrigated Rice Research Program (1996-98).
Dr Zeigler earned his PhD in plant pathology from Cornell University in 1982, his Masters in Botany (forest ecology) from Oregon State University in 1978, and his BS in biological sciences from the University of Illinois in 1972.
After graduating in 1972, he joined the Peace Corps and spent two years as a science teacher in the Democratic Republic of Congo in Africa (formerly known as Zaire). He then returned to the US to complete his studies before joining in 1980 IRRI’s sister center in Colombia, the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) as a visiting research associate working on cassava.
In 1982, Dr Zeigler went to Burundi to work for three years as a technical adviser for the African nation’s maize program at the Institut des sciences agronomique du Burundi. He then returned to CIAT as the institute’s senior staff plant pathologist until 1992, ultimately taking over as the head of its rice program.
It was his success at CIAT that led IRRI to offer Dr Zeigler his first position in the Philippines as the leader of the Institute’s Rainfed Lowland Rice Research Program. After six years at IRRI, Dr Zeigler left to become professor and head of the Department of Plant Pathology and director of the Plant Biotechnology Center at Kansas State University in the US, before working as director of the Mexico-based Generation Challenge Program Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research.